Review Summary: Even if alternative hip-hop is not your thing, you will surely be able to appreciate the creativity displayed on ‘Rebel Yellow’6 of 6 thought this review was well written
One of the founders Minnesota based hip-hop collective Doomtree, Cecil Otter is not your typical rapper in any way shape or form; nothing about Cecil Otter is typical: his flow, his beats, his voice, his topics or his skin color. Originally released in 2006 as an “advanced version,” Rebel Yellow
was re-released two years later on Sage Francis’ Strange Famous Records, giving the album some much deserved exposure.
On this completely self-produced album, Cecil Otter really makes an impression not only with his words but with his production and the two instrumental tracks are almost as captivating as the rest of the album. Rebel Yellow
opens with a poem ‘Poet is Rapist’ which talks about how poems won’t change anything, it is a sexual metaphor that explains how the listener gets “Gets f*cked by letters.”
Told in a very graphic manner with only a the light strumming of an acoustic guitar and at the end a booming snare comes in, it’s a very unusual but intriguing track.
Throughout the album, Cecil Otter relies on acoustic guitars to form the backbone of his beats, one of the few exceptions is ‘1999’ which is driven by a music box, and odd choice that somehow works well. Otter is able to convey his emotions, mainly sadness, through his voice, his lyrics and his beats. A melancholic mood is set where simple but beautiful sounds capes create a lush atmosphere with the crackle of vinyl and distant voices, also some well placed vocal samples as shown on ‘Traveling Dunktank’:
“So now I stepped into the side saddle, riding all alone
My only weapon is my mind
That and knowing that the road wrote a story of it’s own entitled
“I am yours to loan, but I ain’t yours to own, no I ain’t yours”
And only open eyes would know the lines and quotes
And no I haven’t always kept my eyes open, so I’m [alone]”
Featuring fellow Doomtree member P.O.S., ‘Traveling Dunktank’ features a haunting vocal samples sprinkled throughout the track but it’s the repetitive “alone” sample that really catches the ear especially done in different cadences. The piano-driven ‘Match Book Diaries’ is another highlight with Otter talking about a girl and spitting out words at a furious pace, he may not impress you with his vocabulary but his masterful use of simple words is astounding.
From the hypnotic guitar of ‘Box Car Diaries’ to the haunting vocal samples of ‘Demon Girl’ the production is unusual but great, it conjures up feelings of nostalgia that match the lyrics “I took your king off his throne but I adopted his vices”
from the disappointingly brief ‘Demon Girl‘. The track ‘Black Rose’ seems oddly out of place, it’s not a bad track but it’s a happier, more upbeat song that goes against the depressive mood set by the rest of the album.
Remember that ear-cutting scene in ‘Reservoir Dogs’? After the movie you would’ve sworn that it was a very graphic, violent scene but in reality, nothing is actually shown, it’s just the mood that is set and the sounds of a screaming man that make it seem that way. Rebel Yellow
plays out in similar fashion, it seems that Cecil Otter bares his soul and tells you his life story but it’s done in such a cryptic manner where nothing is specifically said. The somber mood that is set makes it seem like Otter is an open book when in fact many things are open to different interpretations. Sometimes, things are better left to the imagination.
Box Car Diaries
Match Book Diaries (remix)