Conversations With Dudley

Artist: DeclaimeTitle: Conversations With DudleyRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Kenny Rodriguez

Declaime (alias Dudley Perkins) is living proof that simply knowing the right people can do wonders for a rap artist’s career. Having the good fortune to grow up alongside siblings Otis and Michael Jackson – now known as Madlib and Oh No – when Declaime recorded his 2001 debut album (Andsoitissaid), the producing duo pitched in and blessed their friend in need with a few beats. Two years later when Declaime decided to try his luck at singing (A Lil Effort), Madlib happily laced him with an album worth of instrumentals to croon over. Now releasing his latest LP, Conversations With Dudley (Up Above), the beat-makers once again helped with the production. But while Madlib and Oh No impress as always, the same cannot be said for their dear friend Declaime.

As with most Madlib-inspired projects Conversations With Dudley is a shredded array of dusty jazz and soul samples, and younger sibling Oh No gets yet another chance to flex his much slept-on production skills. The high-pitched cheers on the laidback “Heavenbound” and the head-knocking “Knowledge Born” bring back pleasant memories of past Stones Throw works. The album’s soundscape reaches its highest peak on the chillingly poignant “Dear Desiree” where Declaime pens an emotional letter to his distant daughter over a filtered Hindustani sound (“Dear Desiree, the letters I sent you they came back / The gold chain I got you came back / Why’s your momma acting like that? / Kept us at a distance, I’m missing you on Christmas, darling Desiree”). However even though the beats limp along from groovy to rowdy in that signature Oh No fashion, Conversations With Dudley is bogged down by the man doing all the talking.

Declaime’s seemingly unrehearsed flow lurches sloppily from track-to-track, and when rapping doesn’t do, he resorts to raspy crooning instead. The album’s topics are rather limited, revolving around the didactic MC scolding the world for its wicked ways, lack of religion, and chalking it all up to being just “a sign of the times.” While his opinion is justified (the world certainly seems to be going down the crapper nowadays), his rants lack any wit or wordplay and therefore become repetitive very quickly. This is unfortunate since Conversations With Dudley’s overall message is one of spiritual awakening and a call to morality, but good intentions don’t makeup for over simplified lyrics and a slovenly delivery, not to mention a dreadful singing voice.

Saved by its production, Conversations With Dudley is much like a Sunday sermon gone awry over premium Stones Throw beats – the results are mismatched to say the least. While the backdrops are enjoyable and eclectic, Declaime’s lyrics suffer from underdevelopment and monotony. And while this review may appear to be a bit harsh on the MC, what else can be said when an impressive batch of Oh No and Madlib beats carelessly go to waste?

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