Only about a year ago Dead Obies was at its infancy; a collective of MC’s (SnailKid, O.GBear, JoRCA,YS McCan & 20some) spitting stream of consciousness rhymes over producer VNCE’s beats. They decided to throw together a mixtape collage of their efforts released as Collation Vol.1 which was met with critical acclaim and immediately gained traction on bandcamp and an impressive fan following . Fast-forward and today the group is getting ready to release their debut album Montreal $ud (on the Bonsound label) a post-rap opus that will take the quebec hip-hop scene by storm. I caught up with MIMS’s own YS McCan to get the nitty gritty behind the album’s conception and how Dead Obies ended up putting together one of the most cohesive rap albums of 2013 from such an eclectic bunch of sources and artists. Here is the genesis directly from one of the apostles.
The opening track (Traffic) is a clear announcement of the groups arrival. “On est back beubay!” But it’s also the beginning of a journey. The exodus from the south shore of Montreall (the album title and artwork refer to the geographical region which serves as a leitmotiv throughout out the record) to the big city starts in a traffic jam. “Your stuck in traffic and you just want to reach your destination but kids are manifesting and blocking you from your dismal objective of getting to work” claims YS.
It’s also an announcement of the record’s omnipresent themes which are best represented as dichotomies: the exploited hard working labourer vs the carefree club baller, the angsty introspective spleen vs the i dont give a fuck nihilism and the historical and cultural quebec cultural heritage vs the modern north american rap references. The same duality is found in the lyrical content, vocal recording/delivery, musical samples and is most prevalent in the skits a foundation on which any solid rap conceptual album is built (anyone who samples Schooly D and Felix Leclerc is cool in my book)
Dead Obies want to take us on a pilgrimage as McCan explains “The overarching narrative starts off with being stuck (pogné dans le $ud) in your 9 to 5 reality and the consumer culture that you use to escape. As much as you try you are tied down until you hop on the Dead Obie Express (the instrumental track that cuts the first third of the album) to land in Montreal the land of illusion and pleasure.” But the YOLO philosophy can only burn for so long the final part of the album is a down from the synthetic high and a crash into the harsher realities of life.
Although this may seem convoluted and overambitious the crew’s whole swag and the musical intricacies carefully crafted by VNCE make the transitions seamless. You go from an almost depressing guitar licked track about the hardships of making it In America to the trap tinged club anthem of Dead Obies out to Get Dough and it makes perfect sense. The musical esthetics range from No-Wave (Je$u$) to Hardcore (Tony Hawk) and the breats follow suite. It’s both a modern and refreshing approach to rap production and a throwback to the 80’s NYC era where Afrika Bambaata (Planet Roche) rubbed elbows with Arthur Russell. YS McCan is a true connoisseur of the era and he helped me grasp the post-rap concept.
Much like post-punk suburban kids from the south are enthralled by rap music and in order to express themselves, they make music that speaks to their reality. This moniker is especially true given the progression of the Quebec rap scene where this record is sure to mark a turning point. The mere mention of the word “queb rap scene” makes YS McCan shudder. To me the most important dichotomy to the record is truly the polished album vs DIY recording one. Because on one hand you have lush production, clever transitions and a clear guiding line throughout the record which truly stands out from most rap efforts. Yet on the other you cannot believe the record was all self-produced at a frenzied pace in an almost religious out of body experience session that took place in a remote chalet in Abitibi.
YS describes it as martyrdom; with their backs against the wall and with a deadline to hit, the group went on an epic recording bender where if you were not writing you were recording and where producer VNCE acted as a human soundcard and energy transistor focusing the energy and interpolating the vocals from different members who created song concepts on the spot. “I can remember Bear just inventing a hook while mopping the floor and me just rushing to hand VNCE drumbreaks in order to finish a track and adding all the vocal samples literally at the last minute ” recalls the Dead Obie.
The teaser video puts images on the whole process and introduces you to the members.
The title track Montreal $ud with accompanying video is a chance for all members to shine and display their own personalities. Jo Rocka starts things off in princely braggadocios form while YS drops a hard verse that is more complex and honest as you unpack it. The group’s best storyteller 20some drops a stunning 16 about his brush with the law and coming of age and then OG Bear just comes to wreck the track with a guttural hook and powerful delivery, Snail Kid edges out the whole song and brings the distinctive Dead Obies flavor: a self-generated patois of linguistical mashup with a side of humour. The group’s creative process a cadavre exquis approach to subject matter backed by rigourous recording discipline has lead to them crating solid songs that were blessed with proressive beats both in scope and melody.
So basically the record is great on first listen and grows on you as you delve deeper into the $ud $ale. Much like the lyrics some grab you at first but if you read the liner notes you get the deeper meaning behind the tracks. For vinyl fans, the album is being released on LP (pre-order here and get the digital download) http://deadobies.bandcamp.com and I am looking forward to the sound quality as much as the cultural significance of this album being pressed. Indeed, the darkness of the ephemeral divide between Montreal and the south shore is captured by the stunning artwork, but this means that decades from now, a newer generation will discover post-rap and get as frazzled and inspired as the Dead Obies crew got. The fevered energy that was behind the recording of the tracks, the calm eeriness of the fog mixed with blunt smoke during a 5AM vocal recording sessions, the raw energy that emanates from each song; that is what music is all about for me and I am thankful to have gotten a better idea of how the project came together. Furthermore, I must commend Bonsound for taking a chance on this group and letting them free to assemble what they thought their debut album should be. When you leave your hearts and guts on a record it resonates through time, when a group reaches a level of synergy the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. This is a special record by a special band and they are just getting started. Quebec is not ready!