Rocking Out With the DMV

Hip hop group redefines bureaucracy

DMV is definitely on the come-up.  And we’re not talking about your local Department of Motor Vehicles.  Until recently, I thought a homie of mine had DMV listed as his Twitter location as an ode to the time-sucking bureaucracy that is the DMV.  No, friends, DMV stands for DC, Maryland, Virginia – and a lot more people are about to find out.

With soulstress Wayna snagging a Grammy nomination, vocalist/producer Muhsinah just coming off a UK tour, rapper Wale ripping venues nationwide with his go-go band, and neo-soul loverboy Raheem Devaughn killing it on features and mixtapes for days, the DMV has been ramping up to leave its mark. 

The Low Budget Crew, consisting of rapper Kenn Starr, producer Kev Brown, rapper/producer Oddisee, and DJ Roddy Rod, is yet another force to be reckoned with.  With buzz-worthy work already under their belts, each member has been in the lab crafting their own special grade of F-I-Y-A-H (read: fire) for the masses.

Most recently, Low Budget Crew member Oddisee has formed a group called Diamond District that’s, um, left me speechless for an ample way to describe what’s just happened.  The group consists of XO and yU on ze verses as well as Oddisee on both production and lyrical duty.  Dunc and Slimkat78 also offer their production on a couple tracks.  In The Ruff is Diamond District’s debut album that dropped last week – and friends, it’s this ---> unbelievable and FREE.  Make sure to visit their Web site and get your zSHARE on.  I can’t believe such awesomeness is actually free in real life.  Like, for real.  Free.

The “raw mid-90s boom-bap” themed album starts out with keys reminiscent of those on “The Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers,” setting a tone that will irrefutably appeal to any golden-age hip-hop lover.  And pretty much anyone else with taste isn’t going to be able to deny this work, either.

East coast grit with haunting synths, clinking xylophones, and crafty drums, somehow the whole album makes me want to dance and rejoice.  The three lyricists seem to effortlessly ride each beat with impeccable flow that covers a breadth of subject matter:

Exhibit A: In The Ruff Tracklist

1. killin peeps and talking white on “Streets Won’t Let Me Chill”
2. Klondike bars and crayons on “Who I Be”
3. the Trinity and Kennedy on “Back To Basics” 
4. good posture and Allah on “I Mean Business”
5. George Jetson and pacifiers on “Get In Line”
6. Saddam Hussein and falling up (no Black Eyed Peas) on “In The Ruff”
7. feet and incubators on “The Shining”
8. the stock market and werewolves on “The District”
9. billiards and the devil on “Make It Clear”
10. s-e-x and higher education on “Off The Late Night”
11. Berlin brunches and Nike checkin’ folks on “Let Me Explain”
12. self-worth and negative numbers on “First Time”

Something for everybody.  I’m saying, get in where you fit in.

Note: The free download is a clean version of the LP available for a limited time only.  The dirty version along with a few bonus tracks will be available for purchase soon via Mello Music Group.

Seher Sikandar is a Bay Area-based photographer who shoots art and lifestyle events. Check out her portfolio at

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