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Rapper: Cavalier of Brooklyn, NY.

Drew of The Smoking Section sent me in the direction of Cavalier, part of The Dugout. There are better places than here to get press-release type stuff, so follow the links throughout this entry for official-type information…

It is a simple fact that lyric-driven rap music is simply not “in”. While the so-called “underground” is a bit more focused on the lyrical aspects of rap music, I’ve witnessed as many rappers of the Casio/scream-and-shout persuasion performing in small clubs as I have on BET. Hip-hop has been declared dead, be it sincerely, for publicity, or both, but if any of that matters to Brooklyn-based rapper Cavalier, he’s not showing it.

On ‘Dionne’, my personal favorite and the song with an accompanying video, Cavalier’s poetic but not too poetic style, is backed by warm, blissed-out production. As you listen, the feeling you’re getting is the early-90s but it is simply a feeling instead of an overt statement. That is to say, Cavalier recalls the exciting aspects of earlier rap, without sounding like an anachronism. Cavalier enters the song, full of sincere rather than performative passion: “Let me take you away to a place/Where I keep these devils from out of my face…” Oh, how wonderful it is to hear a rap song that doesn’t begin with the chorus! Instead, the beat bubbles under for a few moments and then Cavalier just begins rapping and we’ve hit the ground running and won’t stop until the cathartic chorus: “Roll that shit up…” The sing-songy chorus is so simple but incredibly catchy and acts, not as a contrast to Cavalier’s rapping but instead, all of the intensity, joy, and anger of the verse explodes into a legitimately powerful and affecting chorus about “smok[ing] them troubles away”. So many rappers, out of elitism or simple lack of skill, act as if they are too-good to make something singable or catchy, while ‘Dionne’ as well as ‘Ink’ and other songs by Cavalier, uses the chorus as a way to lodge the song in my brain but also to up the emotional level.

Currently, the great divide in rap is between, what I think of as Rap Minimalism and Rap Maximalism. Rap Minimalism, perhaps exemplified by so-called “coke rap”, is rooted in the repetition of words or content to the extent that the listener grows used to hearing the same thing. This allows the minimalist rapper to suddenly drop a single line of insight or emotion that immediately stands out in contrast with the numerous lines of cliché that preceded it, giving it additional power through that contrast. Rap Maximalism would be the opposite; as much information and insight is dropped in a single song as possible and the listener is left to pick up the pieces of what has been said. Cavalier is of the Rap Maximalist side and this side needs all the help it can get. He weaves conventional rap concerns about labels and haters to some hard-to-explain imagery that relates writing to smoking, to connections between girls, his mom, and then drops a line that exposes, in the simplest of words, a brutal reality of the world (“Most people don’t give a shit”) and in saying so, implicitly tells listeners that he, Cavalier does give a shit. And he really does give a shit. Everything Cavalier and the Dugout release appears to be made with care and enthusiasm. This dude has his shit together: excellent production, excellent rapping, a cool logo (see above), and an amazing music video. These things do matter and not because “nowadays image is important” but because it shows that these guys are willing to work to match their talent with hard work and integrity.

Written by Brandon

February 22nd, 2007 at 8:05 am