By Mathieu N. Frasier
Part 1. An Introduction
DGAF, or Don’t Give A Fuck for those of you who rally against initials, is a group hailing from North Texas composed of MC Ritual, (formerly of the group “Deuce Mob”) Big Dick Vic, and Psychdelliq, formerly known as “Syko.” Together they bring us “The Other Guys”, a mixtape named after the Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg movie of the same name.
This is the group’s first joint release, and, although MC Ritual does have a bit of a reputation as a rapper due to his “Duece Mob” days, this mixtape didn’t really help them gain much notoriety or credibility in the online Hip Hop community. Is there a reason you’ve never heard of DGAF? Are they a secret buried deep underground waiting to be discovered, or are they secrets that we can do without knowing? Are they a diamond in the rough, or the rough covering the diamonds? Let’s dive in for a closer look.
Part 2. The Review
First of all, I want to make it clear that all of the beats on this mixtape are taken from other rappers and musicians. This means that for me to comment on the beats would be unnecessary, because it would not be relevant to the creative and technical qualities of the artists I’m reviewing. The only thing I’ll say about the instrumentals is this: they suit the styles of our hosts, which makes perfect sense considering that our hosts hand selected them in completed form, and added no altercations to the beats’ sounds.
The most difficult part of doing a review, for me, is giving out negative feedback, because I’m a lot more focused on helping artists than hurting them. I’m also very sympathetic to the artists that send their work to someone only to have it criticised, mostly because I’ve been one of those artists myself in many instances. (However if I didn’t want to criticise people I probably shouldn’t have dedicated a blog towards it.) Unfortunately, I don’t have many positive things to say about this mixtape, but I’ll try to talk about the positive things before I talk about the negatives. The first positive thing I can say is that every rapper on this mixtape is bound to go up hill from here in terms of technical skill and overall sound if they put in the work and dedication needed to do so. Two of these guys, Psychdelliq and Big Dick Vick, are at the very start of their Rap careers/hobbies, so progress for them seems to be inevitable, just as long as they keep trying to obtain it. As for MC Ritual, he still sounds like he’s only begun rapping recently, even if he had been in an official Rap group before. If my own past is a good point of reference, this is going to be close to, if not, their darkest stages as emcees, so they really have nowhere to go but up in terms of everything from lyricism, to concepts, to vocal presence, to charisma, to anything else that they try to work on, just as long as they’re lead in the right direction. As for other positive attributes of DGAF, they have good chemistry with each other, and they really do fit together naturally as a group. And there are points on the mixtape where they show beyond basic, and sometimes even creative, examples of emceeing. Take this excerpt from “We Gon Take It”, for example:
Feeling like a king, off with their heads is the message I bring
To these bitch-ass niggas that desire a throne
Each one more fake than the last carbon copy clone
I tear all these wannabes into pieces
Devouring all these scrubs like Reeses
There are a few kinks in this excerpt that need to be worked on, (although mostly it’s only in small word choice, like changing the word “that” in the second bar to “who”, and maybe changing the last line of the excerpt, as well as the lines that follow, to something else) but there’s also a lot of quality lyricism in there as well. We have subtle rhymes that help get the message across and bring us towards the primary rhyme scheme, (for example the end of “wannabes” rhyming with the beginning of “pieces”, and, more importantly, “heads is” and “message”, which helps craft a line that reminds me of a watered down Big Pun) some useful analogy and alliteration that helps create a clear and entertaining picture, (the “carbon copy clone” part) and an interesting change in rhyme scheme that helps keep the listener interested in the vocals. (“To these bitch-ass niggas that desire a throne.”) So this goes to show that, at least at certain points, we do see some lyrical skill on the mixtape.
