From soda-spraying clowns, who rap the way Russell Jones enunciates, to conscious cats keeping Rawkus relevant, the most distinguishing characteristic of Midwestern hip-hop might be its breadth. This is certainly reflected in Cleveland, where the rap underground is as disparate as it is deep, equally divided between pimps and poets.
Representing the pimps is D-Daws. With a deep, sonorous delivery, D-Daws brings the same kind of slo-mo menace as Mobb Deep's Havoc. Combined with loopy, inventive beats, his latest overcomes clichéd subject matter -- bullets, bitches, bankrolls, etc. -- with compelling production, exemplified by cuts like "Str8 Nutz," which rides crazed, circus synth; the stuttering beats and svelte strings of "I Made It Happen"; and the oscillating sirens and schizophrenic keys of the title track. This disc isn't likely to make the blue-chip D-Daws a star, but it should draw much-deserved attention to producer Ben Levels.
Rather than relying on clever production, Iyan.Anomolie's debut is buoyed by deft, delirious wordplay. "We're making hip-hop classics with minimum technology," he boasts on "Mc's," and true to his words, Kinetic Potential is a deluge of grimy, smoked-out basement beats and raw, unchecked flow. Highlights include the caustic, Portishead-underscored "Amazing" and the brusque, invigorating "Second Half," on which Anomolie announces that "if you ain't standing for something, you falling for anything/ I'm trying to elevate the audience." Come, get high.