Reviews March 8, 2013
WogDog Blues

Wogdog Blues (Ouagadougou Blues) is the third album from Art Melody, a standout MC from Burkina Faso's growing hip-hop scene. Following the well-received 2011 album Zound Zandé, Wogdog Blues attempts to turn heads with its polished production and high-profile guest appearances, and to a great extent, it succeeds. Taken as a whole, the album is a powerful showcase for Art Melody’s machine-gun flow and socially conscious yet street-centered mentality, as well as his fiery, energetic delivery. It also boasts stellar production from Redrum and Minimalkonstrunction, whose expert use of samples, minimalist drum and bass patterns, and well-timed scratches emphasize Art Melody’s raspy yet thunderous voice.

Much of Wogdog Blues sounds quite reminiscent of '90s era New York hip-hop. Almost every track on the album follows the strict “boom-bap” pattern native to the five boroughs, and Art Melody’s angry, impassioned vocals and rapid-fire rhymes wouldn't sound out of place on a Mobb Deep record. In particular, tracks like “Djoon Ya” and “Bamb Rat” use horn samples, sped up chants, and loud echoing drums to create a sound reminiscent of RZA’s era defining production work for the Wu-Tang Clan. However, unlike those New York touchstones, Art Melody is not spitting rhymes from Queensbridge or Killah Hills, but rather from his home of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital city. Despite the rather different locale, Wogdog Blues has the same “straight-from-the-streets” sound that marked classics like Nas’s “Illmatic” and the aforementioned Wu-Tang Clan, but with a uniquely West African spin.

A major part of that spin lies in the lyrics, which offer a furious assault on the corruption, oppression, and social inaction that define the existence of so many in Burkina Faso. Staying away from first person narratives, WogDog Blues is full of broader critiques, connecting the lived experience of the individual to the systemic problems that stifle possibility. "Djoon Ya" rages that "Colonizers are up to date. Independence is dependence you dance to while kids scream, die of hunger, thirst, and blood drips and evaporates into independence," and that level of thought provoking lyricism is maintained throughout the album, echoed and intensified by the feverish density of the production.

WogDog Blues also features a few notable guest-spots, including a verse from High Priest, of the Brooklyn rap group Antipop Consortium, that further reinforces the connection this album builds between New York and Burkina Faso. Another excellent – and rather surprising – guest appearance comes from Dirty Walt, singer of the seminal '80s ska/punk group Fishbone (now best known for their song “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” and the controversy it caused with The Roots and Michele Bachmann) who spits one of the album’s few English verses on “Kiibdo.”
All in all, Wogdog Blues’ classic sound, mixed with the raw energy and hardened street mentality of Art Melody, make for an incredibly captivating listen. From start to finish, the record grabs on and never lets go, as Art Melody takes listeners from New York to the mean streets of Ouagadougou. Art Melody is clearly a force to be reckoned with.

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