But our hosts show more potential and current skill in flow than any other technical areas. In fact, when it comes to their ability to flow, it’s the only technical attribute the members of DGAF managed to pull off impressively and naturally, at least more often than not. There are moments, such as on the song “Why You in the Game”, where they should try to Rap more rapidly in order to fit the style of the instrumental while still being interesting, but, in most instances, our hosts flow exactly how you’d want them to when taking their lyrical style and subject matter into consideration, as well as their instrumentals. And they manage to avoid a mistake that many amateur emcees fall victim to: trying to flow beyond their limitations. Many emcees will try to flow a certain way when they lack the ability to do so, not only on a level of breath control but also on a level of vocal colour and cadence. This is a common mistake that many rappers make, so kudos to DGAF for avoiding it. (Except for on the last verse of “Why You in the Game”, which shows why they didn’t rap faster for the whole track”)
Because the rest of this review is based around the negative aspects of this mixtape, I think it would be easier for me, and the readers, if I did a run down of some of the things that were done wrong instead of following typical reviewing format. Despite the numbers, I want to make it clear that I’m listing these problems in no particular order. So here we go:
Problem #1. Delivery
All three of the emcees on this mixtape sound like they either a) are bored with their own antics and don’t care about sounding enthused or buyable as the characters that their lyrics portray, (which the name Don’t Give A Fuck would suggest) or b) simply haven’t overcome their fright of recording and haven’t gained the proper abilities (or opportunities) to record convincingly. Either way, their delivery walks the fine line between boring and aggravating to listen to.
When rappers boast about outrageous things, like when Canibus says he’ll “body slam two oxes (and) drop a mule” or when Rakim says that he’ll “stick (his) dick in your ear, and fuck what you heard“, it was never important that the listeners didn’t believe what the artists were saying. It was only important that the emcees seemed to believe it themselves. I don’t expect anyone to believe, for example, Lloyd Banks when he says, “I’m putting twelve shells in your mouth, like a carton of eggs.” But when he says it he comes off sounding like the type of guy who would really believe his own words and, through delivery and vocal presence, he portrays the type of person who very well may do something that deadly. (And tedious.) This goes a long way in terms of helping audiences with the listening experience because, just like we needed Clint Eastwood to be buyable as The Man With No Name for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly to be a great movie, or just like we needed Al Pacino to be talented and charismatic enough to make Tony Montana a cultural icon, you need your rappers to embody the character they’re portraying in order to make a great Rap album. (With exceptions that I’ll only get into if asked, mostly because writing about it here seems unnecessary.)
Problem #2. Technical Lyricism
This is the chorus to “This Game is My Bitch”
This game is my bitch
So when it comes to this
We are the shit
We keep creating music
because there’s no “off” position on the fucking “Genius” switch
For starters, you see the simplicity in the rhyme scheme here. You might remember that in my last review I talked about the subtle complexity that came with Psyonik’s lyrics. Unfortunately, those techniques don’t really come into play on this mixtape, at least in most instances. With Psyonik’s lyrics, where you saw several hidden examples of assonance, internal rhyming and other poetic devices that worked towards keeping his lyrics interesting and enhancing the listening experience, the members of DGAF do not display these techniques most of the time. Instead they treat us to poor sentence structure and rhyming that ranges from bland to forced. As opposed to complexity in simplicity, a technique that has helped legendary rappers like Guru and Ice Cube, and is even used by people like Big L and Tupac who are often considered the greatest emcees of all time, we are treated to simplicity in simplicity, otherwise known as simplicity, which usually doesn’t work out in terms of creating the best entertainment.
To be fair, this is the chorus. And if there is anything I’ve learned from listening to Rap music for eleven plus years, it’s that rappers writing quality chorus’ is a rarity. Along with that, this is only an excerpt of lyricism from one of the emcees in the group, so there’s a very good chance that the two verses on the song, written by the other two members of DGAF, will do a much better job. So let’s take a look at that.
This is an excerpt from the first verse:
Revolutionizing the game, the power’s in our hands
French Revolution, guillotine to all opposing our plans
Leave you breathless, headless with no thoughts of your own
Faster than the speed of light and coming right at your dome
With words that pierce through ignorance with power
Indifference towards issues is fiercely devoured
Caught you by surprise, these lyrics leave you startled
Betrayal won’t be taken lightly: Benedict Arnold
And this is an excerpt from the second verse:
Sitting here, making music in the middle of the night
Our vision is quite advanced so you’ll never see our sight
The beat is my battle field.
