The band known as wotts is unique in the Ottawa hip hop scene. Their mix of beatboxing, understated guitar and synth work allows their recordings to stand out in a city that is slowly developing a more ubiquitous sound. They released their first EP, a, in December 2014, shortly after forming as a side project by several of the members of Antiks. November saw the release of their follow up EP, appropriately titled b.
With this second album, wotts is beginning to differentiate themselves from their roots and make their mark as a full time foursome in their own right. They’re finding their own sound, one that differentiates themselves from their previous work. This is a darker offering, and the group’s confidence in their own sound has improved.
Featuring guest appearances by Aron the Alien, Dynamite Motel and Eddy P, b gives a great sampling of local talent. And of course, it serves as an excellent introduction to wotts. It shows a great deal of what this group can do with the short-form medium. The lyrical style, courtesy of Jayem and E, is sharp, witty and compelling. The content is dense, full of references to popular culture and to Ottawa. These two MCs make the album extraordinarily replayable.
However, what really makes the album unique is the backing tracks. Ryan Farrell’s instrumentation gives the album an almost other-worldly feel. While there is no doubt that guitar has been paired with hip hop vocals before, it’s difficult to think of an example that is quite like this. He has a bluesy style that is in some ways reminiscent of early Buck 65, but he mixes that with a much rockier, grungy flavour.
But without a doubt, the highlight of b is the beatboxing courtesy of MC Dimz. His style is original and gives each song its own special colour. Dimz has been practicing his beatboxing style since he was 8 years old, and the polish shows. Songs like “bombeh” show off his ability to bring something to the music that drums cannot. His rhythms fit perfectly with the vocals and with Farrell’s guitar. It’s a combination that sounds like it shouldn’t work but in fact works quite well. The rest of the band recognise Dimz’s talents.
“The rest of us try to beatbox and we end up sounding like a baby spitting out applesauce,” said Jayem, “so the man has total job security.”
The album begins strong with “clonewars,” the first single, which got them a mention in the Ottawa Citizen’s best music of 2015. It immediately sets the mood of the album, which is both swaggy and dark. For the first five tracks, wotts go it alone, bringing in their featured artists for the final two tracks. It appears that the group put just a little extra polish on these final songs, too, because they stand out in what is already a very good album.
The final song, “otrain,” features one of the groovier beats on the album, and heats up with some great lyricism and guitar playing that adds a touch of funk-rock to the mix. It finishes with a wild guitar solo, something that you can’t say about most rap albums released this year. It’s a great cap to a great offering from wotts.
According to the band, they’re planning on branching out and touring Montréal and Toronto before heading back to the studio to work on their first LP. b is just a taste of what the band can offer. It will be very interesting to hear what the future brings for wotts.
View the video for “clonewars” below: