By Conor Hooley
Leading up to their sophomore release, Crazy As It Seems, local rappers Diverge and Ethix decided to expand their duo into a trio, bringing vocalist Natalie Ray into the fold and christening the new outfit DnE. And, yes, one might see an inherent Fergie/Black Eyed Peas parallel there, but fret not – in this case, it worked for the better. And this stellar, eight-track maxi-EP is proof.
Together, DnE have forged an inviting, upbeat aesthetic that is catchy and punchy enough for the club, but still packs plenty of replay value. Opening with “The Return,” Diverge and Ethix come out blazing with lively flows over a blistering slice of modernized boom bap from producer Abstrakt (credited with six tracks here, nearly all of them good). The hook is even better, as the rappers’ synced delivery perfectly overlaps with Ray’s soulful, resonant vocals in the backdrop. The harmony is almost unusually captivating, and the song is one of the strongest tracks from a local artist this year.
But the highlights don’t stop there. “Shock Therapy” features a beat that bangs with an energetic, slightly unnerving quality that compels your head to nod along.
“Crazy as it Seems” shows Diverge, Ethix and guest MC Improv getting adventurous with their styles over the album’s toughest beat (courtesy of Zion I’s excellent Amp Live), and it’s a stripped-down success.
Lastly, Mountain’s remix of “Pristine” closes with ethereal, Foreign Exchange-esque electronic hip-hop.
With a cameo from the always on-point Zumbi and reverent verses from all, it’s a rather convincing piece of pro-Colorado propaganda.