Credit: ZACKBDIDTHAT

There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.

Prince George’s County’s Tae Dawg had one of the most exciting musical resurgences to observe this past year. The self-proclaimed “Ooze God” has been present in the local hip-hop community since 2016, landing features on early tracks from Q Da Fool, Shabazz, and Rudy Cash. He was also one of the first frequent collaborators of local producer-legend Sparkheem. But while his contemporaries experienced success from the new sound he helped develop, Tae Dawg was incarcerated, stymying his musical output and upending his career. He was released last summer and has gone on a musical tear since, releasing four projects in only eight months.

Tae Dawg released his most recent project, Dr. Ooze, in April 2021. The 16-track album is named after his “Ooze” persona—a flip on the popular “drip” term that he’s used since his Oozin Dawg project in 2017, and it reflects the years of work he’s put into developing a sound. The majority of the production is handled by Tae Dawg’s go-to producers Sparkheem and Spizzledoe, with notable contributions from Travagant, Johnny Caravaggio, and Supa Statiq. He also keeps the project in-house; only two of the 16 tracks contain features, which both come from his close affiliate Rudy Cash. Regardless of who makes the beat, or who he raps alongside, Tae Dawg is able to showcase his versatility throughout the entirety of the album. 

The rapid shifts in his timing, tempo, and timbre (in addition to his occasional use of autotune) show his determination to use his voice as an instrument. This emphasis resulted in him delivering one of the most dynamic pieces of auditory art in 2021—there is not a single dull moment on Dr. Ooze. His voice, enunciation, rhyme scheme, and even the beats themselves seem to change every dozen bars. 

Dr. Ooze begins with “Lights Out,” a slow ballad where Tae Dawg melodically raps and sings about his love interest. The Sparkheem-produced track features looped guitar chords and a bouncy 808 pattern, which Tae Dawg croons over with no autotune. He’s similarly singing autotuneless on a few other tracks including “Be A Fool,” “Flood,” “Blindfold,” and “Sick and Tired.” The intertwining of his rapid-fire delivery with elaborate cadences and vocal scales are incredibly pleasing to the ear. 

Even though he doesn’t need autotune to sing, Tae Dawg still uses it to great effect. “Take Your Time,” produced by Statiq, contains ethereal synth chords and a fading guitar solo that provide the perfect soundscape for Tae to powerfully belt out lyrics about his woman. He also uses autotune for rapping, not singing, in “On Da Flo,” over viola samples that are chopped and pitched down by Spizzledoe. He draws out the pronunciations of his words throughout the song, allowing the autotune to enhance his reverrebed and clean vocals.

Tae Dawg also showcases his lyrical capabilities on “Penetrate,” another Sparkheem-produced track featuring interpolated piano samples and lively hi-hat, snare, and kick patterns. He unloads a barrage of bars in a punch-in style that is so fast paced, there are moments where it sounds like he is repeatedly cutting himself off in a rush to start his next lyric. This lyrical approach is also present on “Rockstar,” where he drops a plethora of one-liners over a looped soul sample courtesy of Efosabeloved, with standalone bars like “I’m more dynamite than JJ” and double references like “I’m more slick than Rick with these Alicia Keys.”

Although the majority of Dr. Ooze explores new areas of Tae Dawg’s vocal capabilities, he still delivers tracks that retain his signature style—and objectively crank. In “Oscar Proud,” Sparkheem provides high tempo piano runs, low pitched horns, and a bouncy 808 pattern that constructs the perfect atmosphere for Tae Dawg to verbally black out on. He raps with high intensity at an alarmingly fast tempo, hitting the listener with every type of flow at his disposal, boasting “ESPN Ooze, I’m in my zone;” it’s physically impossible to listen to this track without making the stank face.

Dr. Ooze is truly a reflection of the years of hard work Tae Dawg and his associates have put into establishing their sound. The durability of his relationship with his team of producers, which has lasted over half a decade, is a rarity in a rap community that seems plagued by misunderstandings and fallouts. This album not only displays the benefits of staying true to oneself and one’s team, but also shows the versatility of the Ooze God’s artistry—and his limitless potential.