- Tue, 2012-06-12 15:02
We first met B. Dolan supporting Scroobius Pip on tour, opening Pip's shows with his carefully crafted blend of spoken word and hip hop. More a touring friend than tour support, Pip was just as excited about Dolan's set as he was about his own, "it's him as a performer that I really rate. That balance between humour, entertainment and amazing writing..."
A few months after the tour, B got in touch to let us know he was ready to drop his latest mixtape, House of Bees Vol. 2.
Combining straight up hip hop rage laid down over tightly woven beats cooked up by Buddy Peace, the mixtape makes significant nods towards his spoken word roots and heavily features the astute, lyrical assault on topics related to and surrounding social injustice that he has become known and respected for.
Hooking up over Skype for a chat in the basement of his Rhode Island, US home, we delved beneath the surface of House of Bees Vol. 2: out now via his long-term independent home Strange Famous Records.
Get yourself a copy here and join us in the hive with B. Dolan, as he guides us through his latest creation...
House Of Bees Volume 2 has been about a year and a half in the making. These are the songs that came out of and after 2010, a particularly eventful, brutal and difficult year. After the death of my father I was dealing with some of the hardest questions that I’ve ever had to deal with as an artist and as a person. House Of Bees is the first that people are going to hear of the post-2010 B. Dolan mentality. I think I’ve changed a lot in the course of that year.
House Of Bees is a really defiant album in a lot of ways. Defiance of death, defiance of the music industry, defiance on a political level: a really strong rejection of some of the despair that I felt after 2010 was over.
TRACK 1: Still Here
I first heard this sample as part of another mix that Buddy did. It only appeared for like ten seconds, because Buddy’s stuff is so intricate that it moves quickly from thing to thing. I emailed Buddy and asked if he could expand it into a bigger beat, which he did, but I just sat on it for a little while.
I was taking a lot of long drives around the time that my father passed, and I was going through a CD and came across that beat again. It caught me in the right moment and it was the first beat that I really wanted to rap on. It made me feel that defiance. So many things that people say to you when you lose somebody feel really hollow: “he’s in a better place.” I don’t believe that to be true. All that stuff goes in one ear and out of the other. You’re kind of in a space where nobody can reach you, until you find a way out of it.
What it came down to for me was “I’m still here. They haven’t killed me yet.” That’s not a lot, but it’s also everything.
TRACK 3: Film The Police
I like to make political music that is about something practical and immediate that you can do, as opposed to soap-boxing. It makes me feel useful!
This is a song that we started thinking about after the shooting of Oscar Grant. He was an unarmed man that transit police in California had arrested. They had him down on the ground with his hands behind his back, and one of the officers on top of him just pulled his gun and shot him in the back. It became a mass-media firestorm because people had taken out their cell-phones and videotaped the incident. That tape made its way onto YouTube and went viral.
In the wake of that I was talking to my activist and performance friend Madge Of Honor, and we were talking about Cop Watch, and the importance of filming cops. Cop Watch is a worldwide organisation that teaches people about their rights in regard to filming the police, and talks about it as a way that communities can police the police and fight back against police brutality or harassment. Madge Of Honour said “you should remake Fuck Tha Police and call if Film The Police.”
Buddy had to remake the whole beat from its original samples, because no instrumental exists for Fuck Tha Police. By the time we got the track together the Occupy movement had reached its height, and it just so happened that police brutality was headline news around the world, so we put the video together and released it early. It went viral. Billy Bragg picked it up, Michael Moore picked it up. Next thing you know it was on international Occupy and Anonymous sites, and it’s continued to spread.
TRACK 4: Which Side Are You On?
Some artists put forward that they are political, act like they’re political and sprinkle little political easter eggs throughout their songs just for the easy head-nod of agreement. That kind of stuff has always seemed stupid to me, and I’ve always seen a lot of artists around me contradicting themselves in really basic, ridiculous ways. One that I point out in this song is rappers that talk politics and oppression, but in the same breath use the word faggot as a punchline. To me that’s hypocrisy, and a cognitive dissonance that I can’t wrap my brain around. Those people should be held accountable. They should be asked to speak clearly and be consistent with themselves.
The original song that was sampled for Which Side Are You On? is a song I’ve wanted to sample for half a decade. I didn’t make the song for a really long time because I wanted to be careful with language like ‘which side are you on?’ Hip hop to me is at its root black music, and I didn’t want to come off as the white working class dude who’s wagging his finger at hip hop. The way for me to get away from that finger-wagging is for me to make songs about myself. In this song I’m talking about which side I’m on, and the importance of me figuring it out. The list is there in the third verse:
I’m on the side of poor people getting organized;
I’m on the side of Choice where it is in short supply;
I’m on the side of those the system doesn’t authorize;
L-G-B-T We are on the side of Pride,
Justice and Equality.
