What Do You See? the first full-length collaboration from Halifax rap duo Frantik & Dirty Dane, mixes brutal egoism, drug references and hip hop’s trademark misogyny with goofy childlike charm and vague self-awareness.
Frantik, a former Montrealer puts his varied vocal styles on display while spewing his id fueled rhymes adds a sarcastic tone without passing any moral judgement on the terrifying and cartoonish character he’s playing. On the album’s aptly named opening track Kids On Dope Frantik makes countless references to video games and cartoons, expertly twisting them into metaphors and similes for violence, sex and drugs. The following track, Take A Sip, ages the references slightly creating a teenaged persona. Overall, throughout the album’s 11 tracks there’s very little variation from these themes but Frantik’s eclectic vocal styles ensure that they’re never boring.
The greatest amount of variation on What Do You See? is created by producer Dirty Dane. With Frantik acting as a stylistic constant Dirty Dane is able to experiment with multiple musical themes, all of which miraculously fit into the scope of this project. Kids On Dope’s minimal drum and synth motif creates a soulful R&B tone. Fix Up has the lo-fi scratch vibe of an Eric B & Rakim track. Emperor State of Mind has as dark and spastic tone reminiscent of an Aphex Twin instrumental. Toxic Oasis features an unappealingly weak verse from Dirty Dane and takes a page out of the minimalistic Odd Future beat playbook. It’s one of only a few tracks that features Dirty Dane’s voice but every time he steps out from behind the boards I was bored and unimpressed.
There are two beats on this record not produced by Dirty Dane, Always Be The Illest and Ghost Bass Killah both of which are produced by Phorzeine. These tracks have a haze that isn’t found on the other songs, making them seem more sinister. They also flow into each other seamlessly, as if they were written at the same time. Ghost Bass Killah has an Odd Future vibe as well. I’m sure this was intentional as Frantik’s line “Kill ’em all” is too close to one of Tyler, The Creator’s most iconic lines to be a coincidence.
What Do You See?’s greatest strength is its ability to sound both innovative and familiar, undoubtedly the result of two varied creative minds coming together and finding common ground.
Frantik’s wild and somehow sarcastic Zappaesque delivery may be a turn off for some hip hop heads but given the groundwork and popularity of other “weirdo” emcees like Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Danny Brown and Chance the Rapper, I’m sure he’ll have no trouble finding his niche audience.
The slick and in some ways traditional production that Dirty Dane brings to the table will ease the weirdness and make it more accessible. What Do You See? is available on Bandcamp HERE for five dollars.