Sometimes, an artist contacts you, and you just know you’re in for a ride. BdotJeff is a Columbus, OH based hip-hop artist who explores many angles and challenges what the genre should be. While some in the local scene specialize in being slick and polished (Sarob, Joey Aich), others push boundaries in other ways and aren’t for everyone. One such artist is Kali Dreamer, and another the BdotJeff, the project of Wade Blair II, a 2017 graduate of Capital University with a degree in Music Technology.
Y2K is a culmination of someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously mixing with on point technical ability in front of the mic and behind the boards. BdotJeff’s vocal style won’t be for everyone: he is emotional, and his inflections are all over the place in a way that suggests he doesn’t take himself seriously even while rapping bars that are meant to be taken seriously. The more you dig into this record, the more you become in tune with his cadence and style; what initially might across as goofy eventually hits as rawness meant to move you and make you move. Some of the bars remind me of spoken word poets I’ve come across in the DIY hardcore/emo scene. I remember when I heard Levi the Poet for the first time—at first I thought his yelling was over the top and entertaining. Now I’m moved by his passion and impressed by his figures of speech. The same principle applies to BdotJeff.
I have to mention the attention to detail not only in the music but in the whole package. Each song has its own accompanying art in the booklet. Remember buying CDs and pouring over the inserts? I’d love to do that here.
There are a couple of tracks that stand out to me on account of their sheer earworm appeal. “Han Solo” has a hook that will for sure stick in your brain; I’ll be muttering “Shoot first! Go hard!” for the foreseeable future when I feel the need to be resilient. This track is tongue-in-cheek and makes use of acronyms in some creative ways. “Dancing with Depression 2k19” features Happy Tooth, of collective Happy Tooth and Dug (check out their weekly freestyle livestream on their Facebook page). “Pop the cork now I’m the man!” is another line that sticks in my head and functions as a fitting lead into a whimsical song about depression, that is all too fitting for this time period we’re in. To be vulnerable with you guys for a second, I struggle with anxiety from time to time, and this afternoon was one of those days that stood out in a not-so-good way, and the line of not being able to leave the couch (or in my case, bed) literally applied to me for a couple hours as I napped to cope. Quirky songs help me see these moments in a different light for a minute, so thanks for that, guys! Tender moments are rare on the album but most notably emerge in the song “Warp Drive,” which is predictably expressed via a sci-fi hook and accompanying single art with rainbows and homage to the Star Trek Enterprise.
My favorite track on the album is “Maybe / Doubt,” the track I listened to first. It just goes and is a crash course in everything BdotJeff is about. I would suggest starting with that one too.
BdotJeff is evidence that there is still much to be discovered in the Columbus music scene. I’m glad that, almost 10 years into doing this, I’m still finding new things in places I didn’t think to look. This album inspires me to dig further into the underground hip-hop scene, as well as our electronic scene. Much of the album’s quirky feel can be attributed to the production of EDM artist xDiggityDee.