#ThrowbackThursday album review-R.A.W. by Daz Dillinger
The first rap album you ever heard…maybe it was Kanye or Jay if you were young, maybe it was The Chronic or something if you’re my age…doesn’t matter. The real question you should be asking; what was the first rap album you owned that you KNEW was independent. When did you first make the choice to buy outside the system?
My answer is Daz Dillinger’s album R.A.W. you see by the time No Limit was putting out independent hit albums I was buying them but with no idea they were independent. I knew it was platinum I knew it was good but the specifics didn’t register. 2015 has been full of talk about the big names using smaller names; Kanye using Travis Scott, Drake ripping off people for hits. Lots of imagery is being evoked like vampires and parasites because the musical public only really see’s the outcome and they don’t know who made what.
Daz did a lot for Death Row records. When Dre didn’t want to walk into the gladiator pit that was Death Row Daz would produce so he gave us hit after hit for Pac, Snoop, and produced his own Dogg Pound collaboration album Dogg Food with Kurupt. All the while Dre’s name was everywhere(in the largest print imaginable) as if he was masterminding it all. I never heard Daz complain. Not before R.A.W.
It really begins (sorry Super Cuz) with one of the most memorable gang documentary sampled introductions in rap history called Street Gangs. The interviewer’s subject speaks about the strength and fearlessness of surviving gunshots, having taken the worst you can take & your still there. This is exactly how Daz felt after the Death Row diaspora that sent Dre to found Aftermath and Snoop to No Limit. It left virtually no place for the heart of the batting order: Bad Azz, Soopafly, Kurupt, and Daz. So instead of doing the interview circuit and circulating feelings of being left behind (looking at you Beanie Sigel) he founded his own label DPG Recordz and sold over a hundred thousand copies of R.A.W. with NO publicity.
While his Death Row album Revenge, Retaliation, and Get Back from 1998 (R.A.W. is 2000) has a gorgeous cover of a demon and an angel in a chess game as exactly the same person (you need to see it if you haven’t https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retaliation,_Revenge_and_Get_Back#/media/File:Daz_Dillinger_-_Retaliation,_Revenge_%26_Get_Back.jpg ) R.A.W. is just shirtless Daz staring with naked frustration into the camera. The thing that really educated me circa 2000 ,in the art of being independent, is how much R.A.W. sounds as brazen and top shelf as anything in the Death Row catalog. This iz Not Over Til We Say So is a rider song worthy of All Eyez On Me disc one. When Ya Lease Exspected starts with Daz yelling “Motherf#$% CHA-POW!” and seethes with the kind of perfectly sung chorus and cool kid in class menace that defined the Dogg Pound arm of Death Row. It was the first time I understood the brand doesn’t make the music… the people do and they can make it just as well without the brand.
Relistening to R.A.W. is always eye opening. It doesn’t star the kind of super hero Rambo gangster a lot of 90’s rap treaded on. He makes you feel the lump in his throat and nervousness as someone approaches on Who’s Knocc’n At My Door. He’s smoking and thinking about his life and then that sound comes…is it the police…a customer….a friend? The beat is noticeably soulful and personable; he wants you to understand. Later on when he’s cavorting w/ Soopafly and Mac-Shawn to knock boots with other people’s girlfriends(on Your Gyrlfriend 2) you realize that it connects; the sense of violence and constant loss makes it difficult to connect in a real relationship so it’s better to treat sexual encounters like fast food; just get it and go. While they seem cocky and cackling about it, you can hear the defense mechanism. On Itz All About The Money he starts with “It’s another bad day in the hood….” He’s exhausted at a certain point. The album title stands for Ready And Willing. The title track is hands down the hardest, nastiest cut and Kurupt is very excited to jump on it. This album was partially for Kurupt, selling him on going independent, getting a larger slice of the money and control. Kurupt eventually went back to Death Row and the evil you know rather than the evil you don’t. He would definitely regret it. Kurupt is not one of the top five or ten greatest MC’s or rappers of all time because he is a weapon. He may steal the verse but Daz composes the song, creates the hook, figures out the sequencing of the track. Being the best rapper is not just about bars. I guess nobody ever wondered why Kurupt’s best work is always with Daz.
On some songs the weight of being the guy in the shadows gets directly addressed. I’ve listened to What It Iz countless times where he spits betrayal but not in the safe wholly vague way. The insinuations are for Death Row and for Snoop, stating emphatically in the last verse “That pimp sh_t don’t impress me nor phase me…all that f#$#% work I did for ya’ll and ya’ll can’t pay me?! Simple as I can say it F@*^ ya’ll.” His pessimism is spiritual. He flips the hook of What It Iz into the song Baccstabber with Mark Morrison and Tray Dee where Morrison (yes Return of the Mack Morrison) says over and over “Thought you were my brother, but you ain’t no brother…” Daz has a clear solution to the problem, they stab my back I stab them back. Which makes it fitting that the album carries a song called I’d Rather Lie 2 Ya (Kurupt and Tray Dee feature) with the hook “I’d Rather Lie 2 Ya Than Sell You Hope,” While the landscape is stark this isn’t depression. This is still a young man feeling his powers who believes he can take over the world and if he fails…he’ll still be able to say he tried.
That’s what R.A.W. means. Ready for anything, willing to do anything to survive and the violence is a real backdrop but also professionally symbolic of the environment a left behind genius is forced to traverse. I think about it a lot. Especially when a new artist is faced with a post OVO, post GOOD music, post whatever-goliath-machine-you-want-to-insert career. I always root for them to go R.A.W.
BUY or sample R.A.W. below: