Monday, November 27, 2006

Handle the truth

The first time I met D'angelo was in a nightclub in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom. A promoter was showcasing several local rap acts, among them a group called "Dirty Souls," a rap duo that included Marlon C., who was known around town as D'angelo's cousin. Dirty Souls were heads and shoulders above the average plain brown rapper that night and proved it with a song about masturbation that was based on The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Me and My Bitch." I remember one of Richmond's brighter talents, Danja Mowf, telling me that he wished he had thought of that.

After the show, Marlon talked about his record deal and sitting across the table from Sylvia Rhone as promises were made. Despite his cousin's popularity and pull with the label, the group was dropped without even releasing a single. I kept in touch with Marlon for awhile after the show and I remember him being a little bitter about how things went down.

The next time I heard Marlon C. was on a song called "Talk S**t to Ya," and which was almost good enough to redeem the ill-conceived coming of age movie it supported. It was bluesy and soulful with a hip hop edge, without being contrite or predictable, like that song Nas made with his pops. Despite help from his famous cousin on the track, labels didn't take notice. I didn't hear much about Marlon for awhile, until a friend told me he was opening for national acts at a local concert series ... with a guitar. What?

Three weeks ago, I notice a poster for a Marlon C. release as I was leaving my friendly neighborhood record store. I went back and and picked up the last copy of Ain't That Da' Truth Listening to the CD I was reminded of the rumors that Marlon was often an unattributed contributor to D'angelo's sound. Unpolished and raw, maybe this what Richmond's infamous recluse would sound like without a hefty production budget and "help" from seasoned songwriters.

On "Ain't That Da' Truth," Marlon C. manages to establish his own identity with unique phrasing, solid songwriting and a reverence for the spirits of soul music. Despite the tired skits that fill the CD, it's clear he's not just talking sh** anymore.

No comments: