In the 2002 film about the legendary Manchester, England postpunk label Factory Records, 24 Hour Party People, label boss Tony Wilson talks about a double helix representing the decline of one artistic movement or musical trend as another rises to replace it. In the case of mid-'80s Manchester, this was the transition from played-out new wave guitar rock into the total breakthrough of house music, the late 20th century's other radical musical movement, along with hip hop. And both house and hip hop are still sprouting tentacles that are impossible to ignore (and nearly impossible to define) today.
Tucson hip hop has always typically strayed left of center, off the mainstream track of gangsta posturing and unfettered capitalism.
The trend that seems to be on its way out, to use the double helix example, is typified by older—er—more mature emcees using traditional boom bap-era '90s and 2000s beats to back up their often literate lyrics. While these established Tucson rappers are still making some of the most accomplished hip hop to ever come out of the southwest, there's a feeling of staid tradition creeping in. It makes fresh-faced newcomers with new approaches feel like the future, like the Adobe House collective of rappers, designers and visual artists who tied together by an eponymous record label.
One of Adobe House's brightest is rapper Doni, likely known to his parents as Danish Faizi. Doni made an appearance recently in this column, due to his collaborations with brilliant local R&B singer Elias <3, but I want to talk about his own solo work this week.
He recently released an EP, Vacant Memoirs, with another Adobe House alum, Dan Louis. Memoirs is a perfect example of the defiant anti-commercialism of this new wave of Tucson hip hop; there are no concessions to trap, EDM, pop or any other musical softening agents, and certainly no stance of consumerism or violence. Doni makes no attempt to portray himself as anything other than what he is, which is a smart introvert with a gift for plainspoken depictions. On Memoirs he centers on the severe emotional states usually found in young people his age. In other words, the EP is a potent and cerebral depiction of existential dread.
All songs highlight. Unassuming but woozy production accentuates dreamlike qualities of Doni and Louis' lyrics.
Yeah, it's easy to see why some are saying Adobe House represents Tucson's music future.