Music Review – Whittier Alliance

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By Kristine Volovsek

Whittier Alliance is Haphduzn’s debut album produced by Dimitry Killstorm. With 14 tracks, it has a good length – just under 50 minutes. The first thoughts I had after listening to this album were something like “woah… rough life, yo…” You can tell that Haphduzn’s a little older and more mature than many other rappers starting out today. I don’t mean any disrespect by that, I just mean that instead of rapping about partying and girls he’s rapping about being sober, raising kids, and about how he’s overcome a lot of struggles. The album name is a reference to the Whittier neighborhood both Haphduzn and Dimitry Killstorm are residents of. Whittier Alliance doesn’t sugarcoat a damn thing, and cunningly blends old sounds with new. It’s reminiscent of the gangsta rap from years ago but with a lighter feel.

The theme of Whittier Alliance can best be summed up on Haphduzn’s Facebook page where he said that “Music is one of the only mediums that can bring people from different walks of life together. Which in turns makes each of our struggles more relateable/bearable.” Haphduzn is proud of where he came from – proud of his ‘hood and, despite the hardships, his family. Whittier Alliance’s album cover is a photo of Haphduzn’s grandmother as a young woman. She was pretty much the one who raised him.

Dimitry Killstorm did a phenomenal job with these beats. Clever sampling helps express love for their neighborhood and fans as opposed to romantic interests. Local favorites like Slug and Greg Grease are featured in some of the songs on this album as well.

“Brand New Nostalgia” is my favorite track on Whittier Alliance. It’s just smooth. The song is about how trends are cyclical and to “Respect your predecessors; they paved the way for Pro Tools.” Haphduzn even throws in a few jabs at hipsters and scenesters. Classic. While watching the video for this song you might recognize some familiar faces from the Twin Cities’ hip hope scene http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18qn70Jswi8.

“Carpe Diem” is another one that flows super smoothly. Haphduzn briefly alludes to using drugs in the past but that he has a commitment to sobriety. “Headphones, Trunks, & Boxes” is another favorite of mine. Not only is the beat super fun and impossible not to bob your head to, but they make a reference to one of my first employers “more styles in my catalog than Eastbay.” I used to work for Eastbay back in Wisconsin, and not too many people around here know that the company was actually started by a couple of guys selling shoes out of the trunk of their car.

“Have My Doubts” is the most autobiographical track on Whittier Alliance. Haphduzn raps about some of the struggles he’s been through and witnessed. “You may say it’s strength but I have my doubts, drew the short straw when God passed ‘em out. Some of us have it rougher than the rest. Not sure if it’s a gift or we suffering from neglect… now you understand why I’m post-traumatic.” I thought “Smoke Break” was humorously titled as there are no lyrics on the track, not even in the samples – a perfect little intermission.

In an interview with City Pages’ Gimme Noise, Haphduzn said “Human beings are complicated. We’re not simple. We’re spiritual beings, we’re flesh and bones. We have bad circumstances that sometimes lead to good things. Sometimes things we consider good lead to bad circumstances. I wanted to run the gamut of emotions on this one project, and it’s hard to do, but in terms of heartfelt, serious incidents and party music, as well as trying to flex my MC prowess, I did a fairly good job.” Haphduzn uses rapping and making music as a vehicle for healing and growth, which is why I think he was asked to tour with Atmosphere and Brother Ali on the “Welcome to Minnesota Tour” a few months ago. I like forward to seeing Haphduzn at Soundset this year.

Checkout Whittier Alliance here https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/whittier-alliance/id620262073

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One Response

  1. Great review! If you’re interested, you can checkout the podcast interview I did with Haphduzn last week, we talk about 2Pacs “All Eyez on Me” album as well. Right here: http://www.thankyourob.com/podcast/episode-19-featuring-haphduzn/

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