A Brilliant EP with a couple of rough spots
Uncle Doughboy was born and raised near the San Francisco Bay, and it’s long been conjectured that there’s something in the Bay Area water that breeds musicians. Uncle Doughboy is no different. He began writing music at the age of seven, and has been lauded for his work in both hip-hop and rock. Originally trading simply under the name Doughboy, Uncle Doughboy has returned as a more mature and world-wise artist. His most recent effort, The Uncle Doughboy EP, shows an artist more confident in his songwriting abilities and more in touch with the world around him.
Uncle Doughboy kicks things off with the jaunty but dark feel of "Who Woulda Thought", an eclectic musical exploration that has blues, pop and hard boiled singer-songwriter influences in its roots. Uncle Doughboy is engaging as he switches back and forth between a John Popper-esque chest voice and a floaty falsetto that's exceedingly pleasant. "Tahiti" is a love song about a surprise second honeymoon wrapped up in a messy reggae jam that resolves into a straight ahead pop chorus. The piano is overly insistent in the chorus and becomes a distraction, but the song in general is well-written.
"Ordinary" is a classic pop song with an old school feel; the sort that gets stadium crowds swaying on a summer night. This is a brilliant piece of songwriting, and Uncle Doughboy croons the hell out of it. "Outta Here" is a suburban escapist daydream with a quietly infectious groove. It's hard not to get caught up in the moment here as Uncle Doughboy captures a bit of a Dave Matthews feel. "Craaazy!" is a peaceful call to arms for the theoretical 99%. The song is very entertaining while addressing issues of social and financial injustice and hinting at where it might all lead. "Antoinette" sounds like a retrospective love song, but is so lyrically thin and repetitive it’s hard to really know what it's all about. It's a decent enough piece, but doesn't fit in well here. Uncle Doughboy takes a bow with "C'est Si Bon", a solid closer with a light dance beat.
Uncle Doughboy starts strong and finishes light on The Uncle Doughboy EP. There's some truly fabulous songwriting here, and Uncle Doughboy is the real deal as a vocalist a d performer. Stop after five songs and this would be an utterly brilliant effort. As things stand it’s a brilliant EP with a couple of rough spots and still very much worth spending some time on.
Artist: Uncle Doughboy
Title: The Uncle Doughboy EP
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Review by: Wildy Haskell
Tuneful, infectious, melodic and easy to absorb - Alex Henderson's Review
Fans of hip-hop-era blaxploitation films (that is, blaxploitation films of the 1990s, 2000s and early 2010s as opposed to the old-school Pam Grier, Fred Williamson and Richard Roundtree movies of the 1970s) won’t have a hard time figuring out how Uncle Doughboy (UncleDoughboy.com) got that name. Doughboy was a character in director John Singleton’s 1991 film Boyz N the Hood (which was named after a 1986 gangsta rap classic by the late N.W.A member/solo artist Eric “Eazy-E” Wright), and Uncle Doughboy did, in fact, get his stage name from that character in Singleton’s movie. Some listeners, understandably, will assume that Uncle Doughboy is a rapper, but The Uncle Doughboy EP is not hip-hop per se. Rather, the California-based Uncle Doughboy is an alternative pop-rock singer with a strong hip-hop influence, which is not to say that one can expect to hear a great deal of rapping on this self-produced 2012 release. Uncle Doughboy does incorporate some rapping on “Craaazy!,” but about 95% of the vocals on The Uncle Doughboy EP are singing rather than rapping. Rhythmically, however, the hip-hop influence is hard to miss on “Who Woulda Thought,” “Outta Here,” “C’est Si Bon” and other funky selections on this CD (which Uncle Doughboy has self-released on his own label, Dough’s Place Recordings).
Uncle Doughboy’s sound is best described as an intriguing combination of the Dave Matthews Band and Billy Joel, with elements of everything from hip-hop and soul to cabaret to world music incorporated. Alternative pop-rock is the main ingredient, but hip-hop, soul, world music and cabaret are attractive secondary ingredients.
In addition to having a definite hip-hop influence, the infectious “Craaazy!” employs a Middle Eastern-flavored melody. The rapping section on “Craaazy!” is overtly political, using some of the terminology of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Uncle Doughboy mentions that his neighborhood is full of “99 Percenters” and that large mega-banks (which Occupy Wall Street has been vehemently critical of) would like to foreclose on some of the homeowners who are among his neighbors. The Uncle Doughboy EP on the whole isn’t terribly political, but “Craaazy!” is easily the disc’s most political offering.
“Tahiti” is another track with a world music influence, although not world music in an Arabic or Middle Eastern sense. Instead, “Tahiti” has a strong Caribbean flavor, employing elements of Jamaican reggae and Trinidadian calypso. Tahiti, of course, is not in the Caribbean. It is in the South Pacific, and the distance from Tahiti to Jamaica is more than 5,000 miles. But Tahiti, like Jamaica or Trinidad and Tobago, has a hot, sunny, balmy climate. And the fact that Uncle Doughboy chose to depict Tahiti using a Caribbean/tropical flavor rather than a South Pacific/tropical flavor is not a problem. The Californian wanted to make listeners think of venturing to a tropical environment, and “Tahiti” achieves that with evocative results.
Despite the fact that Uncle Doughboy employs such a variety of influences on The Uncle Doughboy EP, this 2012 release never sounds overly abstract and never comes across as cerebral for the sake of being cerebral. Actually, songs like “C’est Si Bon, “Tahiti” and “Who Woulda Thought” are tuneful, infectious, melodic and easy to absorb. “Antoinette” has a certain immediacy, as do “Craaazy!,” “Outta Here” and the sentimental “Ordinary.”
Some alternative pop-rock singers have sounded very self-conscious or awkward when they incorporated hip-hop, but when Uncle Doughboy incorporates hip-hop on “Craaazy!,” “Who Woulda’ Thought,” “Outta Here” or “Ordinary,” he sounds perfectly comfortable doing so. He sounds like someone who has been listening to hip-hop for so long that it has rubbed off on him in a totally natural way. Uncle Doughboy is 34, which means that he was born in the late 1970s and isn’t old enough to remember a time when hip-hop wasn’t popular.
Uncle Doughboy’s eclectic tastes serve him consistently well on this memorable release.
The Uncle Doughboy EP
Review by Alex Henderson
4 stars (out of 5)