Album of the Day: The Doppelgangaz, “Beats For Brothels, Vol. 4”

For the last decade, the Doppelgangaz—the New York-based duo of childhood friends Matter Ov Fact and EP—have operated according to weird, graphic specifics: a distinctive mix of demented nonsense and highly-specific culinary boasts. Listen to “Roll Flee,” a highlight off 2017’s Dopp Hopp, and you’ll hear EP namedrop a fancy Manhattan sushi restaurant in the same breath as he reveals a skin condition (“He got zoster…omekase from Masa / Dipping on the bill, for real cause a disaster”). Every Doppelgangaz song is a new, non-sequitur entry in a Jackass-like mockumentary.

But because they’ve fashioned themselves as such caricature rappers, their work as producers has often been overlooked. In parallel to their normal release schedule, they’ve even maintained a series of instrumental releases called Beats for Brothels. In their raps, they pull up a stool at the bar, lean in, and overshare; in their beat tapes, they soundtrack the debauchery and fade into the scenery. To that end, the project’s newest, fourth installment feels no less essential than one of their regular albums.

In their early years, the Doppelgangaz stuck primarily to dark and dusty boom bap tracks, built around beats that felt boxy, nostalgic, and simple. Since then, they’ve incorporated more fluid atmospheres and contemporary stylistics into their sound; with Dopp Hopp and last May’s AAAAGGGHH, they completed a turn towards trappy R&B and slinky G-funk. Beats for Brothels, Vol. 4 stays the course, with a multitude of tracks that almost sound like they could be reference demos for a new Dr. Dre album.

Even without their storytelling, Beats for Brothels, Vol. 4 still nods at the usual Doppelgangaz schtick with song titles like “Iberico Ham” (a grimy, jazzed-up loop) and “Tripel Ale” (a funky pizzicato-laced shuffle). Then there’s “Martini,” sticking a conga line at the bottom of the mix and a chorus of bells on top, as if the Doppelgangaz were floating the idea: how would a hole-in-the-wall bar in the tropics soundtrack their annual Christmas party? Such is their knack for conjuring a scene, which happens to be the same trick they pitch with their raps: launching us full force into their unique, weird, wild world.

-Jay Balfour

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