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Critic's Choice

Ovulations? Clowns with knives? Suns that don't want to be photographed? With subjects like these, you might figure that why? isn't your typical, gold-grilled hip-hop MC. Born Jonathan Wolf, the Oakland-based vocalist and producer grew up as the son of a rabbi in suburban Cincinnati. It was there that he met and began collaborating with doseone and began tinkering with four-tracks and freestyles; with the addition of odd nosdam in 1999, the trio dubbed itself cLOUDDEAD and began putting out hand-packaged tapes, ten-inch records and other such decidedly non-hip-hop releases. The group's self-titled album from 2001 was a dizzying, disorienting breakthrough -- never before had ambience, lo-fi clatter and murky, surreal emceeing been draped over each other in such opaque layers. With his jigsaw narratives and pinch-nosed whine, why? then put out his acclaimed debut solo album, oaklandazulasylum, in 2002. His brand new Early Whitney EP strays even farther from the orbit of hip-hop: With spoken-sung lyrics, grainy melodies and minimal guitars that drip with eerieness, he's gone off the deep end and dragged his laptop and turntables along with him. Don't miss why? when he performs at the Larimer Lounge on Saturday, September 6; as tweaked and riveting as his recordings are, there are few things more intense than watching an intellectual Jewish dude with an afro drop rhymes about fingernails growing and how fish think we're gods.
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Jason Heller
Contact: Jason Heller