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“Bone Music” by The Last Artful, Dodgr and Neill Von Tally

“Bone Music” by The Last Artful, Dodgr and Neill Von Tally

Bone Music. The title and cover art refer to the jazz and rock n’ roll pressed onto x-rays and smuggled among 1950s soviet Russia. Dodgr seizes on these makeshift, black-market records as a romantic symbol of counterculture. The metaphor also prods at a depth of connection to music: to have it imprinted on the bone.

From the first track, “Caverns,” my mind goes to the high-art rap of Kendrick Lamar. It’s in the timbre of her voice, her variable flows and persona and the breakdown where the beat strips down to nothing but sustained, low rumbling bass tones. The Last Artful, Dodgr’s vocal control is wild. Dodgr told ELEVEN back in the May issue, “The way I’ve perfected my voice is by impersonating everybody, period, whether it was a singer or Bart Simpson.” In fact, her rap slides in and out of melody with its own logic. I don’t hear Bart, but I hear in her voice the potential for a very convincing Bart.

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Dodgr’s lyrics are high-minded, emotionally lucid. They contain sticky bits of wisdom. Some of her coolest lines crop up on “LLC.” There’s the funny, but resonant: “Don’t poop where your boo gonna step in.” The lyrics not just good advice, as the album goes on to paint a real picture of a relationship strained by work and infidelity. The hook is a high point of the album for me: “C’est la vie–packed my pipe, said my piece / if I die, play my beats.”

The beats are dark but vibrant, minimalistic and sophisticated. In general, the real magic of the collaboration between Dodgr and her producer, Neill Von Tally, comes down to the musical space they leave for each other. Her lines on the chorus of “Good/Gravy” pop in and out between the back beats. This is an album made in what Dodgr has described as a 50/50 effort. Their partnership pays off in the cohesion it gives the album. With much of today’s hip-hop albums stitching together the work of many producers in the studio or contracted over the internet, Bone Music sets an example of rap made with the burden on fewer shoulders. Tally makes a universe for Dodgr’s personas to take on a 3-dimensional life.