Review: B. Dolan – House of Bees Vol. 2

Review: B. Dolan – House of Bees Vol. 2

So many mixtapes suck, you get one or two strong tracks buried in ten to twelve half-developed verses over radio-friendly beats. On “House of Bees Vol. 2”, B. Dolan and Buddy Peace don’t waste any time with fillers. There’s a solid foundation of songs that could make up a full-length album along with crew tracks, remixes, and a bonus live recording.

This mixtape allows Dolan to collaborate with Rhymesayer Toki Wright, Pittsburgh activist Jasari X, label mates Metermaids, label head Sage Francis, and others. But, while the collaborations provide Dolan an opportunity to express political discourse and have fun with rap supafriendz, the strongest songs on the album are Dolan’s solo tracks where he addresses personal loss, flexes lyrical muscle, and states his political and professional points of view.

The album is framed by personal opening and closing tracks in which Dolan addresses the 2010 loss of his father, who was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in the span of eight months. On the opener, Still Here, Dolan describes grappling with the senselessness in the cycle of relentless touring, self-promotion, and releasing albums in light of losing a parent. Ultimately Dolan expresses finding strength in carrying on his dad’s legacy.

Dolan, who shares his father’s name raps, “Never have what I lost, nothing be worth the cost, never be unbroken, and never have him there, but so long as I breath air B. Dolan’s still here.” The closer Feel So Different is the first track B. Dolan recorded after his father passed. The track is a raw grief-stricken lament over a self produced demo beat that starts with his dad’s outgoing voicemail message, which Dolan included for posterity.

Between the emotional first and last tracks and among the remixes and collaborations are solo highlights King Bee, Which Side Are You On?, and Tin Soldiers.

The Bluesy beat on King Bee is infectious and forms a perfect back drop for Dolan to warn wet-behind-the-ears rappers of the pitfalls in the music industry and brag about the power of building a fan base by taking the music on the road. On Which Side Are You On? Dolan attacks apathy and social injustice. He notes “It’s my duty to be clear about who I’m allied with and whose side I’m on” regarding the track’s lyrical attack on homophobes, misogynists, greed, and apathy. The track samples a folk song written by the daughter and wife of working class coal miners standing up for their rights in the 1930s, and shows the cultural rebellion once found in Folk music has migrated to today’s hip hop.

Preceding the album closer and bonus tracks is the polarizing Tin Soldiers, a track warning young people of the predatory nature of military enlistment tactics, the emotional toll of being a service member, and the realities faced by returning veterans. The direct nature of the track is reminiscent of fellow rapper Sole’s style, who recently tweeted “House of Bees Vol. 2” is “original, poignant, politics on point, great listen, album of the year so far.”

Check out the video below where B. Dolan joins together with Sage Francis (as Epic Beard Men) to trade bars back and forth explaining how dummies fuck up in rap on the track 2Bad.

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