Dice Slimberg is certainly a man of many talents. He has graduated from releasing mixtapes as a teenager to collaborating with Vaughn Love in 2012 and then used this as a springboard to have his music more widely heard. And perhaps what sets him apart from many of his contemporaries is the wealth of literary and cultural knowledge which informs his work. The Hour, for example, is taken from an album titled Death of A Salesman, and I should imagine that the cross over between Arthur Miller and modern urban music is a fairly rare event indeed.
He draws inspiration from the revolutionary poets of the Harlem Renaissance, is a playwright and aspiring actor and in 2014 was cast in the movie Fastlane. Since then he has juggled acting, writing and making music with no short amount of skill. It is easy to see that this isn’t just another bedroom rapper dealing in the same old cliches, this is someone with their eye very much on creativity and the future and making music that comes from a smart and knowledgble place.
The Hour is one of those hip-hop tracks which gives a nod to the past whilst finding new places to take the sound. It takes a solid groove, one that those early hip-hop pioneers would be familiar with, and weaves all manner of meandering bass lines and forward-thinking electronica through it. But, as is always the way in this genre, it is the lyrics that are the real test. Here, Slimberg passes with flying colours, firing off quick and complex salvos with deft and dexterous ease.
But as I said, the lyrics seem to come from a more informed place. They might talk of the realities of everyday life, of the grime and grit of the street and of the hardships found in the heart of the city, but they seem to have much more to say than the usual self-aggrandising, self-pitying mumbling rap that seems to be in vogue these days. Here, the lyrics dance like hard-edged poetry, they spiral and flow, ideas arriving so fast and so often that the song feels like a stream of consciousness put to song, an outpouring of angst and experience, of street wisdom and everyday philosophy. Who would have thought that you could find enlightenment on the harsh streets of Philadelphia?
It is with artists such as Dice Slimberg that the future of hip-hop, and all of the sonic strands which have evolved from it, lays. Hip-hop is a style that was born on the streets but that doesn’t mean that it can’t better itself, learn, educate, evolve. It can stick to its style and traditions, sure, it can talk of the struggle and the urban experience, of hard times and harder choices, but why not do that from a more educated and aware platform.
And if you are not sure what that might sound like, just give The Hour a spin. And then another. And then again and again until the idea finally hits home.