Moving beneath the streets and buildings of Chattanooga is a wave of musical talent that offers up new sounds and complex rhythmic ideologies on a daily basis. Regardless of genre, the Scenic City can’t help but be a melting pot of influences and inspirations, from neo-R&B bounce to delicate folk musings to harsh electronic noise to any number of subsections that have yet to be explored. And it’s in this mass of differing aesthetics that the hip-hop roil of producer-rapper DjDee comes into clear view.
For a time, he worked almost exclusively as a producer, but toward the end of 2016, he stepped behind the mic and began to provide intricate lyrical deviations. With the release of “Nu-Tape—Good Vibes” last year, his blend of modern hip-hop experimentation and melody-driven rhythms found him standing on the bridge between the old and the new, the swagger of vintage rap construction and the eclecticism of contemporary production.
On his new EP, “Forth,” he once again ventures into these complex waters, bringing along a handful of local musicians, including John Konner, CD7 and frequent collaborator Zowie Boyd. From the brief opening track, “Introduction,” to piano-driven closer “4r the Soul,” he quickly sets himself apart from the glut of bland artists who seem to believe that cheap beats and monotonous rhythms make them relevant. He’s about as far removed from the current crop of tinny beat-obsessed artists as he can be.
Songs such as “Want.the.Funk/Letter.2.Me” and “Up!” showcase his natural ability to blend various shades of his inspirations without losing their specific nuances; he’s just as concerned with the atmosphere and mood of the song as he is with his own presence. He even indulges in some welcome funk and soul divergences, linking his work to that of artists who first threw light on these sounds decades ago. But “Forth” isn’t simply a collection of well-intentioned influences—it’s an ever-changing perspective, both personal and universal, on how the past can change the future and why that connection to our collective history is important.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.