Despite what any anti-Hip Hop pundit says, very few emcees dedicate whole projects to complete debauchery. That’s not so much attributable to Hip Hop being inherently positive (it’s not) as is due to the high degree of difficulty involved in devoting a whole album to such subject matter. Tha Alkaholiks and The Beatnuts—two groups that ultimately wound up collaborating—immediately come to mind. But generally, even the likes of 2 Chainz and Waka Flocka Flame are able throw in the obligatory track about God, their fans or even some early hardships. Orange, New York duo Dopplegaggaz aren’t interested in rhyming about any of the above. And that stance makes for a surprisingly good album with Hark.
Group members, Matter Ov Fact and EP have built a loyal overseas following by mixing innovative, off kilter production with irreverent, sometimes hilarious rhymes. They’ve tweaked the formula since 2008’s The Ghastly Duo and even last year’s 2012: The New Beginning. On Hark, they’ve constructed a universe filled with what we can only hope are grimy, fictional characters battling an assortment of random maladies. The slight departure away from boastful, first person rhymes is a bit subtle for fans of Dopp Gang’s previous releases, and new listeners probably won’t notice it at all. But the consistent references to bursitis, crabs and genital warts can sometimes get repetitive and give the feeling of reading a pamphlet inside the grossest free clinic known to man.
Admittedly, all of this borders on nitpicking. The Doppelgangaz still display both great chemistry and the type of rhyme schemes to compliment their shared production duties. They’re very much in the moment with nods to Femdom pornography, chatroulette and Yung Humma and Flynt Flossy; the latter of which are referenced on “Smang Life.” And their willingness to go against the grain gives them a unique feel of bygone Rap duos like the UMCs or even Compton’s Righteous—if you really want to go into obscure ‘90s territory. Why say you want your audio monitoring levels on the high end or “in the red” when it’s more fun to make a menstrual reference and say, “Keep the levels on the rag?”
With bars like, “He got cirrhosis of the liver from the 80 proof / Folliculitis make his neck look like a Baby Ruth / The truth / He needs a filling for his baby tooth / This IBS be disagreeing with Kuwaiti soup,” on “Us 2 Da Man,” Hark isn’t for going to be for everyone. Longtime fans probably won’t mind the stylistic detour this project takes, and either way, artists shouldn’t be overly penalized for experimentation. The subject matter limits the replay value, but in a market that’s currently oversaturated with struggle rappers, bitter vets past their prime and upstarts that seem to be missing chromosomes, The Doppelgangaz offer both creativity and a guilty pleasure within a 38-minute project.