Fifth Element Artist Feature: Dumbtron
A great combination just can’t be denied…or at least it shouldn’t be. Willie Evan Jr. and Paten Locke (a.k.a DJ Therapy) started to catch the attention of indie rap fans via their group project, Asamov. As two pivotal pieces to the four-man group they revealed their passion for Hip Hop and rigid dedication to mastering various elements of the craft. Both artists are formidable forces on the beats, rhymes and cuts.
The Aforementioned Asamov (a.k.a The Abs or Alias Brothers) consisted of Willie Evans Jr., DJ Therapy (a.k.a Paten Locke), Ja-One-Da, and Basic. All of the crew shared mic time, 3 of the 4 members also DJed and Willie Evans Jr. & Paten Locke handled most of the production. The crew released 3 singles and one full album between 2004-06.
Their “And Now…” album dropped in 2005 and featured most of the 12” featured tracks and many other treats, including vocal appearances from Mr Lif, Akrobatik, J Live, Wordsworth & Cassidy and one track produced by 9th Wonder. Willie Evans Jr. produces 10 of the 15 tracks. His production style taps into a few different vibes. Overall, it has lush and moody vibe. It is often soulful with well placed vocal portions. Occasionally, the approach is a bit more assertive and heavy, a la “Fem Fems” and “Suckas”. Willie is able to tap into different styles while still maintaining a similar technique. The result is tracks that sound clearly different, but inherently him. Paten Locke racks up 4 production credits on the album and each offering is significantly distinctive from the other; “Standing Room” has a big sound that has hints of a track you could almost picture Jay Z rhyming on, but adds some additional layers of composing that distances it from any typical radio single. “Say Somethin” is predominantly a mellow cut, given extra character with some heavy hi-hats and occasional background sound effects keeping things moving along gracefully. “Boom Box” maintains the cool out feel, but walks its own path with some entrancing pianos and by injecting in some Old School sensibilities. Speaking of which, he takes the throwback vibe somewhere special on “Seven”. Anyone that can make a prominent “Funky Drummer” sample sound refreshing at this point is definitely working some musical magic.
After taking in all of that great music back then I was hoping and expecting much more from the crew, but they slipped off my radar for a while. Up next were some solo offerings…
When DJ Superbrush427 (who is also rocking at Soundset in the DJ Tent!) moved to Minneapolis we connected via our shared love for Hip Hop. He also put me up on the crew he was down with, Giant Panda. The group released their music on Tres Records and after getting connected with the label, thanks again to Superbrush, I stayed in touch for new releases. One release that really caught my attention was Paten Locke’s “Super Ramen Rocketship”, undoubtedly a highlight release on the label.
Paten Locke had clearly taken his 4 years since “And Now…” to further perfect his skills and had grown as a MC, Producer, songwriter and all-around artist on this solo debut. He also gained better mastery over his delivery, which allowed him to inject more of his personality into the music. Since"Super Ramen Rocketship” he has kept himself busy on a some side projects, including outside production. Plus, I just heard about 22 new beats he has for various projects and one new song and I can assure you he is still taking the skill level up several notches! Prepare for a wealth of great new music…
You may have also witnessed the man at work rocking stages alongside the Humble Magnificent, Edan. Paten and Edan have rocked many a stage across the world together, including their impressive set last year at Soundset.
Truthfully, even though I was a fan of Asamov/The Ab’s I didn’t really dig deep enough to know the individual names of the crew. To me, the crew was dope and I whenever saw they had some new wax I picked it up and that was good enough for me. That in mind, I was probably a little late catching up on Willie Evans Jr. solo career. I was actually reintroduced to his music via Siddiq (Rhymesayers CEO). We semi-regularly have talks about new Hip Hop or things that catch our attention and he’s always putting me up on something that I should check out. One such suggestion, about 3 years ago, was Willie Evans Jr. When I went to listen to the link I pretty much immediately recognized his voice and style. It took me an additional second to pull the pieces together, but I soon realized he was from the Asamov crew.
Once I was reacquainted with Willie Evans Jr. I was more drawn in as a fan with each new listen. The lead up had me highly anticipating his solo debut “Introducin” and when it finally dropped it even exceeded expectations, something that rarely happens these days.
He was diligent in his approach of piecing the album together with intriguing vocal samples, plus interesting and inventive production. Vocally, his style effectively meshes abstract stream of thought, B-Boy aggressiveness, personal insight, street smarts and unapologetic nerdetry.
On the “Introducin” album Paten Locke makes an appearance on the track “Dumbtron”, serving as a sneak peak of an upcoming collaborative project between the two Hip Hop renaissance men.
Witness Dumbtron in action on the Fifth Element Stage this Sunday. I expect it to be an explosive event…
Also, additional options to catch Dumbtron in the Twin Cities this week: