A vision that was so simple, yet simultaneously elaborate. Upper Class Entertainment’s head honcho Twondon and his longtime running buddy Dolla$ignDunn take a lot of pride in where they come from. It was time to put that on full display. How, though? You probably aren’t actually asking that because it’s simple, as stated above.
Make a project that feels like summertime in the Garden State. Have every single hand on deck be residents of New Jersey. Keep it strong, yet concise. Remind folks what they can do together, but take things to the next level.
Now, that sounds easy but consider everything releasing a project takes. Writing, recording somewhere, finding beats, mixing, mastering, cover art, features, interludes, promotion. The informed know that NJ has a rich history within Hip-Hop, but as of late one might say Jersey’s quiet in comparison to other regions. I’d simply point them to these two, among various other acts doing their thing.
Summertime in Jersey kicks off with interlude “20 Minutes Away”. Twon entering his whip and reciting some of his own “Benz Coupe” lyrics you hear in the very next song on the project before he gets a call. It’s someone wondering where he is, and he gives the universal measure of time in response – 20 minutes. Clever foreshadowing as this collaborative effort is nine songs over that amount of time.
Listening to this gives me multiple feelings. Being so short in length, I liken the project to an actual 20-minute car ride. Perhaps people don’t think as deeply as I do, but the first song sets the tone for my energy over a drive. “Benz Coupe” is complete boss talk. The soulful, airy production reminds me of some of Rick Ross and JAY-Z‘s best work.
Coincidentally, I often feel Twondon is at his best over beats like this. Though his flows are chill and calculating, he’s very punctual. He emphatically says certain words to really drive his punchlines home. Dolla$ignDunn matches that flow, but his voice is a lot more gritty. There’s an edge to everything he says.
In the end, both leave no room for doubt about the fact they live this life and there are still several places they can take it. I envision them riding in a car together having a conversation in this track. Twondon is the driver who has to focus on the road but still deliver coherent sentences, so there’s not as much of an audible sense of urgency because his mind is split. An analogy that can be broadened to his entire life, being both rapper and businessman.
Dolla$ign is the passenger with no concerns other than what is playing on the aux and enjoying the ride. Thus, his diction is less filtered but don’t mistake that for a lack of clarity. A personal favorite of mine on this project is “No Sweat” and Dunn doesn’t miss there. He delivers a simple, repetitive hook but c’mon we aren’t here for the hooks in Jersey are we? We want bars!
Bars are here in excess, and it’s uptempo energy. It’s a lyrical exhibition that the women can twerk to. It doesn’t get better than that, but then Twon comes in and puts a bow over the present that is this record. It was nice to hear TwonDon at that BPM, changing cadences and genuinely sounding like he enjoyed rapping over the beat. Hearing what feels like fun in someone’s music never gets old.
The overall project, aside from feeling like a 20-minute car ride, also reminds me of the transition from day to night. “Benz Coupe” is the daytime where the bros link up pregame, catch some pictures, and mob together wherever the night takes them. “No Sweat” is the actual function when the sun goes down a bit and people are feeling like cutting up.
“Wings” is another favorite, opening with a familiar voice. None other than DJ Showtime Mike out of Englewood, NJ, who’s supported Twon on as a stage DJ for multiple shows recently, namely SOBs opening up for Benny The Butcher. Showtime enthusiastically encourages Dunn to remind listeners and other rappers that he isn’t new to this, he’s true to this. His ensuing performance surely lends itself to that reality.
The classic “boom-bap” feel is characteristic of the project as a whole. As stated before, it’s not about mindless catchy hooks. They say enough to solidify a theme, but the meat is really in the verses. There are quotables galore out here, but none hit harder than “In August thinking about Christmas.”
It’s not a lie. I feel like every time I turn around there’s something new from these guys. This will be Twondon’s third project since November 2018, which may not seem like a lot but when you consider some artists take years to deliver one project and the overall saturation of music, having three projects (Cheers 2 Us All, Sorry 2 Bother U, and SIJ) all standing out as quality is nothing to overlook.
Dunn’s sitting on two singles currently, “Crocodile Leather” and “Denim Flow.” 2018 EP Sign Language is still getting spins, especially standout track “Camera Shy.” I can’t help but think this project with Twon is a warning shot, and a sign of more to come.
Ah, Jersey. This is a song for you. Multiple songs rather. A dedication to the Garden State Parkway, the Taylor ham, the people who pump gas for you, and the rappers making it happen despite being across the bridge from the place where most feel like rap careers are best suited. It’s one thing to step into that arena and flourish, but it’s another to make your home state pop in a time where many may not be checking for it as much.
They should. Don’t let summer pass you by before sliding over to our lovely state. However, if not, this project will give you a 20-minute glimpse of what it’s like. If all goes right, like the outro says, perhaps we will “See You Next Summer.” Tap into Twondon and Dolla$ignDunn’s newest work. It’s rooted much deeper than just the music.