DA-WOLF – Illustrated The EP – Album Review
If you thought the 90s were dead, one listen to the new EP from DA-WOLF might just change that. The appropriately titled Illustrated The EP mixes her amazing technique with samples from classic 90’s cartoons, many from Cartoon Network, and a whole heap of inspired references geeks will enjoy.
The album opens quite ceremoniously on the track “Do It” which after some initial overuse of upwards vocal inflection gets into some great verse-spitting, with many references to Dragon Ball Z (from Piccolo to Krillin). The track is only somewhat held back by the occasionally noticeable low-quality of the vocals, and the over repetitive chorus that doesn’t do its verses justice. The album corrects this with “Supreme (feat. Rheem)“, featuring a killer string sample presumably taken from her usual pool of 90’s cartoons. The verses are similarly vicious, culminating in the cheerleader-esque chanting of the letters of the title’s letters.
“Watch Your Mouth” kicks up the bass and sets it over a smoothly edited sample of a kid saying the title phrase. DA-WOLF drops some great lines here too, like “With the mind with more complexities than ovaries/talking with your tongue I’m a get you snipped like vasectomies,” and references to Artemis and Tom & Jerry, being the tip of the iceberg. “Let’s Kick It (Nostalgik Muzik)” brings in a delightfully cheesy sample, sounding right out of a 70’s TV show, the song’s fun references make it feel like it should be under the genre 90s kid-nerd rap at parts referencing Scooby Doo, Batman on PS4, Catdog, N64, Breaking Bad and Sade, to the point it feels like DA-WOLF must be a geek with a pension for rap or got some dialogue from the Deadpool script writers. Unfortunately the song is marred by more badly recorded vocals, that feel like a result of bad mixing more than lack of ability, it’s a little jarring considering it’s not consistent throughout every song.
“Cruise Control” features the most unexpected sample in recent memory, pulling the melody from the episode title sequence of every Rugrats episode, immediately referencing this fact in the line “Like a rugrat in a candy store/I get a sugar rush,” and referencing Reptar and Spike later on. The vocals fit the melody perfectly, driving each line effortlessly to a sample that works way better than it has any right to. “Hype [Renegades Anthem]” flows sublimely on a sample of the Dexter’s Laboratory theme, the additional beats work well outside of some occasional out of place hi hats. The chorus chanting of “Let me, see you, get hype/Rene, gades, damn, right!” aches for chants at any live show it gets performed at.
The album closes on the trap like “Schemes” which provides some of the most promising production of the album proving DA-WOLF works just as well outside the 90’s cartoons as when she’s surrounded by them. The track is topped off with some weird clips and a cool sample of Quincy Jones’ Ironside which many will recognize from Kill Bill.
While it has a few blemishes DA-WOLF’s latest release uses its cartoon samples incredibly imaginatively and she really nails her lyrics consistently. With a little polish on the recording of some of the vocals it could very well compete with many mainstream rap records. Overall the gimmick subsides quickly leaving with an album that’s as fun as it is impressive.