Named after a nonsensical knock-knock joke to which the punchline has been forgotten, cLOUDDEAD is the project of underground hip-hop heavyweights Doseone (Adam Drucker), Why? (Yoni Wolf) and Odd Nosdam (David Mason). The members abandoned the project for undisclosed reasons, but since they’re last new release in 2004 the band has earned themselves a cult following amongst obscure hip-hop junkies and general music nerds like myself.
All the members are core members of legendary indie hip-hop label Anticon, and cLOUDEAD were one of the early projects, which helped establish the label that would later find success with artists like Atmosphere.
While clearly rooted in hip-hop cLOUDDEAD experiment with the genre incorporating elements of ambient electronic, psychedelic and indie rock making frequent use of harmonised vocals and surreal imagery. Due to their left of centre approach to the genre, the band have often been maligned by other artists, described as ‘smart-arse surrealism.’
Despite the lack of acceptance or mainstream following, cLOUDDEAD have released two albums, and were even invited by the late John Peel himself to record one of his famous Peel Sessions.
Their songs often include sections of bizarre imagery such as ‘I secretly long to be some part of a car crash, long to see my arms ripped to the tendons, the swelling of naked exposed veins, slapping the back of your hand,” coupled with their eerie vocal melodies beats. Granted it’s strange, but when you factor in Doseone and Why?’s impeccable flow and Odd Nosdam’s masterful production, cLOUDDEAD’s music has undeniable depth compared to most of today’s hip-hop.
This so called ‘smart-arse surrealism’ may be a bit pretentious, but it’s innovative e, evocative and interesting. This band hasdone more to push forward the genre of hip-hop than almost any other act in the past ten years.
With act after act churning out the same old rubbish, these often maligned and misinterpreted chaps are, in my mind the prophets of hip-hop to come. And while the subsequent projects of it’s members such as 13 & God, Reaching Quiet and Subtle may have further perfected the sound, cLOUDDEAD are definitely worth more than a short listen.
CLOUDDEAD’s penultimate release, Ten is their polished and peculiar masterpiece, and while it does lack as much of the unfettered experimentation of self-titled debut, it’s cohesiveness and post-hip-pop style gives it a lasting impact.
Opening track Pop Song sets the tone for the album with Dose and Why? providing breathy and bewildering vocals, building into a hazy hip-hop march. It demonstrates both Dose and Why?’s ability to use their voices in versatile and interesting ways to create a more ambient and organic for of flow.
Track 4 The Velvet Ant is a shining example of how they paint luminous word pictures, that at once give you a definite image, then leaves you confused at lines like “a goat with a rectangle eyeeeeeee-ris,” or “rattlesnake caught in the wheel well, strawberry in an ostrich throat.”
Track 5 Son Of A Gun see’s the lads at their harmonious best, building up their vocals over a hazy sci-fi beat before dropping into a halting flow where their lyrics are all over pronounced for emphasis. Next track Rifle Eyes opens with some of the most difficult rapping, in both terms of lyrics, speed and flow, and has two of the band’s most memorable choruses, “an ant with a little bit of leaf in it’s hand looks like and ant in an African mask,” and “the red raw salmon steakin the gas station urinal.” Don’t try and understand this song, it’s dada-hop.
Dead Dogs Two is the single, if you can really call it that. It again highlights Dose and Why?’s melodic mastery, and is one of the most evocative songs on the album (two dogs we thought were dead, they rose up, rose up when whistled at, rib cage inflating like men on the beach being photographed). There is a Boards Of Canada remix out there somewhere that is pretty cool as well.
I could go on a lot longer but trust me, find this album, in fact anything by these guys.
“Sunset is an all day process.” Why?