With 'Midtown Maneuvers' Marvin Dolo Lays Down a Collection of Sunshiny Romance
Evan Dale // May 26, 2020
Loverboy & The Red Room in 2017.
94’ & Crctr Dfcts in 2018.
Doli & Midtown Maneuvers already this year.
A lot of artists are finding a lot of time and inspiration during their existence under global quarantine laws in effect, but the mystery of Marvin Dolo has always been prolific. A pair of projects consistently for four years is a mark reserved for artists of the 2000’s hip-hop mixtape era – and many of those artists were consistently pumping out short projects filled with mostly throwaway demos. Dolo works at a different pace to the tune of a different quality.
What has been perhaps most unique about the Marvin Dolo experience is that he’s been able not only to continue growing as an artist, but that he’s been able to continue expanding his already immense stylistic range. Through eight project releases, he has bounced back and forth between the most experimental walls of hip-hop and his own uniquely enigmatic brand of R&B. Where one project will both knock down a pre-existing wall and rebuild a fluid sphere in its place, the next project will do that same in the other direction. Marvin Dolo has been – for four years – the strongest underground purveyor in the disassembly of the pre-existing boundaries of genre, and the establishment of post-genre, stylistically fluid artists experimenting in the grey areas between hip-hop and R&B.
During it all, he hasn’t refined a sound, but refined two. Never settling in his space as a more melodically inclined romantic or a bass-thumping hip-hop wave, Marvin Dolo has long worked to be spectacular in his creative bipolarism. Dr. Marvin & Mr. Dolo is an annual exhibition, and if you’re just catching on, we’ve got some good news: eight projects spanning 239 minutes of genre-defying vibes for any mood await your ear. And if you’re a fan of hip-hop, R&B, and what the two scenes are becoming at the hands of the world’s most experimental and wide-ranging musicians, you’ll love each project; every minute.
His latest is Midtown Maneuvers, and it adheres more closely to the melodic romanticism in his catalogue.
But again, it’s different than anything Marvin Dolo has done before.
At 14 tracks and nearly 40 minutes, Midtown Maneuvers is one of his longest projects to date. And through almost the entire thing, a vocal register and an underlying stream of production tethers the album to the highlife workings of West Africa and the Caribbean. Consider it the West African Cultural Renaissance’s most recent diasporic delivery and it’s easy to hear the afrobeats and alté influence in its structure. Add it to the list of reggae’s more wide-ranging modernity where diasporic Caribbean hotspots like Toronto have utilized its sound for something new – and it starts to feel like a far-reaching product of Kingston. Put it under a number of other stylistic microscopes – hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul, even electronic composition – and it slides its way into the playlists of anyone who considers themselves a fan of a given particular lane.
Such is the magic of a liquid artist of which Marvin Dolo is the most proven.
His vocalism feels particularly honed here. Every track is a melody first, beat – a near second kind of jam, creating a project with a consistent vibe that speaks to nothing if not dancing a Summer night away with a loved one, or at least a lust interest. Unlike some of his more moody, downtempo workings (Someone), the R&B adjacent lane that Dolo Maneuvers with Midtown is more beat driven than it is led by emotion. For 40 minutes – perhaps with the exception of the Ocean Pkwy Interlude that brings to mind slow jams for the internet era – Marvin Dolo instead opts for the upbeat, positivist workings of his own Rhythm & Blues lane that would rather get down on the dancefloor with rum than cry in the shower with wine. It’s not that there’s a better or worse option, it’s strictly seasonal, and Midtown Maneuvers is the strongest collection of R&B summer jams that 2020 has seen so far. Dolo’s vocals just happen to be the most complimentary of instruments to a highlife, warm-weather backdrop, and that, in combination with the growth that comes with Dolo-esque prolificity, is what makes Midtown Maneuvers one of his most refined collections to date.
For best results, listen to in full with a cold drink on a hot dance floor.