If you wonder what Providence, Rhode Island rapper B. Dolan’s raps about, just peep his resume: activist and slam poet, known particularly for a very revealing article about American Apparel CEO Dov Charney (needless to say, Charney wasn’t happy with it). Running the website KnowMore.org, which concerns itself with workers’ rights and business ethics, it’s clear what subjects inform B. Dolan’s rhymes. On Fallen House, Sunken City, released through Sage Francis’ Strange Famous Records, Dolan delivers his newest raps over production from veteran Anticon producer Alias.
B. Dolan’s journey begins with “Leaving New York,” an apocalyptic-sounding joint with electric guitar stabs and military drums. The topical matter is fitting, as personal battles, scriptures and pilgrimages all get mentions. “Fifty Ways to Bleed Your Customer” twists Paul Simon’s ’70s break-up message and criticizes everyone from weapons manufacturers to pharmaceutical companies for their unscrupulous business activities. It’s certainly a good lesson in the uglier side of capitalism, and raises a number of important points that few discuss these days.
“The Reptilian Agenda,” has B. Dolan in a furor, introducing itself with a sample of a speech by former Vice President Dick Cheney, B. Dolan wastes no time taking the political right to task: “The camera’s eye dilates, focus escapes / A sweeping brush coats the face, petroleum base / Cover up, conceal it in blush / Make the cheeks look flush, at least real enough / Every night, watch it built up in the light / Through the tube in the vacuum / Broadcasting the detached rooms / The suicide cure, the miracle fix / In my guts I know…I try to resist.”
While the aforementioned songs all have the content to be outstanding, they unfortunately suffer due to the fact that they’re essentially interchangeable. Musically, there’s little variety in the first half of the album, and Dolan’s delivery and overall emceeing is exactly the same on each track – that’s why “The Hunter” is such a relief, as it provides a change of pace for the album in both of those departments.
“The Hunter” is an extended metaphor where Dolan assumes the role of a vampire hunter. Over otherworldly production (courtesy of Anticon’s Alias) complete with screams and some wicked percussion, B. Dolan waxes sinister: “They’re not human, they’re not the people you remember / They’re the undead, the beast, the cannibal, the predator / They are diseased, they feed off death / There’s a sacred mutilation that’ll lay them to rest.” As the story progresses, the listener is lead to a somewhat shocking conclusion, which makes for one of the album’s most rewarding moments.
“Marvin” sets the gold standard on Fallen House, Sunken City as B. Dolan explores the death of Marvin Gaye at the hands of his father. In fact, just the song’s haunting hook tells can tale all by itself: “Because his father was a man of the Cross / Who said that his son was a slave to the flesh / When the argument ended, the music had stopped / Marvin was left with a whole in his chest.” Over remorseful piano keys, Dolan tell a sale of abuse and anger, which builds to an incredibly powerful climax.
Anyone who listens to Fallen House, Sunken City can hear that B. Dolan has a slew of considerable talents at his disposal. He is a deft lyricist, and knows had to spin a tale that’ll leave the listener’s head spinning. That being said, a good portion of the album just doesn’t engage musically, and Dolan sometimes zeroes in too much on one particular delivery. If you’re into hyper-progressive, occasionally dogmatic rhymes, this Fallen House… is definitely to you. However, others may have more difficulty digesting it – ferocious lyrics or not.