The Billboard charting debut single from rapper Doc La, “Look What They Did”, is a stunningly personal look at the performer’s travails through the music industry and has a hit hitting design that, nonetheless, remains intensely musical. The Billboard rise has been steady since the track’s January release and has now achieved the lofty position of number four in a genre where the competition is fierce. His lyrical content, even on this first release, is second to none and places moments of eloquent imagery alongside colloquial language colored by a life lived on his own terms and the price he’s paid for that. It has a natural flow both musically and vocally without ever sounding too plotted out and the live ambiance it has, like it was seemingly written in a burst of inspiration and recorded only minutes later, makes it an invigorating listen. “Look What They Did” has a number of powerful elements and grabs the listener’s attention from the outset. It’s always intensely gratifying tocome in on the ground floor of something big and listeners can walk away from a first hearing of this track certain that Doc La is a name they will hear more and more of as his career evolves.
It all begins, however, with his voice and lyrics. Doc-La has a distinctive sound that few of his contemporaries share. He never sounds abrasive, but he certainly comes out with attitude and strength to burn. That same attitude is reflected in his numerous recitations of his name. It’s as if to say, look, here I am, and now that I am here, no one is ever going to turn me back. His phrasing is spot on – few performers in the genre manage such a breathlessly good marriage between their vocals and the backing track. It reaches its high point during the chorus where a bit of emotiveness creeps into his voice and the addition helps makes an already great song immeasurably stronger. The lyrics, especially in the verses, are filled with biting images and excellent use of everyday language sitting quite easily beside stirring moments of pure poetic inventiveness. He never has any difficult handling the often winding passages and each new dovetails so neatly into the last that listeners might be tempted to wonder how much work all of this required or if it just sprang full born from his head like this.
The backing track is an unique and often surprisingly melodic mix of bass, light use of synthesizer, and drums. Doc-La’s songwriting vision, however, is never content with serving up what you’ve heard before. The groove and abundant rhythm in the song take many exciting shifts in direction without ever losing their way and the second half is a brilliant example of how he will shake up listener’s expectations as it takes another route entirely and with great success. Debuts like this do not come around often. Doc-La, despite this being his first single, sounds like the complete package already and his development from here is unpredictable to say the least. One thing is certain however – his potential seems limitless. Billboard success is just the first salvo in a campaign to conquer the world musically and its high placement indicates that this special artist is up to the challenge.
by Lydia Hillenburg