Dino – Dinology – EP Review
An emcee that’s always welcome on our playlist here, word on the street is that rapper Dino is set to take over 2018 with a ton of music coming out this year. That’s what’s good as far this year and I’m concerned…awesome to know this charismatic entertainer is still out there doin’ his thang. The man was undeniably impressive the last time I reviewed his music, back in 2016 with the release of the Pure EP – pretty safe to say I’ve been a fan since and have all the confidence in the fact he’ll crush it once again on his latest record, Dinology. Dude’s just got so much personality in his cuts every time that you can’t help but notice just how tapped into his style & sound he really is…Dino keeps the focus on-lock.
“It is what it is” – the vocal sample finishes up, the intro breaks down, and Dino launches into his latest on the opening cut “Ain’t Fair.” Seriously dig the beat…it’s got a haunting atmosphere to the sound and plenty of space for Dino to stretch out and do what he does best. It doesn’t take long for his signature approach to come roaring through the mic, confidently tackling complex bars and creating consistently interesting lyrics to get your head around. “Ain’t Fair” comes out swinging boldly, but still gives this record somewhere to go afterwards and build on the intensity started here. I have a slight suspicion that the main chorus hooks of “Ain’t Fair” might take a couple spins to sink in for most people…the tone in that part is right on the line of what might make it entirely memorable for some, maybe slightly wide of the mark for others. It’s almost too close to call…the writing and flow of the hook itself is rock-solid, it’s the tones, layers, and effects that create a more flat or dissonant sound. Don’t get me wrong, I still dig the menacing vibe of the cut overall and think Dino really brings it to the verse flawlessly, bar after bar. As for the chorus, I think it has the kind of hook that truly DOES stand out to the ears…for better or for worse when it comes to the public reaction to “Ain’t Fair,” bottom-line is that it will get the people talkin’ and that can be just as crucial when it comes to getting a song out there. I’ve got no problem admitting that no matter how jarring I found the hook at times, it still worked for me…the more I heard it, the more I was convinced that it’s somewhat awkward tones were much more of an asset than any kind of liability. It’s highly memorable…ultimately, that’s going to work out in this emcee’s favor.
For myself personally, I felt like Dino smoothed-out every potential issue quickly on this record and got himself sorted out to go on a serious roll from “I’m On” to the end of the Dinology EP. Again, just to be clear, “Ain’t Fair” starts the experience out on great energy – and at the end of the day, the last thing you’d ever want is for a record to have nowhere to go after track one. So while it’s a decent first cut, it’s only natural to expect that Dino’s gonna amp-up the ideas from there, which he does immediately on the intensely rhythmic hooks of “I’m On.” The man brings humor to the mic several times throughout this second cut, while taking the entire vibe into seriously gangster terrain…it’s like Nelly traded the band-aid in for a baseball bat & some steroids – this track is HUGE and rolls DEEP. One of my favorite performances from Dino on the mic from this entire record, the bars in the verses of “I’m On” are insanely cool and delivered with style dripping from every syllable. Solid beat and low-end combination keeps the atmosphere sounding dangerous & menacing, setting the stage for Dino to bring lyrical mayhem to the mic and set this mother off. As far as the chorus goes, this is nailing it as hard as it gets with the rhythmic flow of “I’m On” taking that energy up to personal-anthem proportions. Seriously…test this out…turn this cut up loud on the way to a club on a Friday night and see if it doesn’t fill you with ALL the confidence you need to bring home them digits…or perhaps even more. Point being – this is another example of how Dino’s music will grab hold of your attention & straight-up change the entire energy and flow of your DAY for the better homies.
“It’s On” also has the first of two back-to-back shout-outs to Bruce Willis that you’ll find on the EP, FYI. You know, in case anyone out there is keeping score on that…I feel like, as a people, we should be collectively recording these stats for historical preservation. And someone call up Bruce and let him know what’s up – he gets mad props on Dinology and just might want to bump “It’s On” and “Don’t Wanna Werk” on his iPod. He’s already a kickass movie star…but imagine driving around one of your friends – and let’s just say that friend is Bruce Willis, and you’re listening to a rad new track you’ve never heard, then the man on the mic shouts out his name outta nowhere – I mean, that’s pretty much the exact moment that the smart-ass smirk on Bruce Willis’ face was made for, ain’t it?
The middle of this record reveals what I’d consider to be one of the main influences I can hear in Dino’s music…and mind you, I’m just assuming this…but it sure sounds like he’s been listening to some T.I. up real loud over there where he’s at when you listen to “Don’t Wanna Werk” and “Lavish” back-to-back. “Don’t Wanna Werk” might be all about not wanting to DO the ‘Werk’ – but this track DOES ‘Werk’ son! Definitely an early highlight on the Dinology EP…the vocal-flow he’s found on this cut has brilliant energy in it that will pump you right up to the point where you’ll lace-up them sneaks and try to take over the streets on your own. It’s insightfully written and actually quite prophetic…the imagery in Dino’s words speaks on the state of the world we’re in right now and hints at what the results might lead to. “Don’t Wanna Werk” is just as smart as it is entertaining…a ton of people will turn this one up as their anti-work anthem without fully grasping onto the meaning behind the words if they ain’t listening closely. HUGE hooks in this third cut that can’t be denied…if it’s between “Don’t Wanna Werk” and “Lavish” as to which is the most single-worthy, I’d probably give the edge to the vibrant punch of “Don’t Wanna Werk” by just a fraction for the production and mix being so spot on & maximizing every moment. I dig “Lavish” a lot and think that overall, the main hooks of the chorus are likely some of the strongest you’ll find on this entire EP. I think there’s a bit of dust in the production of “Lavish” that holds it back from sparkling and shining its brightest – but if we’re talking about straight-up potential for accessibility and crossover appeal, you pretty much can’t beat this cut. Well…that is…until “Heaven Made” begins.
