The international collective of hip-hop producers, musicians and curators reveal compelling conversations, thought-provoking narratives and tenacious tales about social injustice, systemic racism, internal struggles and personal aspirations on their latest quarantine-fueled album.
“The songs that came out are representative of the discussions and conversations we have as men when we’re not recording. Because as a group, we still get together on a weekly basis or sometimes two to three times a week to just talk. We have members of our collective who may have autoimmune situations, so they haven’t been able to be out and about,” said Rod Wallace, a metro Detroit hip-hop producer.
“We have members of our group who have been through a lot in the last few months. A part of what we do is support them by meeting up and talking regularly; even a song like ‘Piss’ is a song that represents us playfully jiving with each other and talking crazy. It all was just very organic.”
Wallace and his Six Feet collaborators spent the first 100 days of the COVID-19 pandemic writing, recording and producing the project’s seven raw, honest tracks through Songlab TV, an innovative, online one-session approach to songwriting that’s documented by Digital Hustle Films.
“When COVID hit, we decided to build something called Songlab TV where a sample or an idea is given to a producer who makes a beat while a rapper writes and records their verses and an engineer mixes it,” said Wallace about Dirty Ol’ Men’s creative approach for Six Feet.
“Four of the seven songs on the album came from that process; while the other three, they just weren’t recorded, but they went through a similar process. We acknowledge that a lot of music is made that way these days, but a lot of it isn’t made at the time because those four songs were synchronous experiences.”
Executive produced by Wallace and Anthony “Gadget” Mims, Six Feet serves as Dirty Ol’ Men’s second release this year since dropping the Motor City-fueled East Grand in February. Collaborators from Michigan, California, Tennessee, Florida, Illinois and Japan brought initial stems, beats and samples online to share their profound musical conversations with listeners.
Delving into ‘Six Feet’
One of the album’s most gripping tracks includes “Sick,” a refreshing, poignant dialogue among F13ldz, Wallace and MENTaL Da God about the increasing levels of systemic racism and the nation’s lack of accountability for the murders of Black men and women. Produced by ThatBlessedGirl and backed by a bouncy, beat-filled swagger, the track fuses yacht rock-inspired electric guitars with solemn synths that linger inside the mind.
F13ldz eloquently raps, “I’m sick and tired of Black men with cell phones getting shot/But a White man fully equipped with a chop/Walks into the Capitol building, isn’t stopped/And yells in the face of a cop without a mask cuz/This shit is too hot, I mean really/Y’all don’t see a problem, are y’all that silly?/I guess that’s what it is when you fight for what you believe/But let me drop to a knee and I’m a son of a B (ain’t that some shit).”
“We’re all on this train that says the way in which Black people are being done is incorrect, it’s wrong, it’s hard to transcend that. But as easy as it is to say that, it’s easy to forget that it is a reality that we’ve been living through forever; George Floyd was the latest when you look at the gentleman in Dallas, where the police officer walked in the house and shot him.
“We could go through all of the names of the African-Americans from the last seven years that this has happened to. Before that, it was Malice Green. Before that, it was my cousin who had an issue with the police, and there were no camera phones back then.
“I’m saying all that to say we just wanted to capture that moment, and again, it was very easy for me to write it because I was being inundated by these statements on Facebook and in the press and being asked questions by people – ‘What can I do?’ or ‘How should I feel?’ It was a very difficult time when that record got written,” said Wallace, who mastered Six Feet at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios.
While “Sick” openly addresses external struggles and tensions, “Don’t Waste Your Time” beautifully tackles the internal challenges of self-doubt and second guesses. Along with producers Diggahertz and RTO Beats, D.V. Alias Khryst shares a hypnotic, introspective account of self-actualization and authenticity as twirling flute, throaty bass, thoughtful electric guitars, vibrant piano and pounding electronic drums surround him.
Khryst elegantly raps, “Who are you to tell me who I am/Don’t waste your time/I’m gonna be who I be understand/Don’t waste your time/I’m ten toes sinkin’ in the sand/Don’t waste your time/So who are you to tell me who I am/Don’t waste your time.”
“‘Don’t Waste Your Time’ basically says, ‘This is who I am; you’re not going to change me. No situation is going to change me. Internally or externally, I’m still going to move forward.’ I think it’s appropriate to come after those songs that have such a huge social foundation,” said Wallace about Dirty Ol’ Men’s latest single.
“I think what we’re learning through this whole year is how important knowledge of self is because we have no control over the external factors that are happening around us. The only things we have control over are things that we do, the manner in which we treat our bodies and the manner in which we take care of our families.”
Reflecting on the Future
Dirty Ol’ Men also reiterate the importance of self-care and personal reflection on “Mirror,” a spirited ode to growth produced by RTO Beats featuring F13ldz, Wallace, Tay Leeee and The DayNites’ bassist Tim Blackman. Swift beats, shimmery synth, clicking cymbals, steady drums, swaying bass and glistening electric guitars invite listeners to venture beyond the looking glass.
F13ldz candidly raps, “Gotta do the work if you wanna get it clappin’/No snooze button tappin’/Don’t make excuses happen/Go ahead pimpin’/Be the master of your fate/And the captain of your soul/For your heart turn cold/And your body grow old/In the grave you gonna roll over a couple of times/Cuz you couldn’t fix your mind to do what you had to.”
“‘Mirror’ was transformative because it took the longest to be written. F13ldz wrote both verses; Diggahertz and I did the chorus. F13ldz was really writing a song from the perspective of him looking at himself in the mirror and telling himself what he needed in order to move forward. Once it was done, and we really listened to it as a group, it was a very emotional moment,” Wallace said.
“It talks about how self-doubt really can cripple you, so it was an experience that we all had together. The record had a certain level of paranoia or uncertainty that I felt was appropriate to end the project on because it wasn’t intended to provide any solutions. We just press on; we carry on.”
Dirty Ol’ Men will move forward with new virtual collaborations for upcoming material via Songlab as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Writing, recording and producing new projects in the digital space remains the safest way for the collective to build a growing international hip-hop discography.
“We’re gonna keep using the process, and we’re going to start branching off. Agent Smith and JB Swift have a record that’s coming out, JB Swift and I have a record that’s coming out, RTO Beats has a record that’s coming out. F13ldz is working on a record. Being able to work on each other’s records and support each other is next. We just want to build a really broad net of music that people can get into,” Wallace said.