B. Dolan and Alias “Fallen House, Sunken City” – Album Review
At a time when rappers flood the market every three months with their official 80-minute-long mixtapes, the idea of a rap album being ten years in the making is unfathomable. While the actual production from-conception-to-recording on Fallen House, Sunken City took two years, MC B.Dolan has painstakingly poured a decade of emotion from things he said, did or heard about* into one ghastly nightmare of a sophomore album. While I enjoyed his first release, 2008’s The Failure, I found it not so much a rap album as an audio performance art piece. Even during its more Hip-Hop moments, the focus seemed moreso on the world Dolan was creating all his own than making a great traditional rap song. But now Dolan is back, turning his one-man show into an apocalyptic Hip-Hop vaudeville duocracy with producer Alias (“Divine Disappointment,” Sage Francis’ “Message Sent”) and inviting all to check out one of the most haunted open houses you’ll ever attend.
The album’s journey begins with Dolan’s journey ending as the autobiographical “Leaving NY” chronicles his final days in a city where a post-9/11 haze clouded a dream he once had and forced his return to Rhode Island. From there, the album seems to stop at every small town along the way as Dolan peels the scabs off of the modern capitalist hustle (“Fifty Ways to Bleed Your Customer”) urban sprawl (“Earthmovers”) and the forgotten human face of the economic crisis (“Economy of Words”). Dolan’s performance plays as somewhat of a spiritual successor to label head Sage Francis’ album Hope as it is rich with references so well implemented that you might not even catch them within the first few listens. The difference, however, is while Sage’s sounded like a nostalgic winking-to-the-audience, Dolan’s loom like an apparition coming home to roost. Even if one doesn’t quite catch all of them, Dolan’s wordplay is enough to still make sense of what’s going on and anticipate the next hallway of horrors.
But credit for the album’s success is just as much that of producer Alias. The chemistry between the two is off the charts, giving an Ennio Morricone-vibe to the project that makes the rapper’s most profound and memorable moments inseparable from the soundscape they exists within. With Dolan’s accolades as a spoken word artist well documented, Alias utilizes his vocals’ every degree of emotion from the somber (“Marvin”) to the incidiary (“Border Crossing”) to the sadistically self-depricating (“Kitchen Sink”). It’s the first time in his nearly two-decade career that Alias has produced a full-length for someone other than himself, and the result is tremendous.
Not since the days of The Micranots has there been a rap album so politically charged without being overtly political. In a post-Bush era that saw the “conscious” sect change their rallying cry from “Bush sucks” to “everything sucks,” most rappers who claim to follow politics** feel more concerned with screaming a message they barely understand than making good rap music. I don’t need my favorite artists in any medium to agree with my personal politics, but with the craftsmanship put into Fallen House, Sunken City it becomes a moot point as I’m convinced a bizarro right-wing B. Dolan would make an album just as dope. This is mainly due to Dolan not making his politics the main selling point of the album. He’s a storyteller of the guided tour variety, a warped Clarence Oddbody showing you that the lives around you really aren’t all that wonderful. It’s only on repeat listens when you penetrate the underbelly and discover the source of the empathy this cynic is pulling out of you. These 12 tracks are great at face value, but it is infinitely refreshing that an East Coast artist in today’s Hip-Hop respects his audience enough to let them uncover the most subtle of subtleties.
I can reccommend this album if only for what an incredible first listen it is. I received it in my inbox the night after my Curtis Plum review went up and planned to only listen to a song or two before I went to bed. What resulted was me being glued to the speakers, sitting wide-eyed in front of the computer for the album’s entire 47 minute duration. The cinematic experience herein forces you to hang on to Dolan’s every word for dear life. Not since Redman’s Whut? Thee Album have I been so completely captivated by a first listen. It’s only after you collect yourself following your first encounter that you can begin to put the pieces together. The album finishes strong with the P.O.S. and Cadence Weapon-assisted “Fall of T.R.O.Y.,” where Dolan contemplates the present-state of his rap heroes (“You’re not a Soulja Boy, You’re a mercenary in a cryogenic sleep“) and “Buddy Buddy,” a scathing indictment of some of the “artists” he’s been forced to encounter over the years. The album has very few missteps in the form of a remaining vagueness in certain songs that only really surface after repeat listens, but it’s somewhat understandable with the size of the giants in the 12-song tracklisting. Fallen House, Sunken City is a powerful paranoid pulverizing piledriver of an album and makes a welcome addition to any record collection or bomb shelter.
We give Fallen House, Sunken City a Four Out of Five.
Until next time…let’s agree to agree!
*Which, if OC is reading, means first-hand AND word-of-mouth. While we’re at it: HEY GREG NICE – Dizzy Gillespie played the trumpet, HEY WARREN G – “next” is spelled “n-e-x-t,” and CAN-I-BUS – just give me a phone call as we really need to discuss your math homework.
**As opposed to the ones that, you know, actually follow politics. By that I mean those who didn’t skip their local elections to hand out the umpteenth edition of their “7/11 TRUTH – OBAMA WASN’T BORN HERE AND KILLED CHRIS BENOIT” DVD-Rs.
Tags: alias, atlantis, b. dolan, catchphrase, east coast, fallen house, fallen house sunken city, hip-hop, hiphop, new york city, paranoid, political, rap, rhode island, sage francis, strange famous records, sunken cityYou can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.