On it there are several weapons that I wield
And no I ain’t a trickster, none are concealed
So try your best to test
I am open to opponents
But in reality there is no contest
Talking like you better, it’s foolish nonsense
A better mic is not the only thing in which you need to invest
When we look at the excerpts above, we can make out some examples of internal rhyming, multi-syllabic rhyming, alliteration, and assonance, but more often than not these techniques are not only underused, but they’re not used appropriately when they are. A lot of the rhymes here are not only boarder-line boring, but also come off as forced. When you’re setting up main rhyme schemes to be one syllable, (such as, in the first verse with words like “plans” and “hands”, and “own” and “dome”) it usually sounds pretty amateur, and even distracting from the song, which is why multi-syllabic rhymes are considered so important. But at the times multi-syllabic rhymes are used, they still don’t come off as natural, and they don’t really add to the construction of the lines. Using multis doesn’t mean a damn thing to your song if you’re not using them in a constructive and strategic way, and that’s not really something that I can find in these excerpts.
I’d also like to point out that most good rappers don’t follow just one or two rhyming words in a line, they actually have a lot of subtle ones to fill in the blanks, and even use those to give the overall messages of their lyrics more “flavour”. I decided it would be a lot easier to demonstrate these things with an example, so take a look at this excerpt from Method Man for Limp Bizkit’s “Rollin’” remix:
Check my, dangarous langu’atrocious,
When I let these nuts hang, focus it’s Wu-Tang.
What the fuck’s a Hootie And The Blowfish
I wave my black flag at the roaches
Who approches, these twin supasoakers
Looking at Method Man’s verse, a lot of the rhymes and sounds are being used to bridge the gap between bars. The primary rhyme scheme uses the words “‘trocious”, “focus”, “Blowfish”, and so on, but syllables that rhyme with “hang” or “Wu”, along with some of the other words in the verse, are rhymed frequently as well. And looking at the unconventional line structure, many of the rhymes blend in, but still make a large impact on the listening experience.
In contrast, take a look at the DGAF lyrics in the second verse one more time. There are a few internal rhymes that do not follow the verse’s primary rhyme scheme, but not many that come off naturally, and when we do look at the primary rhyme scheme it seems pretty uninspired. A fairly large part of creating quality Rap lyrics is using words that the audience wouldn’t think of. When, instead, you think of words like “night” and “sight; or “field”, “wield” and “concealed”; you don’t really do much to exceed your audiences expectations, or even imaginations.
Finally, this writing tip: Don’t use passive lines like “a better mic is not the only thing you need to invest.” As a writer, your lyrics need to sound natural, and like something that could actually be said in a conversation. Nobody would talk like this, and as a result, you shouldn’t rap like this, either.
Problem #3. Concepts and Creativity
In all of the examples above, you see a consistent lack of creativity. DGAF has presented us with cliche after cliche after cliche, with a few original ideas and lines thrown in-between that just don’t seem to be pulled off well. (For example, the line “you a giant toilet cloggin’, full of nasty shit” from the song “Why you in the game?”) We hear the talk about how our hosts “don’t give a fuck” and their boasting about things like how the rap game is “their bitch”, and, without any new spins on the statements or present authenticity in what they’re saying, they rarely manage to be entertaining. Every once in a while they’ll say something that I don’t hear many rappers boasting about, like, for example, formerly being “Rudolph, the awkward nose reindeer“, but even when it’s original and seemingly natural, the lines are still corny and not crafted very well.
But along with needing to be creative and different so that people will want to listen to an artists work, a technique that DGAF already only occasionally puts into place, there’s also an entertainment factor that limits the creativity of entertainers who want broad audiences. Being creative in a way that stands out from the rest of the crowd is only half the battle. The other half involves knowing which aspects of your creativity and individuality will be likable, or even relatable, to your audience, and that’s something that occurs even less on this mixtape than DGAF’s creativity did.
