Calvin Johnson‘s K Records is known for its indie rock releases. For the past three decades, Johnson has released records by bands like Bikini Kill, Built to Spill, Melvins, The Microphones, and Modest Mouse. But in the last decade, the label has released no hip hop records until this year. Jewish rapper, Eprhyme releases his new album, Dopestylevsky on K Records.
It is not like Eprhyme is Dr. Dre or something; he sounds like one of the The Lonely Island guys that isn’t Andy Samberg and his brand of alternative hip hop is hardly gangster. Yet it is apparent why Calvin Johnson would want to take a chance releasing Dopestylevsky.
The album opens with “Grind Thoroughly”. Despite the typical Hot 97-type name, the track is somewhere between Jay Electronica‘s “Shiny Suit Theory” and an instrumental from Fiddler on the Roof. The track consists of violins and harpsichords but no traditional percussion to give the track a typical hip hop backbone yet Eprhyme manages to rap over it.
That is not to say that Eprhyme’s tracks do not have mainstream potential. “Blow Up the Block” is a dancehall reggae song that borders on being a little too Matisyahu-esque. The track features fellow Jewish rappers DeScribe and Y-Love rapping/singing over a beat that is befit of Sean Kingston. While the song has crossover potential, it feels a little out of place on the album.
Eprhyme seems much more at home over poppy old skool hip hop beats. My favorite track on the album is “Poppasong.” The track’s chorus is the most solid and catchy on the album while the verses allow for Eprhyme to drop references to Herbie Hancock and Fresh Prince‘s “Parents Just Don’t Understand” on the same track.
Luckily, most of the songs are along the line of “Poppasong.” Eprhyme really maximizes his potential on Dopestylevsky, making one of his strongest efforts to date. It makes Calvin Johnson seem like a visionary finally returning to hip hop to release such an album.