While it is probably too early to start calling him Ceeb Lion, it is great to hear Fredericton’s friendliest rapper charting some new ground.
After years spent rapping to beats with a distinct sun soaked, west coast vibe on albums like The Claybourne Chronic-I’s, The 5th and Still Down, and a handful of others that mashup a variety of popular hip hop styles, Fredericton rapper Ceeb Dread goes full rasta on his latest release, Life of a Badmon, a five track EP that finds Dread working for the first time with DJ/producer Loc Dog to create an entirely new template for his asymmetrical wordplay.
Life of a Badmon is new territory for Dread’s pot-infused raps that have shown a tendency to lean towards tropes like guns, money and reefin’ on blunts. While the EP begins with the sound of someone sparking up a fatty, and ends with a pair of gunshots, for the most part the tropes sit this one out to make way for other, more successful experimental tracks like Hand Over The Bag, a combination of skit and song where Dread plays both the victim and the perp in what could be a robbery or a purse snatching gone wrong. What is in the bag? That’s what I want to know.
The EP’s producer, Loc Dog, is part of the original Fredericton-area rap crew and has a long list of credits and collaborations under his belt, most recently working with Saint John’s Stephen Hero producing his February singles, Slick/Fluoride.
This current pairing with Dread works best on the track Golly Gosh, where Dread’s pronunciation, humour and ever-present playfulness shine the brightest. He even finds room to add to his long list of name-play phrases a la Ceeb The Day and EmergenCeeb with the line, “Fall off the wall, call me Humpty Dump-Ceeb.” Part of what has kept me tuning in to each new Dread release over the years are the humorous lyrical Easter eggs, like this one, that he seems to always find a place for. I find they help balance Dread’s lyrical direction, occasionally lightening the load, so to speak.
But as much as this EP represents the type of melodic variation I hoped to someday hear from Dread, I find I’m always wanting more. Not necessarily more Ceeb, but more from him, artistically. Although Life of a Badmon is a change in course and one that provides some new ground for Fredericton’s friendliest rapper to experiment and play, I often feel there is something missing from every Ceeb Dread release. On this release, for all its strengths, I find Dread’s vocal tracks the weakest link. Not his lyrics or phrasing or delivery. The tracks themselves. At times, they sound as if they were recorded using the built-in mic on a laptop computer, resulting in a definite lack of depth and clarity that, in my opinion at least, holds these tracks back somewhat, while also helping to fuel my next self-serving hope for Dread’s future releases.
Hats off for this collab though. It’s a great step forward.