December 20, 2007

Dice Raw - Reclaiming The Dead (October 24, 2000)


There isn't a whole lot of information online about Dice Raw's past , so in order to start off the write-up for his first (and to date, only) album, Reclaiming The Dead, I'll do the best that I can.

Dice Raw, born Samuel Dice Raw, grew up in the mean streets of El Paso, Texas. Both of his parents were cartographers that envisioned a better life for themselves after they finally completed their dream project, a map of Wally World, which would make them rich beyond their wildest dreams, or at least until the following tax year. (They were later disappointed to discover that particular theme park was non-existent, but their dreams were never deferred.)

After watching Rocky on HBO, young Dice wanted to go to Philadelphia, ostensibly to run up the famous steps, visit the Liberty Bell, and steal a cheesesteak sandwich from Beanie Sigel. The family was in no position to tell him otherwise, since Sylvester Stallone was his godfather, the specifics of which are still misunderstood to this day.

After the family abandoned Dice Raw in Philly, the young man took it upon himself to enroll in school and better himself. A friend of his discovered a hip hop band called The Roots, and Dice Raw, using the phony alias "Karl Jenkins", met up with the group at a Ramada Inn, and promptly found himself kidnapped and on tour with one of the only rap groups that actually has a band. Luckily, Dice was blessed with the gift of freestyling off the head, so he was only delegated to laundry detail for the first seven months.

He made his debut appearance on The Roots's Do You Want More?!!!??!, their second album (and first on a major label), to wide acclaim, at least from the twelve people that bought that particular CD. He's appeared on every Roots album since, usually on the weed carrier tracks that are a legal requirement for rap albums. In 2000, he got the bright idea that a solo career was the way to go, and since he was a part of the Roots Crew but not in the group itself (a very important distinction), he released Reclaiming The Dead with minimal Roots input.

The album went on to sell negative fifteen copies, and was met with dismay by critics that were appalled that this once freestyle-friendly artist, one that made a name for himself with humorous boasts and wordplay, switched his entire persona to portray himself as a guy that tries his best to sound like he's not to be fucked with, either on the microphone or in life. The failure of this disc didn't affect the Roots name one bit, thankfully, but Dice Raw hasn't been the same since: last time I checked, he actually became part of a group called Nouveau Riche, which, unless I'm wrong about anything in this write up (and it has been 110% fact-checked), still isn't The Roots.

I found this disc in a box around the time that I started this blog in February 2007, but never got around to listening to it, since I remembered it sucking more than an Oreck-sponsored blow job convention. Given the point of this blog, though, it's unfair of me to trash the disc before I actually listen to it, so stay tuned for the end, when I'll probably say that it still blows.

1. THE END OF YOUR WORLD
Karl tries from the get-go to sound as little like a Roots CD as possible. The way to guarantee this is to throw in a rap album intro that sucks like most other intros. It leads into a song with poor production values, a terrible hook, and Dice Raw's rudimentary delivery, which consists of screaming every lyric into the microphone with his high-pitched vocal, not unlike a thirteen-year-old trying to prove that he's from the hood, motherfuckers!

2. LAVA
?uestlove (producer extraordinaire from The Roots) is nowhere to be found on this project. The majority of the beats come from The Heat, whom I had never heard of until now and haven't been heard from since. Which is too bad, since I actually like this beat. I'm starting to have doubts that I'll be able to tolerate Karl's voice for the full fourteen tracks, but I've listened to The Hunger For More in its entirety, so I have faith in myself.

3. 5 STAGES OF DEATH
An interesting concept, but fails in its execution. However, it's barely two minutes long, so it doesn't waste too much of your valuable time.

4. THIN LINE (BETWEEN RAW AND JIGGY) (FEAT BLACK THOUGHT & MALIK B)
This song title doesn't even make sense. It implies that there isn't much of a difference between songs made for the street audience and songs made for clubs and radio airplay, but it's blatantly obvious that Dice Raw is trying to prove the opposite. Even the mere fact that Black Thought and Malik B appear on hear doesn't save this fucking awful first (and, to my knowledge, only) single.

5. LOCKDOWN (FEAT STEVE G'S & BLACK THOUGHT)
The rap game is like a prison sentence? The metaphor doesn't always work, but the song is okay, with the beat once again outperforming the lyrics. Black Thought, who also makes a cameo appearance on my list of underrated emcees, acquits himself better here than on the last song.

6. I DON'T THINK (FEAT SHANNA RAW)
Meh.

7. RAW SEX (FEAT JAGUAR WRIGHT)
I almost feel like digging up my Roots albums, just so I can wash the sound of this garbage out of my mind. Almost.

8. GO DICE RAW
I have two problems with the skit featured after this song (I'm skipping the commentary for the song itself, since it sounds horrible). For one, Dice Raw hasn't ever had the clout to sign a birthday card for a coworker, let alone an artist to a record deal. Also, the random Asian at the end of the skit is the most offensive character I've heard since Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany's (or, for a 2007 equivalent, Rob Schneider in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry).

