B. Dolan just released his second LP, Fallen House Sunken City, and he already has the perfect way to exit the rap game thanks to his labelmate and longtime friend, Sage Francis.
“When I met Sage Francis in 2002, both of us looked distinct from each other. I was a little bit taller than him. We were both bald, but I don’t think he had a beard at the time we met,” B. told us a few weeks ago. “Over the years however, we’ve somehow grown into the same f**king body type. All that healthy gas station cuisine and living the dream, I guess. So now people physically confuse us… And neither of us are willing to shave our beards, because it’s a horror show under there. Luckily, Sage Francis is a dude I respect forever, and the association doesn’t cause me to lose any sleep at night. And the physical similarity may just allow us to work out some imposter-scheme a la Doom. Might be a good retirement plan.”
The retirement is a long way off, as Dolan is currently on a marathon tour of Eurpoe before criss-crossing the USA with Francis on a spring/summer tour. Dolan’s new record is a realistic, morbid, and sometimes morbidly funny take on the music industry as well as the well-being of our society. Dolan’s double-duty as the founder of the consumer’s right advocacy group Knowmore.org adds to the passion of his music while his music offers him a release from his activist endeavors. The two compliment each other to enhance Dolan’s mic skills as well as his ability to write real life stories. Such is the case with Fallen House, Sunken City. At first glance the album’s title appears to be directly related to the collapse of the housing market and ensuing recession, but Dolan insists the title was thought of before the s**t hit the fan, as he told us.
“There certainly was a spooky correlation between releasing an album about underwater houses just as that started literally happening to people. It isn’t the first time that kind of strange coincidence has come along. I like to think it comes from being sensitive to the world around me and paying attention to signs. Although, it doesn’t take a psychic at this point to know we’re headed for all kinds of collapse.”
We put B. Dolan under the First Look microscope to find out more about his debut album, knowmore.org, and much much more. Check out the full interview below.
RubyHornet: On the album’s first track you rap, “I was told to pick my battles, this isn’t my war, my fight is with myself, I’m leaving New York.”
I maybe reaching here, but does the song speak to leaving the NYC prototype of what of a Hip Hop artist is, and in a sense making the music you are
comfortable with, and thus going where that takes you, even if it means leaving NYC?
B. Dolan: For sure, man. While I’m telling a literal story in that song about some events that really happened to me, I’m also using New York as a device to talk about Hip Hop. The act of leaving was cataclysmic and awful, as the song describes. But it turned out to be necessary. No disrespect to NYC though. El-P and them are still keeping that city breathing, as are a bunch of others. Tell Immortal Technique to leave the battle rap cliches alone though. The fetuses have been through enough.
RubyHornet: “Mr. Buddy, Buddy” and “50 Ways to Bleed Your Customer” seems to speak to the lengths people will go to sell you something you don’t really need, and isn’t as quality as they make it seem. What’s your relationship with your fans, who you are in a sense, asking to buy your music and buy
tickets to your show? How do you sell yourself and your music, at the same time create music and do projects that highlight consumer abuses.
B. Dolan: I don’t really think there’s a conflict of interest there. I’m not someone who attacks capitalism, and I don’t identify myself as a communist or anything. The Knowmore.org Project, which I created alongside Sage Francis in 2005, highlights corporate abuse. The job of that website is to profile and rate companies according to worker’s rights, human rights, environmental concerns, political influence, and business ethics. Although it’s impossible for anyone to be perfect, we do our best to run our businesses as ethically as possible, and to pay attention to where things are being made and avoid situations that are based on exploitation. And really that’s all we ask of consumers and corporations, as well.
RubyHornet: Some may look at the title of your album, Fallen House Sunken City, and believe it to be recession-inspired. Do you feel that’s accurate?
A lot of what you speak of has been happening for a long time, do you feel this moment in time just makes it most palpable?
B. Dolan: The album title was actually conceived before the recession hit, and a lot of the songs were written just as it was all going down… There certainly was a spooky correlation between releasing an album about underwater houses just as that started literally happening to people. It isn’t the first time that kind of strange coincidence has come along. I like to think it comes from being sensitive to the world around me and paying attention to signs. Although, it doesn’t take a psychic at this point to know we’re headed for all kinds of collapse.
RubyHornet: What is the fit like with Sage Francis and Strange Famous Records? I interview a lot of artists who are signed to a label owned or
founded by another artist and they walk a line with that association. On one hand it helps them get noticed, on the other they don’t want to be
overshadowed. None of that may have been on your mind in this case, or maybe it was. Can you speak to that?
