Dot Demo Releases Surprise 'Burn One, Tap In, Zone Out, an Unsurprising Paragon
Evan Dale // May 12, 2020
There is a certain expectation of lyrical endowment from any rapper calling home to the Bronx. Even then, Dot Demo is a fiery wordsmith of cadence, penmanship, and brazen New York attitude unparalleled beyond just his borough or his hip-hop era, but through hip-hop’s borderless, timeless reach. It’s an immediate sensation – that which overcomes a listener when his low register and high speed coalesce overtop classically East Coast, low-fidelity beats. He’s a rap transporter, and his music, a hip-hop time machine dissecting a listener’s attention into memories spurred by the best rappers of the past, and imagination inclined towards the best of those yet to be heard. He forgoes nothing in terms of quality to the keystones of hip-hop’s golden poetic epochs, just as he takes full advantage of what the modern scene has to offer in terms of individuality and production.
And, just like his unmatched prolificity over the past year-and-a-half that saw the hard-hitting Nahforreal’ attack any tendencies of hip-hop mellowness at the end of 2018; Delirium juxtapose it with a more methodically lyrical 10-piece just a month later; and My Brother’s Keeper fill the balanced middle ground between the two a season after that; Burn One, Tap In, Zone Out is an exhibition of a perfectionist’s range coming to terms with his unquenchable desire to create more and never stop evolving.
The project – like its predecessors – is no under-thought mixtape. On the contrary, it’s a mastered cut of a master cutting his rap contemporaries from the ceiling they thought they stood on. Because when he’s around, few can manage to even stand on their own lyrical feet, drowning in the effortless wordplay of Dot Demo’s dictionary, even if no foul play was intended. He’s just too good, too lyrical, too poetic to the point where the surprise release of BTZ’s ten deep tracks seems too easy, but for almost any other rapper, would be a career benchmark.
The project includes three prior singles: Round One, God Forgives (prod. by Goonie Tunes), and Hand Grenades n Molotavs, which for anyone who knows, says plenty about the direction of the project at hand. For those who haven’t heard Dot Demo before, or haven’t specifically heard the three leading singles, we hope you like rappers who really, truly rap.
That’s what Dot Demo and all of his career projects have been about to this point, but BTZ marks growth both as a lyricist, and also as a wide-ranging student of rap whose ability to bridge the then with his now is strongest with each subsequent release. And by that, the suggestion is that each of his projects especially have played their role in pushing hip-hop towards a place of remembrance for rap’s pillars: rhythm & poetry, while at the same time marrying those tenets with a modern scene that priorities rappers who can transcend rap and hip-hop altogether. And though Dot spends not a second of BTZ avoiding what rap provides him, there is enough of a sing-songy something to the project that feels particularly indulging for listeners who may be standoffish for true rap in favor for more approachable mainstream hip-hop – of which, BTZ is anything but, yet is more approachable nonetheless.
That’s because, throughout the course of BTZ, Dot’s flow is on such a refined pedestal that it acts both as a thought-provoking story-telling weapon and as an instrument in its own right. There are few who can rap with Dot Demo, there are even fewer who can take their lyricism and delivery, merge it into a hypnotic cadence, and leave the end result as melodic as a vocalist or an instrumentalist would with their own music. For it, Dot’s an evolution in hip-hop where consciously, listeners have painted for them vibrant landscapes of his making; where unconsciously, they have vivid soundscapes belayed for them by his own arrangement.
Take Stretch: Burn One, Tap In, Zone Out’s fifth track that sees Dot Demo explode straight into a dynamic bout of lyricism, equal parts poetic rap, storytelling, and cadence flowing harmony. From that point, Stretch moves forward as Dot trades verses with himself, exploring even wider ranges of his own dynamism before cutting out, letting into the track’s outro a signature soulful sample. It’s the ultimate confluence of his innate skill as a rapper and his learned and practiced gift for songwriting and building unique vocal patterns into his work. And it allows him to branch out even further than he ever has by inviting listeners who typically associate with harmony and introducing them through thoughtful rap verse that play to both sides of his strengths. From Stretch, Dot Demo feels even more comfortable with the delicacies of his more soulful, laid-back music, exploring them in depth throughout BTZ’s conclusion.
Burn One, Tap In, Zone Out breathes of its lengthy title, where lives the intention for getting high to focus clearer on a task at hand. It is a refined, telling work by a volatile lyricist who has learned the trades from the more mellow, easy-going of his past deliveries without sacrificing his words for anything. There are moments of melodic exploration from Dot, which for him is an experiment gone horribly, horribly right, allowing one of the most unique vocal deliveries in hip-hop to push emotion deeper into tracks like Dilated. There are moments of jazzy reprieve, where Dot’s cadence is so uniquely meandering through a given track, that it plays the role a saxophone would in a brass ensemble (Indecisive). But there is never a moment where Dot Demo – one of the most thought-provoking wordsmiths alive – does anything to make us feel that he is anything except for as poetic and evolving as ever, changing with the times while holding true to his strongest musical tenets.
BTZ was produced by frequent collaborator & brother, RUNITUPDAY! with production also coming from Goonie Tunes (God Forgives), and also features Ultra Nostra signees, Dave Disla & Faith Lee.