What is it in the water here in Detroit? For some reason we seem to create the most critically loved (Eminem) and hated (ICP) white rappers in the world.
Detroit seems to be the place where a predominately black art form can mix with the over-culture and create something completely new & innovative.
Meet Doc Waffles – a man creating new ideas and attitude out of the mix.
Over the past six months, I’ve fallen in love with the sonic stretching and innovative word play of Ben Ness AKA Doc Waffles. I saw him earlier this month at the Magic Stick in Detroit. That’s where I made this bootleg of his show.
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Waffles is a rapper who paints in colors not often used in the hip-hop palate. He goes into areas most other rappers would rarely, if ever, venture. As a genre, hip-hop seems limited. Those limits are usually self-imposed. Countless MCs maintain the conventions of braggadocio and maintaining a hard edged, cool persona. For Ness’s alter-ego, he brings a willingness to be funny, absurd and surreal all filtered through his experience of growing up in his “hood” – the exurbs of Oakland County – one of the richest counties in America.
The former high school golf team captain, and collector of antique books, released his latest EP in the fall of 2011. “Seizure Suit Farms” is a short, solid example of Waffles’s obsessions and observations. The record features odes to the sorrow that socks are “never quite the same” once you wear & wash them, the story of Billy Joel’s attempted suicide in the early 1970s & how “We Didn’t Start the Fire” was a milestone that “re-invented rap” as well as a story of a privileged & young “princess” who is totally irresponsible, not only with love but with her cat and her life.
But for me, Ness’s filtering of the suburban experience finds its height on “Golf View Drive”. Waffles’s 2006 album shows an almost autobiographical sense of the despair many have felt growing up in the suburbs. Couple the narrator’s despair with a parent who has given up and wallows in his own self-destruction and the record takes on qualities akin to David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” or Sam Mendes & Alan Ball’s “American Beauty”. “Golf View Drive” introduces the listener to the great and horrible things lurking in the world of big houses and manicured lawns. Doc Waffles songs feature topics that can be as soul crushing and jarring as anything coming from a rapper who has lived in the streets of urban American decay. Waffles walks listeners through a world of alcoholic fathers & the concern of growing up to be just like the old man, working to strip away the fronts we all seem to live with and even having to put your mother in a nursing home & all the emotions that go along with it. These are not the typical fields rappers till. But for Doc Waffles, it is fertile ground – sonically and lyrically speaking.