"Was I a coward to abandon the broken down mechanics that crowned Biggie Smalls as the king of Atlantis?" asks Providence-based wordsmith B. Dolan on "Leaving New York," the opening track from Fallen House, Sunken City (Strange Famous Records), where Bernard Dolan documents his time spent living in NYC. Dolan left Providence for New York City in 1999 in search of some sort of writing career, eventual finding his calling as a lyricist and activist via the spoken word platform — the hallowed grounds of Brooklyn's Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Dolan returned to Rhode Island after 9/11 and eventually linked up with Strange Famous CEO Sage Francis, who re-released Dolan's debut The Failure in '08, as well as House of Bees Vol.1 (merch available at Strange Famous Records).
Dick Cheney finds himself in the crosshairs on "Reptilian Agenda," and Dolan calls out corporate greed on "Fifty Ways to Bleed Your Customer." But, as any Strange Famous follower can attest, B.Dolan unabashedly incorporates genuine entertainment with his fiery sermons onstage. He absolutely rips the mic on "Kitchen Sink," taking the usual rap crowd call-and-response to ridiculous levels with "Is the kitchen in the house? Is the closet in the house?" And turntablist Alias, who worked extensively with revered indie rap label Anticon and most recently served as tour DJ for Sage Francis, enriches the mix. Fallen House knocks with dense and compressed bass and snares, sampled and chopped up ("Body of Work" has that trippy DJ Shadow vibe). What Cheer? Brigade, the local 19-piece shitstorm of drums 'n' brass, provide the sinister rhythms on "Border Crossing." This shit is calibrated to shred woofers. Mr. Dolan took time to answer a few questions while in Kansas City filming the video for new single "Earthmovers."
HOW DID YOU LINK UP WITH WHAT CHEER? BRIGADE? I stalked them, in the creepiest way possible. I used a domain-name lookup to get the phone number of one of the Brigade members and called him — "Hey, you don't know me, but, um . . . you wanna make a song together?" It was the highlight of my recording career thus far.
The original concept for "Border Crossing" was inspired by the drunken "Pink Elephants on Parade" from Dumbo. That scene freaked me out as a kid, and I wanted that same kind of bombastic, staggered circus vibe for the track, so What Cheer? immediately came to mind.
I've never spent that much time putting a song together, about six months total. So think about that when downloading my shit for free, kids.
DID WORKING WITH JUST ONE PRODUCER ADD TO THE ALBUM'S FOCUS? Definitely. I tend to be all over the place, and Alias provided the unifying thread sonically.
YOU'VE LIVED AMONG RHODE ISLANDERS AND NEW YORKERS — WHAT'S THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE? People in Rhode Island tend to engage you more. When I first moved back from New York, I felt like every person walking past me was grilling me. I remember snapping at people — "What the fuck are you looking at?" — because in New York no one really looks each other in the eye. The only break in that was following 9/11. People would be looking at each other in a very compassionate way, like, "Are you OK?"