Members Only; 2012
Of the three MCs in local crew State Of The Artist, it’s likely Thaddeus David (or Young TH as he’s known in assembly) is the only one capable of holding down an entire album’s worth of solo material. Parker is an adequate rhymer but his true gifts lay behind the boards and Hyphen8d’s butter soft register just isn’t commanding enough to stand alone despite a charming wit that supersedes both of his teammates. One of the best things about the SOTA boys is how well they share the mic, with each MC getting a turn to shine on virtually every track they do together. Thaddeus is clearly their #3 hitter: the most well-rounded, the most consistent and the most interesting. Maven is his recent outing for dolo, a 16-track LP that’s definitely nice on the ears, but suffers from a partial lack of focus that hinders the MC’s hunt for a more distinct individual rep.
It’s hard to criticize Maven when all of the separate elements of a high quality album are present. Start with Thad’s flow which is natural and well-practiced. He sounds great positing on subjects like street politics (“Block Business”), succeeding in the rap game (“By Any Means”), and old fashioned shit talk (“Aww Sheit”). Part of his appeal lies in his raspy vocal aesthetic, a natural gift that allows him to swagger without trying. You can’t teach or learn that quality — it just is. The other remarkable thing about Maven is the beat choice: every single one succeeds. Provided by local suppliers (Jester, Kuddie Fresh, DJ Semaj) and anonymous internet beat mavens, there isn’t a weak gazelle in the bunch and the diverse sonics range from the dreamy wobble of “Never Never” to the jazzy shake of “Crown Royal.”
But while Thad’s beat selection is beyond reproach, his strategy for hopping on them is suspect. At least half of the collection would only qualify as interludes. Many of them are devoid of hooks that just start to build momentum before trailing off, like “Skyscrapers” which generates a nostalgic, grainy lo-def 70’s movie feel but then quickly rides out. As it goes with most hip-hop records these days, somewhere among the overflow of half-thoughts is a superior and more focused EP dying to get out. It’s a lesson Thaddeus should have learned from the title of Maven’s opening cut, “Less is More.”
In 206UP.COM’s recent interview feature, “THE SIX”, Thad informs us that another solo project is likely on the way, this time a for-profit venture with all original production. Here’s hoping “distillation” is on the MC’s to-do list for that go ‘round. Dude’s Town rep is very strong based on past musical collaborations — SOTA and Helluvastate (with Cloud Nice honcho Tay Sean) — and he’s shown it can only get stronger. The approach just needs a little calibration.