by Jeff Milo
Detroit rapper Doc Waffles reels off rhapsodic and dizzying sonnets, stacked with three-dollar verbiage only to wink at you with this uncannily charming "ain't I a stinker" manner that switches it up and pulls the rug out from under, spilling out his cans of Mr. Flav and quipping gruffly surreal impressions: "... bourbon in your thermos, baby..." "... Reenacting scenes from Jurassic Park..." or musing on hygeine while loping in crude visualizations of liquor-store-bought tube socks or, endearingly (if startlingly guttural,) likening the tearing out of encyclopedia pages to the excision of his own organs.
Doc Waffles has been rapping, battling, writing and recording in Detroit for more than 10 years. But just who is he?
The Doc Waffles Reader should answer that better than I can... Out on June 8th via Checkers Record Collection, a Plymouth-based cassette tape label.
"I try to create a holistic effect with my song writing," says the Wayne State schooled English major and rare-book-dealer-by-day. "Songs, then, function as parts of albums that then function as parts of my body-of-work as a whole. In this way, I’m constantly rejuvenating and enriching the meaning of my back catalog."
For as long as he's been working it underground, he's only seen his busiest years of late - releasing three albums (Seizure Suit Farms, How To Shoot Quail and Ambulance chasers ) in the span of 13 months, culminating with a spate of shows in late summer 2012 along with a burst in activity from within his recording HQ ("The Penthouse") with producer Eddie Logix (and the subsequent rise of this collaborative-boosting movement/ideology known as "#CoOwnaz").
Qualifying that whirlwind, then, made something like The Reader a necessary recap. Doc Waffles can now "re-frame and differently contextualize" some of the recurring themes (sports, finances, hygiene, synthetic existence and stereotypical rapper-isms) that pop up across this "fractured trilogy" where numerous overlapping motifs and narratives "are presented in circuitous, poetical ways."
"I’m influenced by writers who are able to create unique, consistent, immersive worlds for their characters and obsessions. Like in James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet how characters appear in minor roles in certain books then become the focus of major storylines later on..."
For example: He rhymes about Howard Huges early on during Seizure but his rap-framed representation pops back up on Ambulance Chasers only in a larger role.
But this isn't a "best-of" or "greatest-hits..." (Hits?) Doc Waffles employment of the term Reader emphasizes "...the literary nature" of his enterprise.
He quit his job at an art gallery and started up his own business, online (with the rare books), and that's proven somewhat lucrative, if not tremendously freeing for his creative side (with his writing and recording taking off in the last two years by considerable measures). This, Waffles says, "is the result of a deliberate reorganization of my life and configuring my priorities in such a way that I can focus on my art with greater intensity."
His temple of meditation is now public transit: the bus. He's given up driving. He walks often (or catches the Smart line) and uses that time to ruminate on song ideas "and my poetic craft." With renewed enthusiasm towards studying poetics and performance theory, he's aligned himself with Logix in the Penthouse to also better grasp the craft of the recording process.
"And, most importantly," Waffles says, "I've managed to stay off the bottle." That demonstrates the potential of a "Sober Doc..." --> three albums in 13 months versus, previously, no albums within a five year stint.
It's been his embrace of the "#CoOwnaz-lifestyle" that's staved off risks of any future substance-abuse or slip-ups and refreshed his sense of purpose. That sort of we're-all-in-this-together vibe resounds among a range of rappers, from Passalacqua to The Anonymous, Cold Men Young to Clear Soul Forces, Detroit CYDI to Doss The Artist and even outside electro-acts like Phantasmagoria and James Linck.
"I’m through drowning my sorrows, I make inflatable gators and orcas out of them now to wrestle in my symbolic pool. "
The Reader gets local rap fans up to speed on the "next wave of classiques from the #CoOwnaz camp..."
Like Eddie Logix Plays Lykke Li -ft. a music video directed by film grad/budding-music-documentarian Andy Miller. The philanthropistic-rap-propping C.F. Hustle will curate the #CoOwnaz comp Portrait of a Gentleman -the first official group project "of the movement." Afterwards, it's on to Doc Waffles next solo album Mr. What-Practice-Makes... "..a mediation on the persistence of childhood and the imprecision of memory..." Their most sophisticated work to date, says Waffles.
We're out here...