Taking the record in a more personal, intimate and up-close direction, he sounds like he’s right there rapping for us directly on the humble cut “Heaven Made.” As far as I’ve read, Dino’s setting his rhymes to instrumentals from Boss Beatz – and well then, SHOUT OUT to that crew for creating a really killer vibe on “Heaven Made” that hits the mark with the slickness of Robin Hood splitting the arrow. I’m not usually one to recommend putting out the slow-jams as a single…but this cut’s got that potential between the beat and what Dino brings to it. Like many artists out there, especially in the rap-game, Dino has many cuts that dig into what the struggle & grind are like as he’s making his way – in fact, I’d argue that one of his most admirable attributes is that fact that he’s able to communicate just how much this all means to him so effectively. I’d also argue that his story has never sounded quite as sincere as it does on “Heaven Made” – this is smoother-than-smooth and he’s got incredibly expressive tones in his voice that match the chilled-out energy & vibe of this cut flawlessly without sacrificing any of the intensity/meaning behind the words. When Dino raps out the line “Success is in reach, I can see it – and I want it badly” you can absolutely hear how genuine that moment is…probably the highlight line of the whole EP for me. It might not be as complex or humorous as some of the other amazing things he’s pointed out, said & rapped along the way – but there’s something so real about this particular moment that it felt like the main statement to be absorbed by listening between the lines of this record. And I don’t know who’s singing the sample in the hook of this cut…but that’s just perfection and such a complementary part of the structure that eases us right out of the verse and invites us right in to the welcoming & comforting sound of the vocals in the chorus. No matter how you slice it, “Heaven Made” stands-out as a highlight of humble sincerity on the Dinology EP…it’s a brilliant cut all the way through.
“Pressure Points” has some of the best lyrical flow from Dino that you’ll find on this record. He raps remarkably clearly and confidently on this cut, which is essential to the writing here…it’s what ties in the concepts in the lyricism and translates the feeling, sentiment, and intentions of the song directly to us. Featuring the inspired tones of Teddy B providing the hooks, I can imagine this track could potentially be a favorite on the record for many out there with the added brightness she brings to Dino’s sound. The man is definitely a wordsmith – and I’d certainly say he’s even improved from where we last left off with the Pure EP – Dino clearly continued to evolve and refine his sound…you gotta admire his dedication to the art & craft. And am I crazy, or did he just make a sly reference to the old-school rap crew of Tag Team while rapping bars in a similar style just moments before? I don’t think I’m crazy at all…I think that’s exactly what he’s doing there. I love clever ideas like this within the framework of larger concepts…just that tiny nod of respect to a couple homies that helped pave the way for where Dino and his music now exist and thrive today. Real balance in this cut from verse to chorus…arguably one of the most ‘mature’ sounds in Dino’s catalog as a professional…”Pressure Points” sounds exceptionally well put together and tight like he’s been a veteran of the scene for decades. Definitely one of the cuts on this record with the most potential to travel far & wide to listening ears out there…it’s got great depth in its sound and “Pressure Points” has the attention to detail required to make every second stand out.
What a way to end the record! Title-track – “Dinology” – c’mon people, this is style at its finest on the mic. LISTEN to the sound of Dino’s voice and how focused this performance is…dude is crushin’ it here. He’s got killer pace to the lyricism here, which has him putting in large doses of character into every line. It’s a highly poetic final song really…you can hear how he’s changed-up his style & flow here once again to bring something new to the record and put another dimension of his sound on display. In my opinion, this is what it’s all about though…artists like Dino get that they’ve gotta mix up their style, energy and flow to suit the track – but more importantly, understand that this is what makes a cut connect to those of us listening. It’s that commitment, that focus, that true-grit and courage to hold nothing back and get right into the moment for the benefit of the song & the art – that’s where an artist like Dino truly excels on a track like “Dinology,” or throughout the record for that matter. I dig the added seriousness & weight that comes along with this biographical cut…like he’s saying, ‘it’s what’s inside of me’ – you really get insight into the real Dino on this final track and see it all through his perspective. He’s got a true gift with words and he’s put that right in the spotlight on every opportunity & set of bars he’s been rhyming on – Dinology is further proof that this emcee can light up the mic at any time and keep the cuts flowing and highly entertaining at all times. It can all be traced back to the fact that Dino is hungry for the mic at all times – and it’s because of that relentless determination and authentic drive that this emcee remains one of the most exciting out there in the game right now.
Dinology is due out officially on March 2nd of this year – make sure to stay tuned to the details & find out more about Dino at his official pages below:
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