Over the last few months, I’ve taken pride in being a writer who revisits projects a little bit after they’ve dropped. Surely I’m one of the many who tunes in to albums immediately upon release and develops a first take based on what I’ve heard. I’ve even taken to publishing reviews based on those thoughts, but we all know sometimes it takes time and repeated listening to truly understand a work of art and articulate its meaning.
Most of the time, I don’t like writing those initial release reviews. Music can be so good that I’m compelled to write something, but I don’t always have to. Not if I can be more informed on the content and have more to say at a later date. What’s the use of 150-300 words on a true piece of art that an artist likely spent well over 150-300 hours total making? That brings me to Crimson Rose by Dezmond Dane, released back on January 11th, 2019.
The 22-year-old from Boston, Massachusetts is true student of the game. Over the course of his musical career, he’s taken to not just mastering writing, but understanding the impact of instrumentation. In addition to developing his abilities in production, engineering, and song structure, he’s like the utility player on your baseball roster. You can put him in the outfield, infield, or behind the plate and he’ll hold it down. Hell, the Boston Red Sox could probably use him right now.
Crimson Rose is a special 39-minute experience, tapping only one feature in Bam Alexander. Over the course of 14 tracks, he displays the internal tension between self-awareness and self-doubt. It tackles his craft, the rap game as a whole, love and various other themes we all encounter in life. Confidence shines through, but recognizable room for growth is consistently acknowledged. He’s open, honest and vulnerable. That type of content always resonates with people, especially when coupled with the sounds he employs.
A standout aspect of the project is Dane’s brooding vocals, though he does indeed show that when the time comes he can pitch it up and step into the land of melody. It’s firm and commands attention, but not so much so that it creates chaos with the beats. Musically, he jumps back and forth between more gentle mixes and then hard, aggressive boppers. The exceptional combination of Hip-Hop, R&B, Soul, and live instrumentation takes this from a good album reverent to each genres’ foundations to a powerful record synthesizing these elements.
“See How It Goes” opens up somewhat somberly, but the song is the complete reverse. Cautious optimism shines through in lines such as “the only thing I know for sure is you’ll never know if you don’t try and see how it goes.” His smooth vocals are filtered to sound as if they’re underwater before he cranks it up and brings the bass we’ve come to know. Dez questions things a lot, but he understands answers can only be found through action and experience.
Four of the 14 songs fall under two minutes, but it’s interesting to see “Perfect Is a Broken Term” be the one he designates as an interlude. The free verse opens in a jam-packed way with “it’s all been accidental, daydreaming about perfection, going past the mental, Mission Impossible, Tom Cruise, no Shmurda samples.”
His visions of perfection aren’t by design but they surely weigh on his mind as an artist. With the knowledge perfection is unattainable, it’s an impossible mission and he references the lead actor Tom Cruise to convey that before flipping the Cruise reference into a nod toward Bobby Shmurda and his immediate party-starter “Computers.” Wow. And that’s all just the first few lines.
Then once you get through the interlude, he hits you with “Journal Entry 1.” Sheesh. “Cause if I snap I’m losing everything, at least a part of it though, it’s repetition, it’s triggering at the thought of it” he adds a minute in after brief mention of Thanos and the Infinity Stone. He jumps into his bag a bit with “my heart is complicated, at least I see it as such, believe the basics is amazing, been mistreated enough, I’d rather be hard to read and start believing in trust, than be crippled by all this weight and see this love as a crutch.”
“Elite 4” almost encompasses the entirety of the album’s concepts. He boasts about his lyrical ability and growth while simultaneously acknowledging the times his bars were weak and nobody cared. He recalls the periods of his life he felt defeated and insecure over this boom-bap, piano-laced B Side. Dane ends the track calling himself the “rose that grew up from concrete,” a famous metaphor we all know. It’s the storytelling prior to that finish line-breaking bar that make it even more powerful.
Having opened up for Bryce Vine and been featured on international music platform COLORS for a performance of his single “Want It All,” Dane’s talent level is clearly beyond just my recognition. Having sat with this project for some time, I can confidently say it is one of my favorite of 2019. And hopefully this helps the album find its way to others ears in the hopes they can feel the same.
In a genre known for bravado and hyper-masculinity, these moments of clarity and genuine expression by a male are gems. It’s poetry in motion. He makes it feel like we’re listening to a performer at a coffee house jam and then other points of the project we’re standing in a circle listening to our homie freestyle. There’s a slight experimental element, but it feels and sounds like he had a clear direction and intent with this project. It’s real and comes from a real place.
Tap into Crimson Rose and keep your eyes peeled. For a student of the game like Dezmond, one can only assume he’s always in the classroom learning something new and thinking about the next project.