Sage Francis reviews Rebel Yellow!
"The name is Cecil fucking Otter not Dylan-goes-electric..."
Instead of copying and pasting a bio on Cecil Otter I'm compelled to write what I know about him. There's so little written about this man on the internets and I've yet to see a review of this album, so I'd like to provide some background info.
A few years back I toured the Midwest with the Doomtree crew. Doomtree consists of Cecil Otter, P.O.S., Dessa, Sims, and you know...what the hell...I just checked their site and there's a bunch of people. I don't know if we all toured together. Haha. Shit...well...they're a strong unit and they're making quite a name for themselves.
A couple years back I was checking out a punk show in Providence and Cecil Otter was the opener. I didn't expect to see him, or any hip-hop at this show for that matter, and I can only imagine the number of folded arms Cecil must have encountered on this tour. He did something special that night. He stepped off the stage and onto the floor, the crowd circled around him, and instead of getting all "rah rah" on the audience he gave us a very laid back performance which created a casual and intimate atmosphere. I was impressed with the execution and how sincere his lyrics sounded without giving off a pretentious, heavy handed "emo" vibe. It's a fine line to walk when your lyrics rely on clever wordplay more than sensational spectacle.
Fast forward to last week. After picking up the Doomtree album for our online store P.O.S. told me about the new Rebel Yellow release. The album title rang a bell, but I didn't fully remember why.
I listened to it. I loved it. I loved the turn of phrases, the content, the rhyme schemes, the music and the catchy quality of the choruses. It reminded me of the performance I had seen in Providence and it brought that feeling back. After listening to this album ten times or so I emailed Cecil Otter to clear up some confusion I had. He explained that this was a revamped version of the older demo he gave me two years ago.
Well, hot damn. I'm glad this material was given the treatment it deserves. I fished around for credits to figure out who handled the production, because I wanted to make sure the producer received his proper due. Turns out Cecil Otter did all the production. Score another point for one of MN's most impressive talents.
One thing that I will point out, which some people may take as a negative point, is how the timber of Cecil's voice reminds me of early Slug recordings. It's an unfortunate and lazy comparison to make as people tend to always compare up-and-coming artists to the more popular artists from their city. To be honest, a lot of emcees from the Midwest have this quality to their voice. This isn't just a rapper thing though. I'm creeped out by Minneapolis (and surrounding cities) in the way that many people seem to talk, laugh and move in a similar way. I suspect something is in the water, but most likely it's a regional thing. After listening to Rebel Yellow multiple times and taking in Cecil's life experiences, I'm paying more attention to what's unique about him rather than how his voice sounds. East coast bias be gone!
No one wants to be called a poet anymore. It holds too much baggage and scrutiny. But Cecil Otter is a poet with truly great rap songs and a complimentary production style.
It's a shame Rebel Yellow doesn't have proper distribution or a greater push behind it. You can get the album here on CD or digitally (and we appreciate it!), but material like this should be available to more people.
What Doomtree says about Cecil Otter:
If Woody Guthrie, Doc Holiday, and the Pied Piper were looking to play a game of spades, Doc would ring up Cecil Otter.
Rebel Yellow, his first official full-length album, is Cecil is at his finest. He's a prophet turned cardshark. He's striking matches on his whiskers and lighting up your cigarette. He's buying the saloon a round, then conducting their ensemble with a loaded pistol and a whisky on the rocks.
1. The Poet Is Rapist
3. Rebel Yellow
4. Sufficiently Breathless
5. Boxcar Diaries
6. Down Beast!
7. Le Facteur
8. Matchbook Diaries (remix)
9. Demon Girl
10. Let Me Tell You (remix)
11. Traveling Dunktank
12. Black Rose