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dragnaslimdublin & the beatcave hermit - There is no Easy Definition

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Artist: dragnaslimdublin & the beatcave hermit

Album: There is no Easy Definition

Label: Underground Sounds of America

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

Lyrics Born. I’ll say that now to get the comparison out of the way, because it will be the first thing to occur to any listener upon hearing dragnaslimdublin’s (dragnas from here on out) sing-songy flow; or at least, anyone who is familiar with Lyrics Born and the Solesides crew will make that connection. The influence is undeniably there, so I won’t harp on it.

Instead, I’ll make a different comparison: cream of wheat. Now, I recognize that not everyone has the same mental picture of cream of wheat that I do, so let me explain what I’m trying to say with that analogy. I don’t mean cream of wheat with raisins, or bananas, or brown sugar, or anything else that might make it flavorful, but rather just straight out cream of wheat—hearty, certainly, but not the most zesty breakfast one could imagine. There is no Easy Definition is just that: it ain't bad, it just isn’t very interesting.

The album starts off well enough, with a flute sample that leads into decent-sounding drums that are saved from mediocrity by a cow bell that gives the track some kick. dragnas comes on explaining what the group is about—the standard fare for an intro track. And that’s the crux of it, really: There is no Easy Definition manages to make very regular music — it has a message, it even has some poetic merit, and all in all it doesn’t sound bad — it just doesn’t do much of anything that’s new, or different. And in the current hip hop context of post-rap avant-garde techno jungle fusion where bpms are played with like nympho’s breasts and rap music is no longer confined to layered samples looped through a linearly progressing song, hearing something this normal is downright boring. Many artists have pushed the envelope of this sort of music far beyond what dragnas and the beatcave hermit have done with There is no Easy Definition: the anticon camp is more poetically daring and have exploded the norms of the “hip hop sound”; the Def Juxies are much better at innovating within the formulas; the list could go on endlessly. The point is, there is no easy explanation for being this dull.

The album certainly has moments where it notices the box it’s in and thinks about getting outside of it — the track “Please” is entirely pleasing (hah, sorry), and “Rosin the Bow” is strangely entertaining. But in the end it is difficult to even distinguish one track from the next, and by the second time through the album I found myself wishing it would be out and out terrible, so that at least it wouldn’t be so unendingly mediocre. Well it’s true that there is no easy definition of underground hip hop music, within that context it is rather easy to categorize dragnaslimdublin & the beatcave hermit: they are repeating formulas that have been created and done better by other artists before them — not enough to be offensive though, just enough to be rather bland. Cream of hip hop. I’ll stick to my Captain Crunch Berries.

By Daniel Thomas-Glass

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