9. YOU NOT THE ONE (FEAT CALENTE, CHAOS, & JAGUAR WRIGHT)
Weed carrier track. I find it surprising that any rapper even gets to smoke their weed in the first place, since their weed carriers are always more interested in rhyming a verse than in doing their fucking job. But that's just me.

10. IF YOU WANT IT
Former Roots Crew member (and current piano man and Timbaland punching bag) Scott Storch produces both this track and the one following. The beat will catch your ear right away, since it sounds completely different from the previous nine songs. That being said, this sounds decent, I suppose, but I won't be going out of my way to listen to it anytime soon, not unless Dice Raw attends one of my fundraiser dinners and I feel sympathetic.

11. FORGET WHAT THEY SAY (FEAT CALENTE & KINDRED THE FAMILY SOUL)
This song actually sounds nothing like Scott Storch's later output. ("Lean Back", anyone? Anyone?) It's also not a good beat for Dice to rhyme over; his awkward flow is made that much more apparent on this instrumental, which probably wouldn't have sounded out of place on Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (which, by the way, is not an endorsement of this beat).

12. RETREAT TO THIS
Not bad, but not great. Probably the closest thing to a Roots song you'll be lucky enough to find here.

13. BRAIN SOFTENER
Produced by Kamal Gray, who was hired by The Roots as Scott Storch's replacement after he left the crew to link up with Andre Young at Aftermath Entertainment. The beat switches toward the end, where Karl takes on the persona of God, somehow being both blasphemous and dull all at once. At least God received the better beat to spit to.

14. IF I ONLY HAD WORDS (FEAT JILL SCOTT)
This actually isn't horrible. The beat is pretty mainstream, but I'm in favor of any song that gets Jill Scott some work.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Reclaiming The Dead couldn't be further from a Roots Crew project than if you told me that Suge Knight executive produced the fucker. The production isn't bad, but could be considered a bit too polished, especially for a guy who made his name on freestyle boasts. The hooks (and, now that I think about it, the fact that hooks appear at all) uniformly suck balls. Last, but least, Dice Raw's voice grates on your nerves throughout the album's running time. He truly benefits from having other artists to trade verses with; small doses of Dice can be incredible (see: his verse on The Roots's "Clones" from illadelph halflife). As a complete package, Reclaiming The Dead isn't an album you'll want to bump in your ride, or in your house, or in general, as the mere act of having this CD will impress absolutely nobody.

BUY OR BURN? If you must, a burn would be more than appropriate here. You may find yourself tempted to pick this one up, especially since you'll probably discover it at your local used CD shop for about fifty cents. You would be wrong.

BEST TRACKS: "Lava"; "Lockdown"

-Max

8 comments:

  1. Man, his verse on Clones was fuckin' incredible.
    What the hell happened?
    I mean, a lot of rappers who impress on cameos can't (and shouldn't try to) hold up an album by themselves. Period.
    "... which probably wouldn't have sounded out of place on Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (which, by the way, is not an endorsement of this beat)."
    Haha, word.

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  2. I remember hearing this album and weeping openly because I knew that the Dice Raw that I heard freestyling on those Roots albums so many years ago was dead...and there was no way to reclaim him.

    This album was a shit popsicle insterted into a Fudgesicle box. What a letdown. Too bad Black Thought never got to release "Masterpiece Theatre" on MCA in 2000.

    One.

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  3. I don't know who put the bug in Dice Raw's ear, but personally I feel that there's a reason why ?uestlove isn't anywhere to be seen on this disc. Maybe he had a premonition that the final product wouldn't be worth the plastic it would be encoded on, and took a leave of absence?

    There, there, Dart...it's okay. I still hold out a bit of hope that Black Thought will drop a solo album eventually; I personally would love to hear him over beats that don't belong to either ?uest or the Piano Man.

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  4. i like thin line - -the rest of the lp is poo

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  5. AnonymousJuly 13, 2009

    WOW,I think Max is a fag!! where is your song or production for someone to hate? I won't waste my time giving an opinion on this so called blog. get a life and a girl.

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  6. I hear Dice is actually going to put out a second solo album...the first song I heard from it - Never- on DiceRaw.com sound alright... In the interview with him theres a cool song playing in the background too..

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  7. AnonymousMay 04, 2010

    I'm only anonymous because I know his camp but this is HILARIOUS.. He just dropped a new single called "100" I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on it.

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  8. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I almost forgot that I reviewed this album - I may have to bring more attention to it.

    Anyway, I've only seen a video on YouTube with Dice performing "100", so I can't formulate an opinion until I hear a polished copy. Once I hear it, I'll let you know.

    Thanks for reading!

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