When discussing the Midwest music scene, hip-hop rarely comes to mind. But Minneapolis is home base to Drew Hance, whose rap career as Doctor Ew has spanned seven albums and numerous EPs.
“Thirst” is Doctor Ew’s latest album, capping a busy year for the artist and following his mellower, jazzy release, “Earth Tones”.
The first track, “Plan”, kicks off “Thirst” on a gritty note, setting the tone for the six tracks to follow. “Still grind a nine to five/Mind the guy behind the hive/Try to find a life I like/To stay afloat, I stay inside/Find the drive to stay alive/Bind to time to make my mind.”
According to Hance, the lyrical content on the album ranges from dealing with past addictions to his growth as an artist over the past year.
“I try to balance telling stories about my personal experiences in certain tough periods,” he said. “There is a lot of maturing and reflection on the past that helped shape this project.”
Hance’s delivery is reminiscent of DOOM on tracks like “Plan” which use a monotone delivery laid on a dark instrumental.
But on “Ghost of Snow” he switches this up considerably, going with a more Devin The Dude-esque drawl. There is no singular song structure on the album but it remains consistent in feel because of the instrumentals.
Other notables on the album are “Can’t Stop,” which features a catchy hook around an even catchier drumline. “Garden” and “Friend” are more somber and reflective tracks that cap off the album.
Behind the production on “Thirst” is Brooklyn-based producer Ian Conlin, who enjoys working with musicians of various genres along with solo projects. The two have not let geography interfere with their collaboration efforts.
“We have never met in person,” said Conlin. “We talk all the time, but I’m impressed this has worked out at all. I would produce around his vocals and he would vocalize around my production. Drew is incredible- I was most impressed by his work ethic.”
Conlin’s mixing prowess comes across on “Miss,” which expertly samples Gil Scott-Heron’s “A Sign of The Ages.” Trimmed to blend around Hance’s words, this is one of the highlights of the album.
This collaboration between artists who have never met in person is a testament to the advantages of making music in the internet age, but it has its pitfalls when it comes to making a living from your art. Conlin agrees the financials of the streaming era might not be the most practical for the artist, but from a consumer’s perspective, it is a mutually beneficial medium for artists and listeners.
“I think in terms of making music, listening to music and finding new music, it is great,” said Conlin. “Anyone can make music given the widespread nature of production software and how much easier recording is. Improving access for both listeners and artists means you can find any record- you don’t have to go digging.”
Hance is a believer of hip-hop continuing to thrive in Minneapolis and envisions more expansion from the dominance by groups like Rhymesayers, which features prominent artists like Aesop Rock, Brother Ali, and Atmosphere.
“The potential is definitely here,” he said. “More and more artists are realizing that you can set a base outside of where hip-hop is typically associated. I think artists here in Minneapolis have quite a distinct voice.”
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