I think it’s safe to assume the Okayplayer community is familiar with the artist known as Dumhi, but for anyone who is late to the party, allow me to bring you up to speed. Dumhi, in the proper sense, is Philly based producer Haj Rana Pinya and the collection of MCs who frequent his beats. Ever since 2006, Haj has been dropping dense, thematically driven albums utilizing a revolving cast of MCs that include underground mainstays Random, Che Grand and Reef The Lost Cauze. The Yoga At Home album established Dumhi’s voice as a producer and cemented his status as a producer to watch, but it was last year’s The Jungle where Dumhi began to show real growth.
With The Whole World’s Watching, Dumhi continues along that path, delivering his most concise and confident work yet. This is easily Haj’s strongest set of beats yet. Take “Fourth of July” for example, where Haj builds a masterfully restrained groove with little more than break beat and some violins. Haj’s true skill as a beat maker is his ability to elicit emotion and implying deep meaning using little more than his straightforward beats and some sampled dialog. Like The Jungle, WWW plays with the theme of optimism and perseverance in the face of urban decay and violence. While the album is thick with a feeling of paranoia and despair, it retains the necessary sense of hope that keeps the proceedings from getting too dark.
The one weakness of Dumhi’s albums has always been the MCs. Because of the nature of these projects, the vocals have always been the least consistent element of Haj’s work. Longtime Dumhi collaborator Reef the Lost Cauze has always sounded best of Haj’s production and on WWW, he blesses 3 tracks, including album closer “The Knife (remix)” where he bodies the great Sean Price. Thankfully, Ethel Cee, Random and Elucid deliver surprisingly strong performances as well, helping keep things on track more often than not. Their verses stay on theme more than usual for a Dumhi track, and it’s a noticeable and welcome improvement. Dumhi has made a career out of keeping gritty boom bap interesting and relevant. If you have written the man off, or are simply not familiar with his work, give WWW a shot.