“I lost my liquid tongue for the wet pen”
To me, the pinnacle of hip hop, although it’s not the easiest thing to call hip hop in the first place.
Everything about cLOUDDEAD is so surreal, cryptic, dense and mysterious. It’s like hip hop’s final boss, a 70+ minute opus of both production, where shards of illbient and ethereal sound collaged scapes twist with ambient passages and idiosyncratic sample sources (blenders!?), and lyricism, entrenched in deeply philosophical (or nonsensical) ramblings of two of the most iconic voices in left-field-hop, that come together to produce an endlessly quotable and fascinating record.
Comprised of rapper/producer Odd Nosdam and MC’s Dose One and Why?, cLOUDDEAD is essentially the product of sporadically dropped 10 inches from 1999-2000 pieced together in two-track movements. These movements come pasted together with skits and unexpected samples in integral thematic buildups, funny and simply unskippable as opposed to more traditional, sub-par hip hop skits.
“We’re looking for a rhythm guitar player”
“Ok, ok, sounds good”
“Well, what do you look like? You look good holding a guitar?”
“We wear leather pants and a red-and-black Michael Jackson suede jacket”
“Um, no, I ain’t gotta problem with that man”
“Wawow. What a LOSER!”
Lyrically, cLOUDDEAD makes little to no sense. After reading the liner notes and finally coming to terms with what they’re saying you realise that you’re even more confused than before. It sports all the in-jokes, regional slang and insider references that graces a lot of 90’s hip hop, but instead gives an insight into the mysterious and abstract Anticon scene as a whole. Somehow, this adds to both the charm and avant-garde aesthetic of the record and does more to enhance the experience than anything, allowing personal interpretations of their rambles to paint your own picture. This seems to go hand-in-hand with the DIY aspect of it all, considering it was recorded with a Radioshack microphone, an eight-track and a basic sampler. Pages and pages of blunt-pencil scrambles are slopped together in distinctive flow with little regard for a constant narrative.
“Do you know how many times,
I’ve thought about writing about the paper I’m writing on?”
“Sewerside on street corners peaking out our piece,
We’ll till the land with a pulled up parking meter
’til the soil churns to wind”
It can be taken both ways. It’s either nonsense to you (and to be fair, a lot of it probably is), or it’s snippets of stray, fascinating thoughts and examinations. I’d recommend the latter for a more rewarding experience.
Dose One’s voice is a timbre that many find initially off-putting and repulsive, simply a nasal and goofy tone, but growing accustomed to his style sets him as one of the most peculiar and fascinating voices in early-2000’s hip hop. Why?’s is not as strikingly weird but definitely not run-of-the-mill. Flow-wise, nothing is predictable. Hooks don’t exist and rhyming took a backseat. In these areas, cLOUDDEAD sits apart from the rest, subverting the things that essentially make hip hop hip hop.
This experimentation is exemplified through production that is yet to be imitated. Eerie vibes rooted in ambience and obscurity intertwine with extensive string samples and ethereal field recordings while slow, sooty beats construct an expressive canvas. Intricately constructed collage, “And All You Can Do Is Laugh, Pt. 2”, swims with timely vocal samples and violently plucked strings, whilst “I Promise Never To Get Paint On My Glasses Again, Pt. 1” takes an esoteric passage from Moody Blues track “The Night”. Perhaps most striking is the implementation of John Abercrombie’s “Timeless”, a jazz-fusion gem transformed into a thrilling, percussion driven climax layered with the crew’s choired vocals. Odd Nosdam cements himself a brilliant productive force, completely in his own vein.
cLOUDDEAD seems to categorise itself in weirdness and unpredictability. It doesn’t come across as “being abstract for the sake of it” and instead drips with passion and genuine experimentation. The fact that anything that comes even close to the aesthetic of this album actually involves a member of this trio says a lot about how different and insanely new it really is.
It’s something special.