Sound Advice: the d.ark tape by Derek Christoff and The Arkeologists
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Sound Advice: the d.ark tape by Derek Christoff and The Arkeologists

The rapper also known as D-Sisive brings a renewed focus on wordplay to his newest release.

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Over the past several years Derek Christoff, known to Canadian rap fans as D-Sisive, has developed a reputation for using hip hop to tell stories and build complex narratives. On his new album, the d.ark tape—a collaboration with production team The Arkeologists—he still does that, but he also returns to his battle-rap roots. His delivery is more aggressive than it’s been on his last two or three releases, and each track is jammed with rewind-worthy punchlines and metaphors.

This is, for lack of a better word, Christoff’s rappiest rap record in some time. That’s not to say he wasn’t witty before, just that wordplay wasn’t the primary thrust of his work. On the d.ark tape, though, he’s all about the craft.

“The Reunion Tour” and “Copycat” are probably the two best examples of this. On those tracks, Christoff’s voice is gruffer than usual, and his whole approach has a slightly more paranoid tone than what we’re used to. The use of language, meanwhile, is superb. Both songs not only merit multiple listens, they practically require them. The same is true of the rest of the album.

Even so, there’s some great storytelling on here. “The Water” has Christoff breaking one of rap’s cardinal rules—never rhyme a word with itself—over and over again to create a story of self-discovery and rebirth. “Newark” is a clever autobiographical track that sees Christoff talking about his first attempt at a rap career in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.

The Arkeologists also knock it out of the park on the d.ark tape. The beats are almost all sample based, with lots of soul vocals and big horns. The vocal loop on “One and Only” is catchy, hypnotic, and frankly way bigger than you’d expect to hear on an independent Canadian album. (You can listen to “One and Only” by clicking on the sample above.) “The Reunion Tour” is dark and funky, with a strong snare-and-hi-hat drum beat and aggressive horn shots.

Overall, the d.ark tape is a bit of a throwback for Christoff, both to his early, punchline-heavy material and his slightly angrier mid-career work, like Run with the Creeps. That said, it’s also a refreshing, arresting, urgent album that draws you in and keeps you there.