DWHB – up-and-coming Austin Hip-Hop


Austin hip-hop is a tricky thing. Our city doesn’t really have a hip-hop voice, like you might think of with Los Angeles, Detroit, Houston or New York. Our brightest hip-hop lights – Zeale, Phranchyze, League of Extraordinary G’z – explore a wide variety of sounds, for better and sometimes worse. Fortunately there are still a lot of hip-hop groups operating in town, and hopefully we’ll look at many of them by the time summer winds down. Today, we’ve got DWHB – a self-contained hip-hop trio that offers a lot of potential, but also exemplifies the main issues with Austin hip-hop.

DWHB sent me their debut album, Dog Park, cold a few weeks ago. I opened it (as I almost always do) and was immediately impressed with the opening track, “Bupkis.” Each rapper molds their flow around the smooth beat and keeps their pace rapid (check the way Dean Thomasson’s third verse quickens when the beat quickens and slows as the beat lets out – really great). Andrew Atwood kicks off the verses on “Bupkis,” and also provides the production on each track. Here, he has a mellow late-80s, early-90s beat that still sounds contemporary and chill. However, the problem is consistency, and this young group hasn’t yet mastered keeping up this high level of quality of a full-length album.

DWHB - 'Bupkis'

The lowest points on the album for me include “Cool Runnings,” an exercise in more EDM-inspired beats that comes off as grating as its inspiration can get, and “These Bitches,” whose chorus seems drawn from Death Grips (a good thing for me), but which is ultimately crass and annoying. Atwood’s beats excel when they are chill throwbacks (like “Top Down Low” and “Black Silk” – with hooks that could have been sung by Nate Dogg); when he tries to explore other territory, the beats sound more like bad cover versions of already-trying source material.

Travis Riddle will probably be the most polarizing of the rappers in DWHB. His stylized delivery reminds me a lot of MC Paul Barman – a witty, literary white rapper – crossed with a bit of early Childish Gambino, and it works better at some times than others. As the album wore on, Riddle’s turns on “On Loop” and “Grip” wore on my nerves because they were so out of touch with the aesthetic of the rest of the track, but then on “Light It Up” his voice slides in perfectly and brings the beat to life. His references to Breaking Bad, The Wire, Hulu and Netflix certainly appeal to the television fan in me, and he’s clever with his wordplay when he’s not being incredibly tasteless. As he gets better adjusting his style to different beats, he’ll develop into quite a force.

Thomasson and Atwood have much better feels for the beat as they deliver their lines, but the lines themselves sometimes vary in impact. After listening through Dog Park, it’s clear that this is a group of aspiring rappers with a lot of raw potential. There are moments on this record that work quite well, and some really creative beats and verses. Like Austin hip-hop in general, DWHB is still looking for their sound. Dog Park is by no means a perfect debut, but it’s whetted my appetite for this group’s future.

– Carter Delloro