Facts are facts: Hipsters love rap, and these days, rap loves hipsters. Having gotten that out of the way, it is easier to discuss the merits of Warning, the new EP from six-piece hip-hop band Air Dubai, on its own terms. Being named after a fictional airline while hailing from Denver may seem odd at first, however,the polished musicianship found on the EP should put all doubt to rest. Quite frankly, there can be no complaints about beat selection on this 5-track project: all the instruments are live and the musicians are jammin’. The layering of rock, jazz and R&B compositions is effortless for Air Dubai, as Lawrence Grivich (guitar), Michael Ray (keyboards/synth), Taylor Tait (bass), and Nick Spreigl (drums) provide vocalists Julian Thomas and Jon Shockness with lush soundscapes to rap and sing over.
Thomas is a decent enough rapper, with simple rhyme patterns and a light voice that doesn’t overpower the music but accentuates it just enough to give it a (hipster) hip-hop edge. On the EP’s title track, the charging “Warning,” Air Dubai sounds like a cross between Gym Class Heroes and Katy Perry. That’s not a bad thing at all – the song sounds like a Top 40 radio staple, something for 5-year-olds, soccer moms and grandmothers can appreciate and buy into. The up-tempo “Soul & Body” has a soulful chorus that lends itself to be the sing-a-long anthem at any live show or festival that Air Dubai will perform (and perform worldwide, they will.)
The tempo is slowed down considerably for “All Day,” as the mix on Thomas’ vocals is turned up, ostensibly to give him the spotlight. It’s the EP’s best track. Over spacy synths that are impossible to dislike, Thomas delivers some of his most focused and self-effacingly hilarious wordplay, including, “Truth is, I usually take it to a new degree/ hipsters go crazy ‘cause I spit this sh*t gluten-free” and “I’ve never got any beef, whether frozen or thawed.” Because of the musicianship and lighthearted feel of the music, even when Thomas goes into #hashtag rap territory with a line like “fans go crazy for my sh*t, bathsalts,” he manages to avoid sounding overly corny. For a hip-hop band hailing from Colorado, that in it and of itself is a remarkable accomplishment. Considering there’s only five tracks on Warning and “Dance With the Devil” features similarly hard-grooving synths and a melodic chorus, the EP proves to be very enjoyable.
With Warning, Hopeless Records act Air Dubai have made a very accessible project that can find a following among hardcore hip-hop fans and people who would typically frown upon hip-hop altogether. With organic instrumentation and decent vocalists, this act could very well be categorized as the Emirates of hip-hop. Hipsters be damned.