When it comes to rap, there isn’t a lot that impresses me anymore. Unfortunately, the genre is more over-saturated with glorification of sex, drugs and violence. However, when I hear a rapper bring personal experience to his lyrics, I immediately latch onto that. If a hip hop artist can move me, emotionally as well as get my head nodding… it’s a major win. Enter Dylan Andre‘, aka DNA. Needing a release for the feelings of abandonment, depression and being bullied his entire life… he started his career as a singer-songwriter, later moving into an emcee role. Not only is he incredibly impressive, in terms of his flow and articulation, he is completely self-made. Every piece of art that you can find by him has been created by he and his wife. He’s the type of DIY artist that we just don’t see enough of in the spotlight these days. He appeared on America’s Got Talent, became a viral sensation when he released an acoustic cover of Eminem‘s “Rap God,” and his music videos are on another level. His debut album, Psycho Theory, has quickly become one of my favorite releases of the year due to the simple fact that it’s rap on a real level. Let’s dive a little deeper and explore what makes it stand out.
Like the title suggests, each track on this album is a look deeper into the psyche of the Philly hip-hop prodigy. The album starts off with the track “Click,” which was featured in his first teaser trailer for Psycho Theory. Each moment of this track is as tense and explosive as the siren that kicks the album off. This track, in particular, has him speaking on what makes him different and how he was afraid to step into the spotlight. Growing up as a “loser” is something many of us can relate to and this track is about rising above that title and making the haters eat their words. The beat chosen for this track is simplistic, piano-driven and has a bit of a melancholy (yet urgent) feeling to it. Andre’s stylistic display on just this first track is enough to leave your jaw on the floor, easily switching from short, choppy verses to full on fast-rapping passages.
One of my favorite flows on the album comes from the track that follows, “Another Level.” This track sees his speed utilized a lot better but, even still, this is still the tip of the iceberg. This is a track like you would expect to hear on the soundtrack to a game like Def Jam NY or any number of UFC games. It builds and explodes within the first 10 seconds and I could really see someone using it as their hype track. It speaks of never giving up on your dreams and doing everything you can to reach the next level.
Each track on the album expands on the theme of overcoming depression, being bullied and just being the best you can, regardless of who says what. Tracks like “Relentless” explore the shadier side of the music industry, where an artist can make just as much in a DIY-oriented career as an artist who is signed. There is a lot of “cockiness” to Andre’s attitude and approach to this album but it’s for good reason. He’s clearly proud of what he’s written and knows that his talent is not being wasted. He’s laughing at anyone who ever doubted him and spitting venom at those who turned him away, when he needed it most.
The album takes a more emotional turn when we get to tracks like “Back Then.” This track explores the things that he went through growing up, in-depth and the things that he was witness to. Again, the beat to this one is much more melancholy and lends to the mood of the track. This one in particular, if you’ve dealt with abuse growing up… will definitely hit you hard. I will be the first to admit that I shed a few tears each time I hear it. The message is that you can overcome it, though and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. “You light me on fire” is a metaphor for these experiences being a catalyst to ensure that one works to become a better person than the ones who abandoned you. The emotion gets deeper on “Too Late to Run,” where you can actually hear his voice breaking, as he tells the story of his friend passing… the same one that helped him get the help he needed. This is one of the darker tracks on the album, in terms of subject matter and is sure to cause the listener to cry… or at least feel extreme empathy for his loss.
Some may call him “the next Eminem,” or “the next NF” but I’m here to tell you that there is only ONE DNA. Psycho Theory is an honest-to-god look into someone who has struggled, overcome and is ready to show the world what he’s made of. It’s a message to those who are feeling down and out, to never give up and realize that you will make it through… no matter what it takes. Once, this man was crying out to the dark for a reason to survive.. now he’s in a much better place and he’s ready to share his experiences, and his advice, through Psycho Theory. Psycho Theory will be released Saturday, June 1st, independently and can be pre-ordered at the link below.