by Eric Tweel
If there was ever any doubt, 360 Waves shows that old school rappers contemptuous of today’s popular hip hop scene are hardly stodgy finger-wagging elders who have lost relevance. 360 Waves is the debut album of Durag Dynasty, comprised of veteran rappers Planet Asia, Tristate and Rakim, and is completely produced by the talented Alchemist.
At first the group’s name sounds ridiculous, but it makes sense given their 90s style. Durags (also known as do-rags) are symbolic of a time before tight jeans, snapbacks, and the ridiculous “swag” trend, and the second part of the title – Dynasty – reminds us that old school hip hop is still alive and well.
The album’s greatest strength is clearly its production. Alchemist’s recent album Russian Roulette established him as one of the greatest current hip hop producers, and his work on 360 Waves is anything but disappointing. He even moves into new territory, ignoring the genre’s conventional focus on percussion, creating several tracks (such as the album’s single “360 Waves”) without any drums at all.
The three rappers of Dynasty maintain a solid balance throughout, and Planet Asia doesn’t dominate despite being the most well-known of the group. The lyrics are clever and the vocals gritty enough to complement both Alchemist’s jazzy samples and his grinding synth. None of these guys are (nor do they try to be) so-called “conscious” rappers. Like Sean Price and Danny Brown, they place more of an emphasis on having fun and creating party-worthy verses. That being said, they make plenty of references to Malachi York and Annunaki that will be unfamiliar to less experienced listeners, and at times their reliance on an ABBA rhyme scheme gets repetitive. This album has no major flaws but enough minor errors to prevent it from being a classic.
So far 360 Waves ranks as one of 2013’s best hip hop albums, and considering recent releases from Tyler, the Creator and Yelawolf, that is no small praise. Definitely worth a listen and perhaps a download (or even a purchase, as crazy as that sounds).