While we all go a little more crazy every day waiting for someone to finally leak Dk Toon's Folk Hop Blues, his sophomore release from 2007 has gone pretty well unnoticed by the legions of fans of "Sunny Side Up" and "Solo is So Low". This probably has a lot to do with the fact that (seemingly for no reason and without checking with us first) he changed his name, dropping the "Toon" in favor of "No Deal." It also has a lot to do with the musical and lyrical direction he has decided to pursue, that being most definitely industry-quality gangsta (aka overground, aka the great Satan to a lot of underground heads).
I only discovered this record a short while ago, and since then I've been alternately spinning it, then setting it aside in confusion and disappointment, only to feel compelled to play it again soon after. After weeks of this, it's settled in nicely in my car stereo, and I finally feel ready to write about it, which I feel should be done, as it's no doubt a notable release on several levels.
This debut album from Dk No Deal is called Fuck Yo Deal Sue Me, and it's evident that Dk must have been on two different planets for the creation of his two albums. From what I can gather based on early recordings of his, Dk has traditionally been a smooth, soulful and mellow emcee. His delivery was melodic and sing-song, akin to fellow Massmen Abstract Rude or Minister Too Bad. However, no matter how the message was masked in serenity, there was always a strong gangsta element to his music, as was the whole Good Life/P-Blowed scene, as evidenced by acts like Foesum, I Smooth 7, Menace Clan, etc.
For Fuck Yo Deal, Dk has shed any pretence of serenity in favor of a blatant audio celebration of the gangsta lifestyle, more often than not bellowed out or growled in menacing tones. Those expecting anything like "What Is Love" from Folk Hop Blues would probably be in for a shock. Likewise, those hoping for any cameos by the likes of Abby Rude or I Smooth 7 are also in for some bad news. In fact, throughout the entire 22-track album, Dk makes not one mention of his Massmen affiliation or his Good Life/P-Blowed musical upbringing. And instead of the underground representation, Dk enlists some of the top tier industry talent, such as Nelly, Ne-Yo, Snoop, Kurupt, and The Game.
Lyrically, Dk never strays a step from the tried-and-tested gangsta repetoire: Pimpin, hustlin, doing time, fucking the police, murder, and sex. With an album that's nearly 80 minutes long, the subject matter starts wearing pretty thin, but not as thin as you might expect. It's true that you can only hear about booty clapping and rollin' down Crenshaw with the three-wheeled motion so many times, but Dk is so fervent about it. The gangsta cliches are repeated over and over like litanies, that by the end of the record one has no doubt that this album is much more than just a money-making glorification, but a holy testament to his chosen lifestyle, even his entire existence. He apparently eats, drinks, and shits The Life.
The album is absolutely saturated with gangsterism; it doesn't let up for a second. When he says that he really sold crack, pimped ho's, been shot, served time, and killed, you have to believe him. And when he says he's a rich man because of the lifestyle, you believe that too. Ultimately it comes as no surprise that he's left his old name and his underground compatriots in the past, as there was obviously no place for him there. Furthermore, he seems to have his feet planted squarely in this new, higher profile, higher tax bracket incarnation. And from what I can hear, he's completely at home in it.
Like I said earlier, the album suffers from too much time and too little subject matter. The album is frankly top-heavy, with the three best tracks as the three openers. The rest of the album unfortunately tends to repeat itself, going through the same old themes that gangsta has used to define itself for the last 20 years. Notable tracks are peppered throughout the rest of the disc, and I only find myself skipping a few of the songs now (mostly at the end of the album). Dk's flow manages to keep most of the tracks afloat, as well as universally tight and full production from Battlecat, Joseph Leimberg, Rodney Jerkins, Touch, and others. Unfortunately, a little too much of the record is cluttered with mid-tempo booty jams and lackluster r'n'b infected hooks. If the album had been distilled down to a 40 or 50 minutes, it would have been much more effective.
Dk's delivery is as on-point ever, which is great after so long away from performing. Apparently he has been busy behind the scenes in the music industry (as well as Big Cartoon!), and I had honestly assumed he was out of the game or dead under a rock somewhere. It's great that he's continued to be involved. That syrupy voice is unmistakable and his flow hasn't diminished in the least. Fuck Yo Deal is an album that suffers from it's sameness, but ultimately that's the only complaint I have. The same can be said for nearly any record that stretches out as long as this one has. It took some work but I've come to accept Dk's new role in hip hop, and I feel he will do the genre a great service if he continues emceeing in his new capacity. I can't say what caused this change in him, from Massman to gangster high-roller, but it's evident that he needed to put the past behind him in order to reinvent himself. Dk Toon is dead, long live Dk No Deal.