I am not kidding. If Dinh Tien Dat’s D. is considered a hip-hop album, we’re in trouble. I hate to be so hard on someone who tries his hardest to bring hip-hop into the Vietnamese pop culture, but he does it all wrong. His hip-hop debut is straight artless. Even before listening to the album, I could predict the outcome, yet I still give it a shot to see if I could pick out something interesting. Apparently, I walk away with nothing but frustration.
One of hip-hop’s essential elements is the art of storytelling. Hip-hop is a canvas that allows artists to paint their personal stories, and Mr. Dee has none. He is not a lyricist, and the only tale he could tell is the bittersweet love of Romeo and Juliet, not even his own. Do we really need Mr. Dee to remind us Shakespeare’s classic romance? Come on Dee, give us something original, something that moves us, something that means deeper than the banal relationship you’ve penned on “Roi Xa,” which sounds like you’re trying to flip a romantic ballad. Nonetheless, I sympathize Dee’s limited subject choices. The true form of hip-hop is self-expression; however, that true form will never make its way to Viet Nam. I am not saying that we don’t have talented artists to do so, but it will never happen until there is such thing as Freedom of Speech in Viet Nam. If Dee or any other rapper expresses his political view, something like what Eminem did with “Mosh” before the election, he would be spitting behind bars instead of on stage.
Even if we can look past the lyrical content, the technique, which Dee has yet to master, is not forgivable. No matter how many times he tries to switch it up, his stilted flow still shows. His delivery is emotionless and he can’t ride the beat. Even on the club joints, which are plenty on this album, he tries to catch up with the beat instead of floats with it. Although his singing is horrendous, it is not the most disappointed thing on the album. What gets to me is that D. featured not one but four Korean-robbed tunes (“Roi Xa,” “Con Tim Tinh Yeu,” “Nguoi Da Khong Con” and “Biet Em Da Ve”). With saccharine Korean grooves overcoating lame Vietnamese lyrics, I don’t know what kind of music it is, but certainly not hip-hop.
I have read somewhere that Dee is working on his next release. Please man, learn to love and respect the music. Be original, be innovative, or stop making artificial hip-hop records. It’s really a damn shame.