Chairman's Choice: Diamond District, Paten Locke
Words Chairman Mao

Editor’s Note: Chairman's Choice is a column where Chairman Mao breaks down some of the best new indie releases. This story originally appeared in the October/November 2014 issue of XXL Magazine.

When Washington, D.C. trio Diamond District debuted in 2009 with the first-rate In The Ruff it was with the relatively modest intent of crafting DMV (D.C./Maryland/Virginia)-centric neo-classic boom-bap. Five years later, X.O., yU and Oddisee’s March On Washington (Mello Music Group) maintains their sophisticated trackwork and region-specific pride (“First Step”)/real talk (“These Bammas”). But as is evident from the LP’s title (which reads as both a historical reference and contemporary exhortation), they also possess a perspective that transcends their city’s limits. “March Off” finds yU challenging his creative peers not to simply rap “loud enough to turn the mic up and ain’t got shit to say.” “Lost Cause” sees Oddisee addressing societal disregard of Black youth, before citing his grandmother “overcoming obstacles way before Dr. Martin spoke” as an example of perseverance. And in that respect, the inspiration they mine from the past is far more meaningful than mere drum patterns and samples.

Five years after debuting with the playfully eclectic Super Ramen Spaceship, MC/producer/DJ/jack-of-all-trades Paten Locke finally got around to releasing a follow-up. Sort of. Consider Dustball (Full Plate) something of a test-run: a limited (less than 100 pressed) cassette-only/strictly hand-to-hand-sale endeavor that proudly wears its rough draft steez on its sonic sleeve. Injections of heavy space echo (no doubt a byproduct of performing with Edan in recent years) inform the aesthetic, as does a willingness to chop vintage ska, NOLA funk, psych rock and even Duke Ellington all up in the mix. As befits the unrefined DIY-ness, vocally P. Locke exhibits some nicotine rasp amidst the cosmic/concrete/biblical imagery (“Goldtouch”: “Black astronomy / Chrome handle artistry / All hail the hammer and ol’ carpentry”). Elsewhere, his writing is as blunt as his delivery—e.g. “Canseco,” on which he observes, “I know there’s a time and place for all stuff / But y’all suck.” This bit of analog excellence, however, most certainly does not. Welcome back, Dust brother.

More Jointz 2 Check 4
Ka & Preservation, 1200 B.C. (self-released)
Ricky Dubs, The Señor Dubs EP (self-released)
Jorun Bombay & The Rampagers, “Never Heard It Like This Before” (Fresh Pressings)