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Oxnard Emcee Inquires Within
Self Study is the tenth album by one Dudley Perkins performing under the name Declaime. (He’s put out four others under his given name.) This one is a crowd pleaser, provided that crowd is into deep reflection, soul, and heavy funk.
The territory is introspective but focused — earthy and brainy but not self-consciously so. Perkins revives and updates the weedhead intellect of the The Pharcyde with their sonic psychedelia and casual cleverness. There’s even a hint of De La Soul’s resolutely positive attitude and an edge of Anticon-style abstraction. His steady flow creates the feeling of something constantly on the move under cover of darkness — it could be an army, then again, it could just be one man’s mind.
Either way a lot of ground gets covered. “Poet” is the album’s incendiary manifesto, but “Fresh” is the jam. Title track “Self Study” is an auto-biographical rap in the third person, a story of growth and perseverance well told. On “Dirty Dude” Perkins joined by LMNO for a darkly humorous and sickeningly dead-on track from the perspective of a crooked cop.
As the album progresses things grow more mystical and apocalyptic. Paranoiac visions of the New World Order jostle with oblique strategies for spiritual liberation on “Ms.Onedrum.” Over all, this prolific emcee’s message is an oft repeated one in hip hop: the ends will never justify the means and everything you really need is inside you anyway … so stop rapping about guns and money already. Hey, it bears repeating, and Perkins brings it home with vivid anecdote and personal conviction.
The lyrical and musical materials used on the album are rich and gritty, but deft hands have spun them into something fine and velvety. One set of those hands belongs to producer Georgia Anne Muldrow, credited on the album as Ms. One and her Ancestral Orchestra, a musician with whom Perkins has released still more albums under the name G&D.
Her production borrows judiciously from the past and the present to make Self Study a Janus-faced work, rooted in this moment but with one eye that surveys hip hop’s ever lengthening history and another that’s fixed on eternity. It’s like a less heavy-handed version of Erykah Badu’s “Love of My Life (Ode to Hip Hop),” except, instead of passing through every era of hip hop one at a time, each stage is collapsed into the others, coexisting simultaneously. It’s the perfect complement to Perkins’s visions of oneness.