As for song concepts, there’s nothing really ground breaking. A lot of it is Battle Rap, which is fine because competitive nature is a big part of Hip Hop culture and I’d actually make the argument that some of the most artistic Rap music is of the type, but the other concepts here don’t really have anything new either. There’s a song about general hardships of each group member, ( the song “Never Give Up”) a song about wanting and needing money, (the song “Money on my Mind”) and a song about how feeling your music and enjoying making it is the most important part of your product (the song “Feelin’ It”). I’m sure we’ve all heard songs with these concepts before, and even though songs don’t necessarily need to be original to be enjoyable, it would certainly help if they were.
Problem #4. Imagery and Story Telling
There are, on this mixtape, a few examples of imagery being used appropriately as well as effectively enough to make us envision what the emcees in question intended to implant in our minds. Usually it’s relatively simple, like when one of the emcees says “I’m feeling shackled as if I was held down by chains” or when one of the emcees mentions “flow so icy, I use it as a hockey rink“, but, regardless of it’s simplicity, it is still imagery, which does help keep things interesting. That being said, there’s not much of it, and the imagery that is brought to mind doesn’t hold up to high standards. Basically, compare DGAF’s “Don’t Give Up” with Nas’ “The Message”. Both are based around story telling and both are based around dealing with their personal hardships, but it’s probably of popular opinion that “The Message” is the more substantial piece.
The main problem, at least from what I can tell, in context of “The Message” being superior to “Don’t Give Up” is Nas’ ability to conjure up emotions and explore the song’s themes without coming out and telling you the thoughts and feelings. In story telling, from traditional literature to Rap lyrics, there’s a rule about showing and not telling, which means that you should be discussing things that happen as opposed to talking about how you personally feel about them, or the mind states of the characters involved. Obviously there have been many good writers in both mediums that have broken this rule, and much of the best works have a mix showing and telling together in a way that makes the story more interesting. But DGAF, as opposed to telling about the events in their life in such a manner that could help us understand their psyche, they come out and give us their perspective on themselves and the events in their life, completely throwing subtlety out the window.
Problem #5. Punchlines
Punchlines, as the title of the phrase would suggest, are meant to pack a punch for the audience, something that really leaves a strong impact on the listener. Usually this means something that is clever and funny, like a play on words or a joke involving popular to obscure cultural references. With that in mind, here are some of the punchlines from DGAF’s “The Other Guys” mixtape:
My Mind’s connected to so many things: system link.
I’m here to start a war like my name was Mars
And you’re missing the brains: no smarts
All these damn copies, it’s Attack of the Clones
Maybe once you were Superman, but now you’re just Christopher Reeves.
With the exception of the last one, which is borderline clever but falls flat due to over used subject matter, none of these punchlines have the ability to catch people off guard and impress, or prove as humorous to it’s general audience. And, in other instances on the mixtape, there are punchlines that are clever in subject matter but simply aren’t crafted well enough to get a laugh. (“I keep money on the brain, just like a tumour, I can’t control it” and “Put a hash tag on my green because it’s fucking trending“, for example. And as a tip for the “money on the brain” punchline: this would work better if the noun, in this case the tumour, was the word being rhymed with. That helps catch people by surprise.)
Part 3. The Epilogue
Status: Not Recommended.
As stated earlier, “The Other Guys” doesn’t provide anything new in terms of lyricism, flow or style, and the few times the members of DGAF debatably have an original and creative line or concept, the craftsmanship is too poor to make the listener care about it. Also, despite how natural our hosts sound with each other, they still don’t manage to sound natural as their characters which causes the performances of their lyrics to be distracting and boring, if not aggravating.
This is pretty much the template for what inexperienced rappers sound like, from their first day all the way to the end of their first year. They get better each day they practice, but their skills usually stay within the same general range. My advice to DGAF is pretty much the advice I would give to most rappers starting out, which is to build up some experience as lyricists, try to display confidence on the mic without sounding like you’re forcing it out, try to avoid cliches and favour your individual characteristics so that you distinguish yourself from other emcees, and try to obtain feedback from specific persons or groups without exposing your work to the masses so that you get the advice you need without ruining your chances in the public eye. Most importantly, practice.
Good luck in the future.