Plucked off the turbulent streets of Philadelphia at the tender age of fifteen, Dice Raw has spent the majority of his youth barnstorming the globe as The Roots’ unofficial member. With his debut, Reclaiming The Dead, Dice makes it clear that his mission centers predominantly on reinstating the old-school aesthetics Y2K hip-hop fans have become so disenfranchised from; Dice reiterates this predication by enlisting forgotten Philly pioneer EST from Three Times Dope to drop a few choice words on his “Intro”.
Yet, EST is not preaching to the choir. Reason being, Dice is neither assertive, nor convincing in the pursuit of this ideology, as Reclaiming is swayed by a myriad of outdated concepts and contradictory sentiments. On the LP’s most essential track, “Lockdown” f/ Malik B and Black Thought, Dice flips the script on commercial rappers, comparing them to rats in a cage “they got us locked down/in a cell under the ground/trying to push for a mainstream sound”. While this analogy is uttered with a hint of animosity, Dice frequently succumbs to beast he strives to tame.
Though Dice flashes the lyrical prowess he exhibited on early Roots bangers with, “Lava” and the spacey “Kamal Beat” where he boasts “if Jesus could rap/he couldn’t fuck with me.” Even Dice’s repertoire of braggadocios battle rhymes cannot make amends for a host of blatant crossover attempts “Raw Sex” and oft-used samples “If I Only Had Words”; which interpolates Cleveland’s “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” for the zillionth time.
If Reclaiming The Dead proves anything, it proves that Dice is most-comfortable in his original surroundings. Malik B, and Black Thought’s inclusion on “Lockdown”, and “Thin Line (Between Raw And Jiggy)” provides a necessary checks and balance that forces Dice to spit at a higher-level of efficiency. On “Retreat To This” Dice laments “this game will cost you everything/your innocence/first and last months rent.” Unfortunately, the price Dice pays for his mediocre debut will cost more then that, as it may cost him some street-credibility.
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