It’s been an incredible year for Brisbane emcee I AM D. While he’s always had a certain level of hype since he was awarded the coveted Hilltop Hoods grant back in 2014, there’s definitely been alot more energy around him now following his more recent tracks.
After releasing three solid, 90s influenced, boom-bap EPs, his latest tracks Hit Em’ and Budget were something of a surprise. While he still embodied his tactful flow and next level lyricism that we saw in the past, it was now over fresh, trap influenced beats, a change which has only done wonders to D’s sound and style, allowing him to not only push his own boundaries, but boundaries of the Australian scene too.
His latest project embodies this change fully. With production handled entirely by one of his hometown’s finest James Angus, aka Jangus, aka Uncle Juice, I AM D’s EP Mirrors Never Told Nice Stories (M.N.T.N.S), was always going to be high quality. But the result is even better, delivering 30 minutes of cutting edge hip-hop.
Opening number Loco immediately exhibits this fresher sound; it’s bright and bubbly and based in synths, but still banging with the help of Jangus’ heavy 808s. As we are greeted to D’s first verse on the project, it becomes clear that all attention is on the hooks throughout, with each replay feeling catchier than the last. Matching this fun and upbeat vibe, D comically touches on how open he is as a person, and discusses a number of issues that have appeared in his personal life. The result is a track which brilliantly balances catchiness with deep and sharp lyricism.
Ramping up the energy, Check Back really proves D’s skills as an emcee. With a pan flute serving a melodic twist, driven by constantly raging trap kits, it almost reaches grime territory with such an uptempo instrumental. Despite this I AM D manages to body the beat entirely, with a crazy double time flow; it’s impossible not to get fired up. He continues the themes of his daily life, while he and regular collaborator Tides flip the negative scenario of not being paid by promoters into this absolutely memorable banger.
Seven Deuce follows next, and continues to bridge the gap between the D’s older boom-bap sound, and the more expansive beats here. This is not a radio-friendly track, but one for the purists; 72 straight bars, there’s no sugar coated hooks or catchy twangs here, just brutally raw raps, where D aggressively vents about a number of topics which have vexed him as an emcee. Easily one of the most ferocious Australian tracks this year.
Just as you thought his EP couldn’t possibly bring any more heat, Win Win comes through. He details his impressive work ethic, combined with a constantly evolving and craftily melodic flow, and heavy hooks; all in all this is as engaging as it comes.
Family is the roughest and toughest track on the EP, with a dark, booming beat, and some of I AM D’s strongest verses ever. Tackling incredibly deep and personal themes, D outlays his past and current struggles with chronic illness, running through its effects over the years. The result is a truly perspective-changing anthem which goes a long way in contrasting everyday problems to the deeper ones.
While Family came through with brutally aggressive rhymes regarding his chronic illness, Fall Apart puts more of an emotional twist on his tale, showing yet another angle of his struggles. Driven by emotive piano melodies and snapping drums, this is certainly the most moving and introspective track.
Final track One For You is a heartfelt, inward-looking romantic invitation. Another beautiful key and synth driven track, I AM D goes on to reflect on the years where his health faded, a time where he was unable to focus on romance, and the journey to build his confidence and well-being back once again. Yet another array of slick lines and wordplay, combined with more jaw-dropping two-time raps, it’s a powerful end to an incredible project.
Taking these overseas influences and flipping them in his own unique way, I AM D is undoubtably breaking down the conventions and sounds we might expect from “Australian hip-hop.” Unapologetically Australian, with brutal bars and dextrous, detailed lyricism, I AM D is among the best of the new generation, and he’s only just getting started. There’s no doubt this powerful release will spark a lot for D, and damn we can’t wait to see.
Listen to the full EP here, and if you live around Brisbane make sure you catch his EP Launch party, live dates below!
I AM D Live Dates
M.N.T.N.S. EP Launch Party
Saturday 17 December,
Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane
Image: Sean Pyke