Dolla Bill comes from the Raleigh, North Carolina area, an unlikely proving ground for young hip hop/rap artists, but his album Goin’ Wit Da Flow establishes him as a budding new power on the scene. He’s generating a substantial amount of radio promotion, appearing on blogs and playlists, and achieving a global reach with his music. It is easy to hear why. Despite his indie status, Dolla Bill’s latest single takes aim at a polished and confident presentation of imaginative songwriting. The new album and single “Old Schoolin’” marks the beginning of a new leg in Dolla Bill’s journey, a musical voyage opening at sixteen years old and carrying him five years and counting into performing his own material. His influences, ranging from Biggie to Kendrick Lamar, are apparent in his music but he emerges with his own identifiable style on “Old Schoolin’” and leaves a mark on listeners.
The hammer backbeat opening the song segues into a fat bass pulse and a lighter percussive touch. It soon settles into a groove distinguished by some discreet flashes of electric piano and synthesizer flourishes swelling from the mix. There are subtle embellishments laid in throughout the track, nothing that announces itself, but these low key variations in the groove are welcome tweaks to what otherwise might have come off as repetitive for some listeners. There are a number of changes built into the track and the progression develops in a natural way, never rushed, and hitting a perfect stride early on that it never surrenders. There’s nothing about the track that says DIY or “indie” production – “Old Schoolin’” has just the right amount of production polish, particularly on the backing track, and his expert mix of the vocals are well handled.
The alternating vocal tracks are one of the song’s most successful elements. They are positioned well against one another and the juxtaposition of a more soulful, higher range vocal against the more rough and tumble side of Dolla Bill’s delivery gives it an unique feel it might have otherwise lacked. The vocal, likewise, is tailored quite closely to the backing track and the match gives “Old Schoolin’” an even stronger unified feel. His swagger is effortless, but he also navigates through the lyrics fleet-footed and backing every word up with needed attitude. It never comes off as too stagy. Instead, Dolla Bill’s performance on “Old Schoolin’” embodies all its title implies with a vocal obeying fundamentals and yet brimming with charisma.
If the remaining material included on Goin’ Wit’ Da Flow is as good as what we hear with “Old Schoolin’”, the release rates among the best in recent memory. Dolla Bill has a swagger it takes lesser performers years to incorporate into their music and it comes off as a natural outgrowth of his personality rather than some act concocted or exaggerated to score points with listeners. This is a physical, involving single conclusively illustrating Dolla Bill’s status as one of the most talented young hip hop performers and songwriters working today.
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