TRACK 5: Bad Things
Bad Things is a song that was from the Metermaids album Rooftop Shake. I did some shows with them and Sage Francis in Colorado, and that’s when I heard that song for the first time, I started rapping along to it as they were performing it on stage! When they got off I was like “I’d really like to hop on that for a remix.” It was just something on the fly that I gave them a verse for. Buddy remixed it for House Of Bees because I still really like that verse. Metermaids have always been big supporters, and they just put a great album together and put it out on Strange Famous, so I wanted to put it on House Of Bees to big them up and make sure people know about them!
TRACK 6: 2bad (Epic Beard Men)
This song is me and Sage Francis, the homey forever, and the dude that I probably owe my entire career to. He’s a dude that I’ve known since 2002 and he still inspires me. I don’t know why the name Epic Beard Men got applied to us! I think maybe fans did it. When we met in 2002 we did not physically resemble each other that much, but over time we have grown into the same body! Everywhere we go everyone asks us if we are twins or brothers, and at a certain point we just give up and say “yes.”
TRACK 8: 100 Bars For SFR
SFR is Strange Famous Records, who get overlooked quite a bit. Hip hop goes in cycles. At the moment kids are excited about Odd Future, who are doing what Eminem did ten years ago, or what the Geto Boys did in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It’s just that moment in the cycle where certain booking agents or publicists or tastemaker sites have decided that independent hip hop is dead. Well, thousands of kids still show up when we come to their city, and still buy our CDs, and are incredibly loyal to us. When they stumble upon us they stay with us. I’m cool with that. I live simply, my mortgage is paid, and I’m cool to just keep making great music if people are down to keep supporting it...
On 100 Bars For SFR I’m rapping over Artist Goes Pop from the Prolyphic and Reanimator album. The second beat is Buck 65, Bends, from the Situation album, then there’s 1999 from Cecil Otter’s album Rebel Yellow and Damage by Sage. Prolyphic is dropping an album later this year, Cecil Otter has been working for a couple of years on Porcelain Revolver, the follow-up to Rebel Yellow. Fans have been waiting a long time for that one, but when it comes out it’s gonna be incredible. The track is meant as a tribute to what we’ve done as a label and to each of those guys individually, because they all really inspire me.
And I also just wanted to rap for 100 bars with no chorus!
TRACK 10: Graceland (by Kwesi Davis)
Kwesi Davis is a monster.
He’s an incredibly smart guy, maybe ultimately too smart for poetry! Kwesi was one of my favourite poets on the scene when I first met Sage in 2002, and one of maybe four or five poets that I met at that time that I always say inspired me; Kwesi Davis, Patricia Smith, Jack McCarthy, Celena Glenn and George McKibbens. Kwesi has stopped recording and performing, and this Graceland recording is just something that I had on an old, old hard drive. I don’t know who made it, or where and when it was made, but it ended up in my possession. I hit Kwesi up to see if I could use it and he said “yeah.” I don’t think he particularly cares that much that it’s being released! It shows what was inspiring about the guy at the time. The metaphors in that poem are so tightly wound together. It’s razor sharp writing. It’s one of my favourite pieces.
TRACK 12: Tin Soldiers
I had been wanting to write this for a really long time. It’s an issue that I’d tried to address, but I feel able to be much more direct and clear at this point in my life than I’ve ever been before. There’s a song on The Failure called Young Americans, and a little bit after I had written Tin Soldiers, Scroobius Pip hit me up to do a verse on the same concept on his track Soldier Boy, so Tin Soldiers is the third song that’s been released where I deal with the military directly.
It’s something that I’ve always thought a lot about. I get messages from serving troops and kids that are enlisted and are fans, and that’s always been surprising to me. They’re overseas fighting in Iraq and listening to my anti-war, political music. I was shocked the first couple of times it happened, then I realised quickly that these people in the military in many instances are people that got hoodwinked, and are in a war that they disagree with, but are trapped by the terms of the contract that they’ve signed. So I’d always wanted to make a song that spoke very clearly and directly in countering every argument that recruiters make to young impressionable kids.
I just hope that this song can be a tool for people to play to your cousin, or little brother, or whoever it is that’s telling you they’re thinking of signing up for the military, so they can at least hear the counter argument.
TRACK 13: Feel So Different
This is the first track that I made after my father died. The beat is by me as well as the lyrics. The computer crashed, and what you hear on the album is actually the demo I made. It’s more an artefact than a song in some ways, but I wanted to put it on there because it’s a really raw artefact of where I was at.
It feels really good to be able to give the world something that’s a tribute to my father. In a lot of ways it feels like the whole album is a tribute to the folks that we lost that year.
B. Dolan will be out on the road this summer, keep up to date with his shows and all future releases via the following...