DDot Elles’ EFAdemo: Take 3 Offers a Map for the Future of Austin Hip Hop

by Nick Hanover

DDot Elles

What does the future sound like? Is it something strange and indecipherable, jumbled sounds that may as well be their own language for how alien they area? Maybe, but I’m more inclined to believe it sounds something like DDot Elles’ EFAdemo: Take 3, a fusion of recognizable aesthetics from other eras and new approaches that point towards any number of sonic possibilities. The future is always moving and always connecting with the past and so is EFAdemo as it showcases DDot Elles and his collaborators, teasing possible paths not just for their careers but for Austin hip hop on the whole.

Over the course of its 18 tracks, EFAdemo navigates countless pocket scenes, ranging from more traditional boom bap (the Haris Qureshi produced “Yung Dorie”) to narcotic dream rap (the aptly named “Sepia”) to bright Afrofuturist electro (“Jesus Shuttleworth”). DDot spent three years assembling this album and that dedication is obvious in every bar but what’s perhaps most impressive about it is that EFAdemo almost never buckles under the weight of its creator’s sprawling ambition- it’s one of the few epic length hip hop releases that justifies its running time by making nearly every single moment bracing and necessary, a tour de force in the truest sense.

Littered as EFAdemo is with guest appearances by a significant portion of the Austin hip hop population, solo moments like “Life as a Pup” show that DDot’s use of guests isn’t a crutch but an eagerness to share the spotlight. With its shimmery textures and sci-fi synth punctuation, the Delano Taylor beat emphasizes the gritty yet warm qualities of DDot’s voice, which in turn matches his declaration that “life as a shorty shouldn’t be so tough” perfectly. “Jesus Shuttleworth” is weirder in its instrumentation, distant klaxon samples bumping shoulders with New Age bell tones and a distorted beat, but it brings out more of DDot’s skill at crafting breezy singalong hooks, like a less scatological Dr Octagon.

There’s a more literal breeziness to “Dinosaurs,” with a hook about hearing the beach from sea shells delivered over samples of seagulls and washed out keyboards and percussion. But that’s a bit of a fake out, as the verses swerve towards more maniacal territory, with talk of “pterodactyl excrement” setting the stage for J Carr and Lam’s aggressively fun contributions. Maybe there’s more to that Dr Octagon connection after all.

On the superb “WhenUSeenMe,” DDot and crew nod towards a more current influence by picking up the baton left by Das Racist, ripping apart that worker drone life while ChatterTNN channels Chairlift with what is perhaps the most addictive beat on the entire album. The constantly morphing tone and feel of the track draws out the best in DDot, KoolQuise and Alex Gem, spurring them on to approach the beat from a dizzying number of directions, switching cadences and accents at will.

The confidence in delivery and tone there does, however, bring attention to the one weak link in the album’s armor, which is its over reliance on extended samples of scenes from overly obvious movies, like Fight Club and The Big Lebowski. Nearly every song on the album ends in one of these insertions and unlike the trademark kung fu clips obvious DDot ancestors the Wu-Tang Clan use to help define their aesthetic, these samples don’t really add grit or spice but instead distract from the otherwise consistently flavorful exprience that is EFAdemo.

At the end of the day, that’s a very small blemish on an otherwise remarkable and impressively self-assured release. 2017 continues to be full of albums by artists seeking to provide an answer for the question of who and what the future of Austin hip hop is but EFAdemo is one of the most convincing arguments in the field and in a few years, we may be using at as a Rosetta Stone to chart the origins of its successors. And I suspect by then, DDot Elles will be well on his way to conquering the rest of the country.

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Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at  Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover