Audio Two: The High Dives of ADd+

Jonah Bromwich knows how to D-Town Boogie. There are cosmetic similarities between Outkast and the Dallas duo A.Dd+ but, as the latter’s excellent new mixtape DiveHiFlyLow: Every Man is King shows,...
By    December 4, 2013

addplus-divehiflyloJonah Bromwich knows how to D-Town Boogie.

There are cosmetic similarities between Outkast and the Dallas duo A.Dd+ but, as the latter’s excellent new mixtape DiveHiFlyLow: Every Man is King shows, A.Dd+ don’t need facile comparisons to bait new listeners. Within the span of two great projects, (their last one, When Pigs Fly, was one of the best offerings of 2011) Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy have established their own identity, one that combines a lush Southern sound and vivid portraits of the working man’s life, with the occasional description of a musical career that’s still getting off the ground. You know you haven’t quite made it yet as musicians if you still have to devote skits to teaching fans how to say your name (the + is silent, you pronounce all the letters.) But A.Dd+ certainly sound professional here, two nimble, detail-oriented rappers with multiple flows and the ability to adapt to different sounds and moods.

Their ability is obvious early on the track “Can’t Come Down,” a psychodrama from Slim about being high on the job. The song perfectly captures the boredom which leads to that habit and the paranoia that comes racing along behind. Stories about someone else’s 9 to 5 don’t usually make for great escapism, but the nausea caused by constant low-key anxiety keeps this one interesting—we’re roped into the suspense of wondering whether our hero will be found out. The beat, courtesy of an ungoogleable producer who goes by X, echoes the song’s two moods, with low dull tones and skittering drums combining for a downtempo mood with a slight edge. The track (which is at least two years old) is executed so well that there’s almost a disconnect—anyone who can make such an immersive song shouldn’t have to worry about something so pedestrian as getting caught while high on the job.

That’s the artist’s dilemma though—the grind is all but inescapable, no matter the skill level. Paris and Slim have been rapping together for about ten years, which explains their talent, and also their frustration with perennial sleeper status. But as its title indicates, DiveHiFlyLo counters the blues with plenty of purple, never staying stuck in the doldrums for too long: “Can’t Come Down,” transitions pretty effortlessly into two high-energy riding tracks, “Suitcases” and “Every Man is King,” paving the way for a tape which comfortably captures the highs of a ménage a trois and the lows of your girlfriend questioning your career choices while managing to stay coherent.

The girlfriend song, “Paris Pen,” is a particular standout. Pershun recounts an argument that’s so true to life that it sounds as if he froze it in time so he could dart over to a pad and jot down notes. You hear the arrogance that’s necessarily present in anyone who decides to make art for a living, and the doubt that comes with that artist having to grapple with real life at the same time. The song works doubly well because Paris owns it completely (Slim isn’t featured), just as “Can’t Come Down” belongs to Slim. Splitting tracks is a sign of maturity and the fact that the two showcases are on the same level speaks to a faith in each other’s ability.

That faith is complemented by a wisdom that’s present on every song here. At one point on the tell-some closer “Audio Day Dream,” Paris raps ““Game changers we done made it, well not really but I know you got our songs on your playlist,” before launching into a lidded discussion of the group’s internal struggles. (If those tensions exist, there’s no sensing them here; Paris and Slim sound no worse rapping together than they do when they take on songs separately.)

DiveHiFlyLo is rooted in the finest Texas soul that producers like PicnicTyme (who comes with the funk) and DJ Burn One can provide. A.Dd+ flirt with a Screw sound but they also dabble in boom bap and Atlanta funk, and the triangulation suits the variety of songs, giving the two versatile rappers plenty to work with.

One of the less-discussed problems for your modern day rapper is subject matter. It’s difficult for even the best technical rappers to know what’s going to capture listener’s attention. As gangster rap becomes more and more niche, those Mafioso stories are best left to rappers like Gibbs, Boldy James and Kevin Gates, those who can unearth the fresh material lying hidden under old tropes. But on DiveHiFlyLo, Paris and Slim show that making a good rap song is less about which you box you choose and more about what you fill it with: hone in on the details, the drama that’s inherent in struggling through life and the music pops right out the speakers.

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