Friday, July 22, 2011

Pablo Dylan

What follows are my impressions of the recently released mix-tape (i.e. e.p.) by Bob Dylan's 15 year old producer and rapper grandson, Pablo.

Nothing super ground breaking, but I did like it. The beats are tight, west coast. Probably good for da club. Not bad for a little Jewish kid from Beverly Hills. Lyrically it's a bit weak, but in spots it really shines, and more so on repeat listens. Of course in this respect he's got big shoes to fill. To write truly beautiful and poetic rap lyrics must be one of the hardest things, for the simple fact that you need LOTS of lyrics to fill a rap song. I've personally only heard a few rappers do it. Instead Pablo makes use of common lyrical devices in rap, namely, personal narrative, self-flattery, and gimmicky word play, which at least he does well. In the song "On top of the world", possibly a nod to the classic blues song "Sittin' on Top of the World", by the Mississippi Sheiks, which Dylan covered on his 1992 album "Good as I been to you", Pablo raps:

"I'm the grandson of a man nothing less than legendary.
That's a lot of pressure so I Berry (bury) Gordie
I am very motown bitch, I'm-a get that crown
While I'm at it I might re-invent sound."

In the first couplet he is essentially acknowledging that he is not going to try and compete with his grandfather on the lyrical front. A prudent move. He goes on to make a pun of the founder of Motown, and then boldly inflate his own ego.

Clearly Pablo is borrowing something from his grandfather, including his album art and his schnoz.

Also what comes through if you listen closely to the narrative and ignore the grandstanding, is a genuine honesty, and a fearlessness, traits that Bob Dylan also had when he released his first album in 1962 at the tender age of 19.

Overall the album is bubblegum pop rap that could easily be passed over amongst the tons of such crap on the radio. However it is my contention that an attentive reading of any of such artists might reveal some kernel of goodness.  

In a recent interview, Pablo Dylan says his grandfather was the Jay-Z of his time. This comparison has legs when you consider the staying power, creative output, and influence on the music industry that these two icons had/have. However, the more important analogy is that Dylan challenged the establishment in the 60's the way rap did in the 80's and 90's, which makes him more comparable to one of the more controversial and political rappers, like Chuck D or Dr. Dre.

For a laugh, here is Dylan's own foray into the rap genre from 1986

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