Completely indifferent to the rules and regulations of the industry, an uncontrollable figure who dignifies and gives meaning to the concept of underground rap, Californian Dave Dub has been going at it for over 20 years, and he's never made the slightest effort to become even remotely famous. All this time, he's been working in the margins, musically, artistically and conceptually. He has gotten fed up with the genre and become enthusiastic about again a few times, he moved to Jamaica, went punk, released material on hard-to-find CD-Rs, tapes and singles, and he never used his network of friends and contacts to get out of his personal corner. He couldn't care less about fame and compliments, and making money with hip hop has never been part of his plan or his life philosophy. Very few people have purer and more ascetic ideas about rap: it's not for nothing that his personal slogan is “I write all my raps as if each was my last”, an unarguable declaration of intent if ever there was one.
One of his friends and partner in crime from the beginning was Peanut Butter Wolf, head honcho at Stones Throw, who has now finally seen his wish fulfilled: he's releasing a Dave Dub album on his label. The MC had always rejected the idea until now, not interested in getting known in wider circles. Luckily, and thanks to producer Tape Mastah Steph's intervention, who has been the rapper's closest collaborator over the years, the elusive MC finally gave his consent. It's as if Peanut Butter Wolf wanted to give him the five minutes of fame and glory that he's always shied away from as an act of poetic justice. But once more, Dave Dub hasn't stepped into the trap and the nets of orthodoxy: for his debut on the Californian imprint, entirely produced by Tape Mastah Steph, the rapper demanded to record it using the same equipment they both started out with all those years ago, an old sampler not even the grouchiest producer would use anymore, and a vintage keyboard that can only be found on eBay.
“The Treatment” might be Dave Dub's debut for Stones Throw, but he maintains the sound, the mystery and the darkness of his clandestine recordings. Nothing has changed. Tape Mastah Steph's production, a formula based on sleepy beats, dark samples and sounds from beyond the grave, maintains his grey sound, his doped tone and his preference for closed spaces, a good way of showing the world where Odd Future got their sound from. It's intentional, vintage horrorcore, maybe as creative self-vindication or maybe as a declaration of principles, or maybe both. Dub does what he does best: write. This is a rapper whose lyrics are abstract and complex, hard to decipher at first, not because he wants to be opaque or cryptic, but because of how he uses brilliant metaphors and parables in his wide range of lexical and thematic resources. He talks a lot about himself and hip hop, among other things, but he does it with imagination and conviction, qualities that are scarce in the upper echelons of the genre these days. Though quality-wise it's not much different from his previous efforts, “The Treatment” is a great opportunity to discover or rediscover one of the best-kept secrets of nineties rap.