“Nothing is sacred.”
It didn’t make it into the final draft, but I’m certain that DMVU said this to me in an interview about the side of his musical personality showcased byGreen Tape, now available on Turbo Tape. This is the spirit in which I review the album. The collaboration with Ill Chill is a hip-hop album, and its best and most interesting quality is purely that. An over-analysis of the record would do a fundamental disservice to its musical merit.
But you don’t need me to tell you that DMVU and Ill Chill made a great hip-hop album — you need headphones. Through Ill Chill’s rhythmic eloquence, the music speaks for itself. Still, it’s worth appreciating what Green Tape speaks to, too.
If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you know DMVU and Ill Chill from dubstep.
Ill Chill’s deliberate California-cultivated cadence and the immersive depth of DMVU’s production are familiar fixtures over sound systems, clearly recognisable at any bpm. Green Tape is hip-hop for hip-hop fans, but to those who already know, the residual influence is audible. The artists’ association with dubstep is embedded in the album’s musical soul and substance. Perhaps this is the biased perspective that makes it so easy to forget that Green Tape is supposed to be about weed.
Green Tape is about pot in the same way as dubstep is about Satanism — it isn’t. This much is evident in the lyrical content of the album, where the herb and rituals surrounding its consumption are referenced often as literary devices, but not as the substance of Ill Chill’s wisdom itself. Among the most remarkable qualities of Green Tape is the careful intention weighing each and every syllable of Ill Chill’s every word. In contrast to his lyrics, the regular reminders of the album’s supposed subject matter seem crude. The crackle of a pipe, periodic requests to “light that shit”, a suggestive cough — the tracks are punctuated with these elements. They’re easy to overlook from within the album’s rhythm, but in focus, they feel out of place.
The clash between Green Tape’s musical substance and its thematic focus on pot plays out with clever purpose. Marijuana is a symbol holding elevated status in many circles: hip-hop albums about pot, for instance, are nothing new. But DMVU and Ill Chill embrace the stereotype in the spirit of subversion. In the context of Green Tape, the magic of marijuana is mundane. Compared to the shimmering supernaturalism embodied by the music, the forced allusions are lacklustre. This is also the context from which Green Tape was made: legal pot is the day-to-day reality for DMVU. For the native Coloradan, weed is tight, but the notion that it carries mystical properties is laughable, and its worship is misguided at best. So rather than a hip-hop album about weed, Green Tape uses weed as an excuse to make a hip-hop album — and gently knock the prized plant from its cultural pedestal. It is one subliminal iteration of the personal philosophy expressed by DMVU: nothing is sacred.
Pot serves another thematic purpose in Green Tape. It aligns the album with its hip-hop aesthetic, establishing its intent to appeal to the genre’s typical audience. DMVU and Ill Chill did their best to approach this project as hip-hop artists with little regard for the segment of followers who identify as dubstep fans. Still, they knew their dubstep fans would inevitably be among the album’s first listeners — so they made a quiet point to de-sanctify our symbols, too. Like any respectable American rapper, Ill Chill makes a show of calling out his colours. DMVU dresses the MC’s lines in vibrant attire, but throughout the album Ill Chill does not let us forget that he is, in fact, wearing black. In some places the description is sewn into his rhymes — “all black in the night, they can’t see me” — but the artists can’t resist escalating to comic exaggeration. Ill Chill’s declaration, “I’m wearing black!” is made in the same breath as similarly staged comments about smoking pot on at least two occasions. Perhaps this truly is an innocent nod to the community from which the artists rose, but it feels more likely that the pair seized the hip-hop stereotype as an opportunity to mock dubstep’s accepted aesthetic without breaking character.
That’s not to paint Green Tape as inauthentic: there’s little doubt that black clothing was worn throughout the making of the album, just as pot was surely smoked in astronomical quantities. Yet the subliminal commentary isn’t arbitrary. The primary point of Green Tape is simply the thing itself — good music. Its underlying point is, for all practical purposes, the same. Like the dubstep tunes featuring Ill Chill’s vocals, the lyrical message lacing the tracks that comprise Green Tape is ultimately one of empowerment. The pervasive refrain in Undeniable comes to mind: “I just wanna free myself”, and true freedom isn’t something that can be smoked, or a status attained by stoners. DMVU and Ill Chill share the ideal of good music as a vehicle for awakening touted by dubstep’s celebrated ethos, but sound system music isn’t a social status either, and listening to underground music does not make one a good person. Their subtle dig at underground fashion is really a condemnation of elitism and empty trends. There’s nothing wrong with getting high and wearing black t-shirts. It’s just more important to think for yourself.
And, therein, lies the total brilliance of the personal intent behind Green Tape. Not only did DMVU and Ill Chill make a good hip-hop album — they made a good hip-hop album that challenges superficial standards set for music without breaking them outright. Green Tape appeals in every way to anyone who would self-identify as a fan of hip-hop albums about weed. But unlike most albums of any genre about anything, Green Tape is audibly and undeniably real. Ill Chill spells out the revelations that some of us learn from sound systems in a way that is infinitely more accessible. His wisdom weaves with DMVU’s uncompromised instrumentation to form a coherent, genuine artistic expression. Most people recognise quality when they hear it — but most never hear it at all. Green Tape has the potential to change ears and elevate minds. For those who don’t know, Green Tape presents a wickedly simple opportunity to find out.
So all cleverness aside, here’s the true takeaway of this review: buy Green Tape. Roll a fat one with friends who don’t know, and play this shit for them. Good music, like good weed, should always be shared, and you know how it works — “if you got something good, I’ll match you.”
DMVU x Ill Chill’s Green Room (TTV002) is available to purchase now
Peace, love and respect.