B. Dolan: I suppose it does entail walking a line. When I met Sage Francis in 2002, both of us looked distinct from each other. I was a little bit taller than him. We were both bald, but I don’t think he had a beard at the time we met. Over the years however, we’ve somehow grown into the same f**king body type. All that healthy gas station cuisine and living the dream, I guess. So now people physically confuse us, which adds to the difficulty of walking that line. And neither of us are willing to shave our beards, because it’s a horror show under there. Luckily, Sage Francis is a dude I respect forever, and the association doesn’t cause me to lose any sleep at night. And the physical similarity may just allow us to work out some imposter-scheme a la Doom. Might be a good retirement plan.
RubyHornet: “Kitchen Sink” provides a little bit of comic relief, were there ever times during the recording process or listening to the album now and
you’re like, ‘damn, this is deep’? Like you didn’t even know you had some of those thoughts and expression until later and the album was done?
B. Dolan: There’s comic relief throughout the album, I think… Although my sense of humor is pretty dark. For example the line in “Mr. Buddy Buddy” about Nazi paraphernalia tickles me to no end. Gallows humor is my thing. Even “Kitchen Sink” is about some very dark topics, although the beat is upbeat and provides great tension. That song is about agoraphobia, and I was thinking about morbidly obese people through a lot of that. The kind where you have to knock a wall of the house down and crane lift them out when they die. And that’s the jam that everyone gets happy and laughs throughout, and loves to hear live… My mindset has always been oriented like that, for whatever reason. The Diary by Scarface was the first album that made me want to rap, and I could show you raps from when I was 12 years old that are on that kind of dark s**t. You can feel the hand of the dead body.
RubyHornet: How does your music relate to your work with Knowmore.org? Is the music a branch off of the organization or vice versa?
B. Dolan: They’re independent of each other, in my mind. I don’t consciously bring Knowmore.org into my music ever, really. My political art and my political action have always just gone hand in hand, in my life. I wouldn’t want to write about politics without putting my shoulder to the wheel and doing some actual work, and I don’t think I’d be an effective activist without the release-valve that art provides me.
RubyHornet: Does it ever feel like you are fighting a losing battle in a time when Hip Hop music is so image and product driven? Rhymefest was
talking to me yesterday and said he’s so tired of music these days because so much Hip Hop seems to be a commercial for sneakers, clothes etc… Does
it ever feel like you are preaching to the choir?
B. Dolan: I don’t stress about that s**t too much. I’m not someone who pits myself against broad generalizations of rap, in my mind. I f**k with Wayne, and have always checked for Jay-Z, and a million other dudes who rap about clothes and sneakers. Even though I’m not that dude, and in many ways I’m the opposite. I wear clothes til they fall off my body, and I don’t f**k with most of the brands these rappers collect compulsively. In fact, I think if you’re buying anything compulsively you should probably re-assess why the hell you’re doing that. But… I don’t have an ideology that rap has to conform to in order for me to enjoy it. And people continue to f**k with my music. My audience grows when I come back to a city. As long as that’s happening I’m cool. Hip Hop’s got a lot of branches in different directions at this point. I think some individual rappers are wack, but I’m not one to point a finger at a whole style or sub-genre and say ‘this is all trash.’
RubyHornet: The entire album was produced by Alias, was that the intention going in, or did it just work out that way? What has lead to such a working relationship?
B. Dolan: That was the intention from the jump. Producing the entire album was the challenge that Alias wanted to undertake, and likewise I wanted to undertake the challenge of working with only one other person. That was the way the project made sense for both of us. As it turned out, the results were incredible. I think we both pushed each other to our limits in a healthy way, and the result was some of the best s**t either of us have made.
RubyHornet: What does success look like in terms of Fallen House, Sunken City?
B. Dolan: I want this album to lock people in and make them fans. This album combined with the live show that I’m about to take around the world for the next 6 months. The live show will kick their ass, and make them buy the album to take home the boot that keeps on kicking. That way when I come back in 2012 with the Horsemen of the f**king Mayan Apocalypse, there’s no question. You’re ridin with ME.
RubyHornet: What is up next for you in promotion of this record, and knowmore.org ? Where can our readers check out more of B. Dolan?
B. Dolan: FallenHouse.com is the place for exclusive videos, leaks, and tour dates about the album. I’m about to embark on a marathon tour that will include 70 shows in the next 4 months. Starting this Friday I’ll be heading to the UK, Europe, and Ireland, then returning to tour the US and Canada with Sage Francis in May/June. I’ll be promoting Knowmore.org everywhere I go, at the same time people are introduced to the music. Missing the shows that we’re going to be bringing out would be downright irresponsible. We’re burning the whole house down this year.