Review: B. Dolan’s House of Bees Vol. 2

B. Dolan: House of Bees Vol. 2 (Strange Famous)

“Still Here”

[audio:|titles=B. Dolan: “Still Here”]

In 2005, indie rapper / poet B. Dolan, with a self-released full-length under his belt, hooked up with Strange Famous Records after gaining notoriety among New York City’s slam-poetry scene. His first record, The Failure, was re-released in 2008 through his new independent home with the welcome addition of such names as Sole and label head / fellow Epic Beard Man Sage Francis. Since then, he has pushed deep into foreboding hip hop and sociopolitical commentary on another full-length as well as a mixtape titled House of Bees.

This year, Dolan wants you to know he’s “still here” as he releases a collection of songs borne out of and after the death of his father in 2010. And though much of these songs are influenced by his father’s passing, Dolan hasn’t ditched his political side. One of the tapes’ standout tracks is a remake of an NWA gem, aptly retitled “Film the Police,” featuring a slew of guests that include Sage Francis, Toki Wright, Jasiri X, and Buddy Peace. Dolan then takes on social injustice on “Which Side are You On?”, sampling the union folk song made famous by Pete Seeger.

Dolan turns inward on several tracks, including “Still Here” and the somber “Feel So Different.” On the former, which samples Grails’ “Reincarnation Blues,” the rapper defies both death and obscurity, shouting to his listeners that “you can kill the man but never the idea.” The latter track, which begins with a haunting sample of his father’s voicemail, is a raw, heart-wrenching glimpse into the rapper’s emotional state following the death of his father.

Teetering between personal and political themes, Dolan also uses this opportunity to address professional issues. On “2BAD,” he and Sage Francis — as Epic Beard Men — call out rappers who choose fame and fortune over change and charity, shouting “too bad you fucked up, dummy,” to those who have disgraced the face of rap. And on “King Bee,” which samples The Stone Foxes’ cover of Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee,” he utters, “I invented ugly,” taking a stab at those who would rather “stay home and hope to go viral.” If that doesn’t hit hard enough, drag persona Ms. Nicholle Pride steps in with a provocative message for Drake — one that questions whether he’s famous for his looks or for his talent.

On this mixtape, Dolan continues to flex his lyrical and intellectual muscle, combining it with his heartfelt, soulful delivery to bridge the gap between the personal and the political — unmistakably reminiscent of NWA and the “glory days” of hip hop.

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