But modern hip hop has the added hurdle of not-quite-mainstream emcees battling the corporate largesse that their chosen form created long ago. Intricate verses can outline how the game they loved has been twisted. It's attractive, indeed, for young dudes with microphones.
Enter Chapel Hill's Dirty5Thirty, a six member hip-hop crew combining live instruments--drums, two guitars, bass and turntables--with two emcees, Greensleeves and Geno Eaves. For most of their debut, It'snotgonnabelikeitwasbefore,they're in the throes of underground backpack lash for the above-ground, cribbing on the famous with verses that run, "Then a friend of mine told me to rewind and look inside the mind of the music itself without the wealth, the chains or the expensive shit/ Break the links of modern day hits" and "Expose the true skill of these prima donnas wearin'-silk-robes-smokin'-cigars-sittin'-in-sauna wannabees."
These are tired chants, preaching-to-the-choir, overdone mantras with past-due expiration dates, delineating the foible of most "underground hip hop," often concerned with boasting its own self-worth, not building it.
But that's only about half of the album, and--even when the most burdensome platitudes blaze through--there's an obvious three-part chemistry evident among Greensleeves and Geno Eaves and their tight backing band, an impeccably tasteful rhythm section providing a perfectly grooved framework for Josh Gangway and Zach Warkentin to ease sly, high-treble, arpeggiated guitar lines into the mix. A handful of instrumentals showcase their prowess, and--more importantly--a knack for experimenting with texture.
Sleeves and Eaves are respectful emcees, too, managing complicated time signatures and twisting internal rhymes on nearly every track. They even hint at a better lyrical formula: Sleeves' "What?!" is a first-person narration of his impoverished living conditions as a poor black kid in Greensboro, pointing at the band's most appropriate direction. And "Funkbuckin," a playful track led by Eaves, is the counterpart, a relaxant pointing to the common-man, good-times humor balancing Sleeve's empirical laments.
It's common knowledge that bad hip hop exists. Given Dirty5Thirty's obvious potential, there's no reason to prove it through a banal attempt to delineate as much.
Dirty5Thirty hosts a release party at Wetlands in Chapel Hill on with Inflowential and DJ Trizzak on Friday, April 14 at 10 p.m. Cover is $6.