Dose-One is probably hip-hop's foremost individual. [In]famous for a picture in Vibe showing him walking his cat, Dose is the ultimate love-hate MC; his flow is either innovative or amateurish, voice emotive or irritating, lyrics insightful or gibberish. Suffice to say, his collaborative project with Anticon producer JEL is likely to divide both sides fairly clearly once more. For those of us who dig Dose's abstract stylings, this is another masterpiece from an overlooked genius. For those of us who'd prefer the MCs to just fucking rap, this is another art fag trying to sound clever by saying nothing in a funny voice. Predictably, I'm closer to door no. 1.
But all of this ranting about iconoclast deluxe Dose ignores the less subjectively awesome member of THEM, namely JEL. Aside from a J Rawls and two Moodswing 9 cuts, the fine music on THEM is composed by the production wizard. Previously released jawn 'John Browns Vaporizer' highlights this beat-making mastery, as JEL constantly reworks the track while you are listening and Dose is flowing his ass off. Then after a couple of minutes of freshness, JEL turns the whole thing inside out, and we're left with a stunning new beat to take us out. Match all of this with guest DJ Mr Dibb's cutting and you have one hell of a joint.
JEL varies the styles as much as his mic-straddling buddy does, and everything from the subtly evolving sounds of 'Grass Skirt and Fruit Hat' to the chaotic brilliance of the now classic 'its them' show his talent and variety. By this same token, the vocal stylings of Dose-One are finely tuned but never the same, and merge perfectly with JEL's beats to create a beautiful whole. The previously released single 'Joyful Toy of 1001 Faces' showcases this chemistry, as slight changes in both the musical backdrop and the foreground of Dose's delivery bring a very fresh track out.
But back to Adam and his raps. Personally, I find it hard to see anybody having a problem with Dose's delivery, except from initial confusion when you first hear him. The man is so far from anyone in hip-hop I can name off the top of my head (apart from Why?, his roommate and partner on Greenthink projects) that its hard to say what you'll think of him if you don't listen to him. Even if you can dig his delivery, there's no guarantee you won't be put off by what he's saying. Aside from the luddite-styled 'Revenge of the Ferns' and the 'They Schools' meets 'True School Anthem' madness of 'Eating Homework' (much greater than the sum of its parts, incidentally), Dose leaves his words purely up to the interpretation of the listener. Put simply, you can add this to the list of love/hate aspects of THEM, and you can put me on the love side again.
So to conclude this fairly ambiguous review, you'll love THEM or you'll listen to it once and give up on those crazy Anticon kids. Personally, Evil Pun thinks it is a fine achievement and shows that it only takes a strong Indie label 5 months to kick off a new year in their own style. Peep those pretty little RAMs at the top of the page and deduce for yourself if you're willing to give these fine musicians a chance. If they're to your liking, find a copy of this strong release as quickly as you can and listen to it until your ears bleed. If not, there's probably not much chance you'll switch on Rap City and see Dose clowning with Tigger, so let us art fags have our pseudo-rap music in peace. Just smile to yourself and repeat over and over again "its not bad rap, I just don't feel it."