Hailing from the decidedly unglamorous city of Lawton, Dewey Binns is the sort of blue-collar rapper everyone can get behind, but he’s just as book-smart as street-smart, as evidenced by this Steinbeck-esque collection of hip-hop vignettes.
One gets the feeling that Binns rarely was satisfied with his first word choice, refining each line with the fine-toothed comb of some OCD-riddled book editor. Off-the-cuff has its place, but the type of stories Binns tells via hip-hop (“Diggin’ Royalties,” “Homeless Love”) requires more than that, and he works as hard at being an author as songwriter.
That’s not to say this isn’t a fun record to listen to, because it is. Study in tempo “Charles Barkley” moves much like the Sir Charles did in his later years, slowly bopping down the court into a temporary burst of energy and subsequent total stop. The soulful opening pair of “Charmed Life” and “Writers Never Die” sound pulled right out of the genre’s ’90s-era prime, sharing the best traits (smart, but easy to consume) of Tupac or Dr. Dre.
Binns does a little bit of everything, from upbeat party tracks (“Celebration”) to restrained, contemplative efforts (“Travel Miles”) — all done the right way.
High Character is available as a free stream or download at soundcloud.com/deweybinns or at pairadimemusic.com. —Joshua Boydston