Brooklyn-based emcee Your Old Droog has been making some of the most focused and intricate rap music of the last 5 years or so. Last year was incredible, with 3 excellent releases that quickly established him as one of the most interesting voices within the genre. This year, instead of 3 albums, he’s released 1. But don’t get it twisted, Dump YOD: Krutoy Edition is absolutely incredible. Celebrating his Ukrainian heritage, Droog sounds focused and hungrier on the mic than ever before. Just look at the tracklist – “Kazakhstan”, “Ukraine”, “Matryoshka”, “Uzbekistan”, “Kyrgyzstan”… Nobody to my knowledge has released a USSR-themed hip-hop album, and that’s part of the reason, as a fellow Eastern European, I can relate to the sound and themes so much.
Sonically, this album draws influence from Eastern European folk music. Hypnotic clarinet melodies appear all over the album, with additional colourful instrumentation that just sounds so smooth and ethereal. The vocal samples of Russians speaking and explaining shit makes me feel like I’m watching and listening to an old 80s documentary on communism, and I love it! I need to give a big shoutout to all the producers involved – Argov, Messiah Musik, Ewonee, Preservation and Roper Williams. Everyone did their thing, capturing the odd, lonely and depressing soundscape of the Soviet Union during the 70s and 80s. Tracks like “Babushka III” feature subtle strings and an accordion, making it a colourful and incredibly interesting listen. The cold instrumentation on tracks like “Kazakhstan” and “Ukraine” are chilling, as he meanders and flows through these instrumentals with such ease. It’s so effortless for him, and this is exemplified to perfection on one of my favourite hip-hop tracks of the year, “Matryoshka”. The track is nearly 6 minutes in length, features a few beat changes and one of Your Old Droog’s best rapping I’ve heard. His fast-paced rhyming and intricate rhyme schemes, especially throughout that second beat is just so crazy to me. On “Malchishka Krutoy” he raps in Russian, and it’s cool to be able to understand some of it. I wanted to touch on the features real quick, all exceed expectations. The Your Old Droog x Mach-Hommy linkup is iconic at this point, and tracks like “New Religion” featuring Tha God Fahim as well is great. My favourite track on the album is probably “Uzbekistan” featuring Phonte and Mach-Hommy. That dark, driving beat is crazy to me, and the way Phonte and then Mach come in to follow Your Old Droog’s menacing flow is just crazy to me. Mach-Hommy, El-P, Tha God Fahim and Black Thought feature on clear standout “Pravda”, and it’s as incredible as I expected. El-P brought that 2002 Fantastic Damage flow – one of my favourite verses of his in a while. Black Thought nonchalantly kills it, and Your Old Droog of course came through with his own incredible verse. The rumbling of “Kyrgyzstan” and “Dump YOD Outro” close the album out excellently.
Dump YOD: Krutoy Edition captured a tone and sound that perfectly represents the grit, gloominess and skeletal reality of Soviet and post-Soviet life. I admire Your Old Droog’s vision, and his execution is just as great. It might be my favourite project of his. The theme of the project, the soundscape, the quality of emceeing is just at such an elite level that I just have to tip my hat off to Your Old Droog for this new album.