After years of not getting or flat our disliking most hip-hop I started to come across groups and artists I did like, but most likely they’re the kind of “hip-hop lite” that true connoisseurs would scoff at if I ever mentioned them. Folks like Flobots and Buck 65. Gringo rap if you will. This might bring to mind thoughts of rock-rap that blossomed in the late 90’s and no dear reader I was not into any of that. It’s not that I didn’t understand that garbage, I just flat out didn’t like it.
Fast forward a few years after Flobots first album to Macklemore’s meteoric rise and you’d find me listing to The Heist on repeat and even to this day I still listen to handful of tracks from that album, but what do you want from me? I already admitted I’m not a hip-hop fan in general and as white as snow in the Rockies so let’s move on because through his album I discovered the amazing Blue Scholars and around that same time I found myself liking a lot of what Childish Gambino was doing and a handful of others. It only took some 30ish years on this planet but I have begun to discover pockets of hip-hop I enjoy and then the B.G.M. team dropped Doomtree’s All Hands on me and I fell in love with beats and flowing poetry as I never have before.
It’s thrilling for a 30 something nerd to listen through these lyrics and pick out references to 80’s pop culture, gaming, comic books, classic literature, and more. It’s like they’re taking the last 3,000 years of popular culture and blending it with the last 30 years in a seamless blend of relevant themes and miniature stories. I love the complex and dynamic layering of each rapper’s lyrics and how, in the end, they blend together to tell a whole story. It’s like that exercise we all did in school where someone writes the first paragraph of a story and then you pass it around for everyone else to add a paragraph to. That checks the lyrics box, but what about the beats?
If there’s one aspect of hip-hop that I’ve never really been able to get into it’s been the instrumentation. So much of the rap I’ve tried to enjoy over the years ends up sounding uninteresting and simple to me. I wasn’t able to get a feel for the music and so even if I liked the story being woven I couldn’t truly get into it because the instrumentation threw me off. That’s not the case with Doomtree. The beats on All Hands are fantastic and like the lyrics they have a uniquely layered complexity that enhances each song. Which is another point of interest for me on this album. Every song sounds very different from the others.
We start out with “Final Boss,” which starts with a Karate Kid reference and is slow and purposeful with pockets of energy; amping you up for what’s to come. “My Own Nation” continues with that muted energy, but blossoms into a full on anthem about 1/4 of the way through and things get fully kicked off.
Some songs, like “.38 Airweight,” have a mournful deepness to them while other songs, like “Gray Duck,” sound a bit like a video game soundtrack from the early 90s. Then you have songs like “The Bends” that feel like you’re in an futuristic noir adventure, “Heavy Rescue” that sounds like the triumphant credits of a suspense movie with a happy ending and then there’s “Off In The Deep,” which might be my favorite song and has an epic and etherial feeling to it.
All-in-all I just plain love this album. I don’t care if other people think it’s not real hip-hop or if some folks feel like they’re trying too hard with their clever pop-culture and literary focused lyrics. I like it and since a review is really nothing more than a critical look at an opinion, my opinion is that Doomtree’s All Hands fucking rocks.
By day I work in marketing, by night I write about whiskey and by way-too-late at night I write about music.