Releasing a hip-hop album in the wake of Seth Sentry‘s massive fourth effort Strange New Past would be a daunting task. It is a stellar record, and following that act isn’t enviable. Considering that Aussie hip-hop has seen an injection of vibrant stars in the making like Remi, Tkay Maidza, Ivan Ooze and Baro, the stage has been set for some talented folk to follow up in the year’s to come. One man who can’t be counted out of this cast of characters is Melbourne’s Dylan Joel, the rapping philanthropist now ready to drop his debut album Authentic Lemonade.
Packed with 12 juicy tracks that boast his impressive vocal dexterity, Dylan Joel is ready to stand amongst the most distinguished of Aussie hip-hop with Authentic Lemonade.
Joel has been on the hip-hop scene since 2010, standing out from the crowd with his signature blend of samples and live instrumentation, as well as singing his own hooks. His lyrical matter isn’t so much concerned with ‘making it’, rather he turns his attention to the world around him. Not to mention he’s done a lot of work for charities, setting up the Pop-Up Op-Shop campaign to raise $10,000 for the Australian Himalayan Foundation.
Like his philanthropy, Joel seeks to inject his music with positive messages which is something he stands by firmly. As he says “I don’t see the point in releasing art that’s going to flip someone’s mood or perspective in a negative way. So personally, I want my tracks to have a positive intention for people to connect with. Even when talking on darker topics“. With that in mind, it’s time to dive into his debut album Authentic Lemonade.
Themes of hope, renewal and forgiveness are abundant throughout the album. Joel notes that it wan’t his intention to have common themes running throughout the album, it just stemmed from his mantra of making music that was positive. It’s that genuine character that defines Authentic Lemonade. There’s no ego involved which is as refreshing as a glass of… uh, water, on a hot Summer’s day.
Joel admits that the album was initially meant to be a 7 track EP, but after constantly writing and refining his craft a 12 track full length was born forth. Speaking of the writing process, Joel says “To be honest, if [producer] Cam Bluff and I hadn’t spent so much time on refining the production and incorporating live instrumentation, we would of had this record out 6 months ago.” Which suits Joel well, allowing him to explore his rich musical palette.
The gospel influence peaks on Hope Is… driven by choir vocals and electric piano. It’s a simple little track but resonates long after the track fades out. Others like I Am and closer What’s Good continue on the strong gospel vibes and prove to be highlights of the album. It suits Joel’s voice well and is paired perfectly with his messages of equality and hope.
His vocal versatility remains Joel’s greatest strength as he easily switches from heartfelt crooning to tongue twister rapping to simple spoken word. Tracks Like Dear Baby, Numbers and Blank show off this dexterity quite well. It’s also worth noting how Joel sings his own hooks, playing to his strengths and keeping the focus on his messages rather than having various guests competing for the spotlight.
Co-producer duties fell to Cam Bluff, who has worked with the likes of fellow Aussie hip-hop alumni Hilltop Hoods, Illy and Allday. The partnership between Bluff and Joel is a fruitful one, the pair capturing Joel’s charm whilst pushing him to further develop his flow. “Creating the record with Cam was unreal” says Joel. “It’s a pretty big call to work with one producer on an entire record. Ideas, approach, creative direction, can all become personal things with art, so working with someone else can be super difficult. Best part was, we pretty much never had an issue. We knew what we wanted to make and the process of doing so was almost too easy. So much that we’re already collabing on new joints! Team game strong!”
Authentic Lemonade is a strong debut for Joel. It’s not the game changer that Seth Sentry’s Strange New Past was, but that’s not the task Joel has set for himself. “There was definitely a drive for me to want to expand my sound and capabilities. So I had the intention of upping my own game for sure” he candidly says. He’s not a man who’s out to be the best, but to be the best he can be. That’s the character of this record; an album made better by an artist who is constantly striving to be more than the sum of his parts. Authentic Lemonade is an ambitious project, and it’s one that pays off well.
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