Mixtape Review-Produce vol. 1 by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
One of the uncomfortable conversations I will be forced to have with my son is how our generation turned Pop Music into a negative term for simple elitist gains. We snickered at chart topping hits and re-classified the ones we liked into other genres. Whoomp There It Is was pop music but surely Smells Like Teen Spirit wasn’t even though both were overexposed. As we got older the questions became too much. Was Buddy Holly Pop Music? If I hate Pop so much how come I know the lyrics to every Queen song? Any re-examination turned our group pretension into a fun-house mirror of distinction leaving one real apparent truth. Bottom line-we need our pop music.
Life is full of terrible things: uncomfortable talks on public transportation, dental appointments, embarrassing public school moments, interaction with comically ineffective authority figures that change the course of your life and you need happy music for some of that. When Dale Jr. Jr. decided to put out a mixtape following what I thought of as the best album of 2013(The Speed of Things) it threw some for a loop but made perfect sense to me. Listening to Jr. Jr. is like Tommy James and the Shondells laid lush pop classics over Gangstarr era Primo beats. As smooth and buoyant as their music is it always bangs with a hip hop car stereo flavor. The sixteen tracks that Produce Vol. 1 consists of are full of surprises however.
What sinks a lot of rockers hip hop mixtapes is trying to utilize it as an opportunity to assert some sort of toughness they don’t normally get to highlight. It ends up coming off like a mockery of the medium. Dale Jr. Jr. see it purely as a way to have fun in different ways like putting Biggie lyrics over the Beach Boys song I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times and getting sublime results(Beach Boy Biggie). The rappers pulled in for guest verses are expertly selected including names like King Chip, Chuck Inglish, Murs, and Asher Roth. Murs does an amazing job with his tale of love turned racial violence in Lover Lover Lover but the songs I love the most are the outlandishly danceable ones like the War Zone Goldenboyz remix or Jean Jacket Girl. It can be dismissed as cute but cute is valuable and if done properly can be brilliant.
Right from the first song (Old Friend From The Radio) Produce Vol. 1 aims for one goal-to be as fun as possible and it hits that target. With a beat that Pun would have loved Asher Roth spits crazy references(on Curtain Call) and you forget all the pre-text about his career and whether he sucks or not. The vocals are brilliantly sung over a background of clatter that shakes with countless elements jingling together in a kind of Muppet-like happy madness. It’s not supposed to be a cohesive artistic statement just a fun way to explore their style fully while showing datpiff kids who hadn’t heard of them what they bring to the table. It’s also great for waiting at the Dentists office.
Stream of Download Produce Vol. 1 below: