by Marcus K. Dowling
At some point in 2009, I realized that I was a year into the rest of my life. I was 31 and had rediscovered my passion for music, and decided to set upon learning as much about music as I humanly could (while also listening to as much music as I humanly could) in order to create a career for myself as a music journalist. Moreso than a journalist, I wanted to do all of the jobs in music that were gone, but still necessary – so I figured out kinda sorta what it took to be an A & R, how to do artist development and a bunch of other “dead” music industry sciences, too. The idea was that if an artist hit me up for feedback, I wouldn’t just do that, I’d blow their minds with so much more. In doing that I’d be able to differentiate myself from the thousands of other bloggers out there. Five years later I’m old, tired and sprouting white hairs out of my face. But, when someone like Steve Strang hits me up about my thoughts regarding Yonkers, NY/Maryland’s Eastern Shore rap combo Teem Coolin, I’m really glad I did all of that hard ass work.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Teem Coolin should be the go-to rap act if searching for a quality and professional performing duo in the DC area. The reason why I limit them to DC (at the moment) is
that the local region really deserves a chance to know, learn about and appreciate their talents. S-Dot and J-Artz are passionate and talented, and are learning how to undo the shackles of developing as artists in one of the least advantageous eras to actually be smart, focused and independent artists with an aim at success in rap by a long-forgotten traditional standard.
Every time I listen to Teem Coolin’s album I get stuck on lead track “R U Coolin’.”
There’s nothing in the production that’s blows my head off my shoulders (and that’s actually great, because it’s a rare time where they producer isn’t better at producing than the rapper is at rapping). The key is that when I hear S-Dot and J-Artz rap, they actually honestly want me to hear what they’re saying. They’re not arrogant, they’re not angry, they’re not high, they’re not drunk, they’re…gasp…professional. It’s an amazing notion to consider in 2014, but there’s actually rappers who see this as a job, and not as an alternative to selling drugs, a way to have sex with girls or a way to get rich quick. In an industry that has in many respects completely lost its way (or become so average that it’s boredom inducing), finding not one – but two – artists (who are “local”) is like betting that lightning will strike twice in the same place, and then it does.
Maybe the best thing about R U Coolin’ is that it’s the best use of a diversity of quality local resources I’ve seen in quite some time. If looking for all of the swagged out and oft-mentioned pieces of the puzzle of “how to make it in DC (rap),” they’re not here. A day without eight bars from Fat Trel, Wale or Shy Glizzy on a hyped (or not-so-hyped) indie rap release getting love in DC at this point is as rare as a summer day without sunshine. Two artists working largely by themselves and featuring few other gifted artists is excellent. As well, anytime I can hear the booming voice of the legendary (he WAS 1/2 of DC area 90s rap hit-making duo Born Jamericans) Edley Shine and the work of producer J Buttah on a release (as I did on single “Swag By Day Shine By Night”) it’s appreciated. There’s a vast array of talented professionals with credible industry track records available in this city. Building a solid rapport based around quality work is a tremendous idea to consider if desiring a successful career.
The album is 16 tracks long, though, and the single getting the big push is “Sex Drive” – which after feeling like I got to know the duo (and their motivations) so well throughout the album is difficult to contemplate and accept. In an era where time is of the essence, 16 tracks for two new artists who are so counter-intuitive to what is “working” in the current era is a lot. Yes, it’s delivered well, but, yeah, it’s a lot. Also, the idea that two guys with so much to offer are in some ways reduced to lovestruck lotharios chasing “redbones” on a bouncy and trappy club hit as so many people’s first interaction with them as a group is an indictment. It’s a sad statement as much about what a team needs to do to get radio play as much as a sad statement on what apparently “works” to achieve that aim.
But, yeah. If a rap fan desperately believing that gimmick-free and entirely commercial music can still exist in the genre and excel, it’s certainly a worthwhile endeavor to give Team Coolin a listen. www.teemcoolin.com. Thank me later.