4-5 years ago, the concept of giving away one’s album to the masses for free didn’t exist. We still acquired a large part of our music libraries without the distribution of money, but it meant that some of us felt a little guilty about steeling a whole lot of quality product. Personally, when I first got to college, I milked that high-speed connection for around 6 CD’s a day. On the other hand, the need to steal music in 2010 is a lot less strong due to the fact that so many dope artists have started to distribute full projects at no cost for the fans. I don’t know who started the trend, although some one or some geographical region is guaranteed to take credit for it, but I do know that this is one trend in hip-hop that I am actually very grateful for. It’s moving my attention away from established names, and focusing it on newer and hungrier MC’s. Even in my home of The Bay, where artists put out what appears to be a minimum of 3-4 projects a year, which they expect their fans to cough up cash for, the idea of giving away a project for free has started to take hold, and pay off. A few weeks ago Mista F.A.B. gave away his latest effort, Prince Of The Coast, and received a lot of positive press about it, and this week, DaVinci, a relative newcomer to the Bay Area music scene, has done the same.
With his new, FREE, street album, The Day The Turf Stood Still, DaVinci has already done what most Bay Area rappers continuously fail to do: gain the attention of hip-hop fans beyond the state of California. I’ve seen quite a few writers from across the country write about their surprise in hearing a well thought out and produced album from The Bay that touches on more than just bitches, blunts, burners, and broken jaws. Yet at the same time, as you can probably tell from the title, this ain’t no esoteric hippy shit either. DaVinci tells the usual hustler’s tale, but does it in a way that is self-reflective, above average in intelligence, and at times pretty creative. Mixed with some solid sample based production, that is also not the norm for Bay Area music, The Day The Turf Stood Still is mos def worth the space on your hard drive.
Coming from the Fillmoe, DaVinci’s rap style is reminiscent of some of Frisco’s biggest names. He’s cool and relaxed on each track in a way that is similar to Messy Marv, who apparently now goes by The Boy Boy Young Mess (maybe the first rapper to add “Young” to their name in the 2nd half of their career?), but he is much more lyrical than Messy has ever been. Not only does he have a more diverse vocabulary than most Bay rappers, he is also willing to tackle the challenge of writing concept songs as well. “Ben” is a song about DaVinci’s friendship with Benjamin Franklins, and while on paper the concept may sound played out, the song itself is executed really well. The first time I listened to it, I completely forgot that he was rapping about money, and thought he was just writing about life with one of the homies. On other tracks such as “What You Finna Do”, much like his moniker insinuates, Davinci is also able to paint vivid scenes of modern-day street life. Yet his abilities don’t come without a few complaints. Throughout the album, with an exception or two, his flow remains pretty stagnant. Also you never get the sense that he chose a track that he just wanted to go in on, and absolutely murder. Instead he remains calm and calculated from start to finish, which is a tactic that does and doesn’t work. On the one hand, each track stands strong on it’s own, but on the other, when you listen to the album as a whole, you find yourself desiring a little more excitement and less predictability.
As much as I think DaVinci’s lyrical ability surprised audiences, the production found on The Day The Turf Stood Still, is far from what most expect from the Bay. To start with, I don’t think there’s really a danceable track on the album. Instead it’s a lot of hard, sampled beats, perfect for describing the up’s and downs to inner city life. The instrumentals are crafted by 5 producers whom I have never heard of, the majority of which is done by Al Jieh, Big D, and Ammbush. The result of using samples is that the album has a much more musical and less computerish feel than a lot of it’s peers. I think this is a direction I would like to see more rap move back towards, but at the same time I think the production on this project is lacking in one aspect that the Bay does really well. Other than a few exceptions, such as “Do What It Do”, the drums don’t hit the way you would like them to. The patterns themselves work, but the bass drum sounds aren’t that resonant, which left me feeling like there are very few tracks that flat-out slap. The day that someone mixes real melodies or legit samples, with industry standard drums (I mean even Trey Songz has drums you can hear from two blocks away) will be the day I finally buy some subs for my car. In the mean time I gotta be happy that there are some new producers from my home, in addition to Rob Lo (who’s production warrants way more shine than he has ever received), that have begun fucking with samples for more street oriented music.
All in all, The Day The Turf Stood Still, is a project I am proud to say came from the Bay. It’s an album that follows very few trends, and instead gives the listener a feeling that they are listening to who DaVinci genuinely is. He’s doesn’t really come off as a good guy forced to deal with bad like Fashawn or Kendrick Lamar, but instead like a product of the streets that understands the importance of having a wide spectrum of knowledge that goes beyond the price of a brick. Also it’s pretty fearless when you consider that not a single rapper is featured on the entire project. That’s something that is practically unheard of in the rap game, and especially in the Bay, where most albums are closer to compilations than solo projects. It’s 17 tracks, and 51 minutes of pure DaVinci. It’s also a nice way to establish a spot on the scene.