The Wait is Over as Dot Demo's 'Hiatus' is his Most Wide-Ranging Project to Date
Evan Dale // Jan 9, 2021
From the perennial crowned prince of the South Bronx hip-hop scene comes a lot of expectation: prolificity key marked by lyrical dominance; poetic effortlessness no matter the stylistic lane of hip-hop he meanders; and a whole lot of energy stemming from an artist whose own demeanor feels unendingly tamed and laid-back. Since 2014, with the debut release of Delta Theory: File 1, Dot Demo has been an enigma of range and timeless underground influence on a greater East Coast sound, groundbreaking as both a rapper and as a businessman. His label and creative collective, Ultra Nostra has handled among all of his releases over the years, the releases of a slew of further NY emcees and producers calling home to the crew. And even in the midst of the birth of his first child, Dot Demo’s Hiatus didn’t last long, and birthed yet another collection brimming with volatile penmanship and another switch-up for his mosaic of stylistic lanes.
After the release of last Spring’s Burn One, Tap In, Zone Out – a ten-track deliverable that like its recent predecessors, My Brother’s Keeper, Delirium, and Nahforreal’ brimmed with the soundscape of an artist defined by lyrical dominance and stylistic breadth – Demo’s life changed. He drew inwards to focus on a growing family. But, true to himself and his natural existence as a poet unparalleled in lyrical ferocity or stylistic fluidity, his Hiatus didn’t seem to come without a deeper dive into his craft – into his rap. Fiery, immersive, and ultimately boundless rap at that.
Through only 20 minutes, Dot Demo is able to do more than quench the need of his listeners to get their annual dose of his sound. In reality, he does more with those 20 minutes than most rappers cans string together with a full-length, studio-endowed release. And he gets there – to where others can’t – by way of two roads.
First, Dot Demo is a potent lyricist. Denoted by a lightning-fast flow and a keystone knack for hard-hitting punchlines, Demo can rap with anyone in the game today. His ferocious bars and never-ending string of poetically exploring everything from recounts of his day-to-day life to throwing down braggadocious hip-hop bangers, leaves him as one of the great underrated East Coast wordsmiths of the modern cloth. If there has been one trait that has marked his entire career, it’s that intangible way with words.
But, if there’s been one other trait that has left its mark on the last three years of Dot Demo collections, it’s a willingness to experiment with his sound, and a grand success in doing so. And to understand where he’s at today with the release of Hiatus, one has to go back a couple years to the beginning of the prolific run he’s on. At the tail end of 2018, Nahforreal’ was the bass-ridden kind of hip-hop project that soundtracks Summers and speaks to the club, all without sacrificing his foundation as first and foremost, a lyrical artist. A few months later, Delirium rekindled his roots as a project classically attached to its jazzy, low-fidelity production that leaves ample space for any East Coast dynamo to rhyme over. 2019’s My Brother’s Keeper was a collaborative taste of what was to come from Ultra Nostra, weaving in the production of his brother, RUNITUPDAY, and further features from his teammates. And last year, Burn One, Tap In, Zone Out was a culminative coalescence of it all.
With Hiatus, Dot Demo is again trying out some new tricks, and forgoing any sort of formulaic construction of an EP. Seven tracks, four producers, four features, and a seemingly liquid exploration of Dot Demo and friends’ boundlessness with hip-hop, Hiatus only feels like a break as a break from expectation, were there any in the first place.
There are, of course, pieces of the project that bleed of his bread & butter. Take Shit Easy is in the conversation for one of his most fiery lyrical exhibitions to date, and an easy standout for any fans of Dot Demo’s roots with pure rap. It should be mentioned, too, that featuring lyricist, Bunchy Benbow is also a beast. Hades is another hard-hitting rap display. Then there are the laid-back hip-hop tracks that seem to embody who Demo really is at heart. Still lyrically dynamic, but more infused with relatable emotion and a touch of melody, tracks like Tears in the Dark, Only Us, and Ascension + Paraphernalia are the classic kind of joints that speak to the past and the future of hip-hop’s rawest roots in hip-hop’s birthplace, which uncoincidentally happens to be Dot’s birthplace, too. And last but not least, there are Summer Days, Winter Ways and Vibrant. The pair of melodically driven, hyper produced, cyber trap nuanced tracks find their roots in Days Before Rodeo Travis Scott meeting Demo’s still present genius with wordplay. And it’s a new and happily embraced aesthetic for an artist that continues to evolve.
With all the range that Hiatus brings in tow, it’s obvious that Dot Demo has continued to creatively evolve even through his short break from project releases. And if the breadth of Hiatus is any sort of glimpse into the continued refinement of his established signature alongside an altogether new sound for he and Ultra Nostra at large, then there is nothing but sure-fire fact that Dot Demo continues to be one of the most influential artists of the modern hip-hop antiestablishment.