Dante Pirtle wears many hats. He’s an Artist, Teacher, Veteran, Lyricist, Playwright, and Rhymer. With a slew of projects under his belt “The Hell I Know” is a refreshing, 5-track journey full of classic hip-hop, soulful boom bap beats and sincerity. To accompany his true school approach to music, he also tapped a handful of amazing collaborators, including Minneapolis Hip-Hop legend Big Jess and vocalist Alicia Renee, who has writing credits with major artists such as Beyonce and Ty Dolla $ign.
The EP begins with a song called “Art Thou a Villain Bad Guy”. Opening with a classic soul sample, it sets the tone for what you’re in for from this project and the artist himself. With a self-sung hook, Pirtle transitions into rapid-fire, Midwest-style bars that at times delve into similar tones of Bone Thugs N Harmony and Tech N9ne. The first verse is a strong entrance into Dante’s style and approach. Though the second verse comes off as jumbly and unorganized at times, he saves face towards the end of the song, with a strong finish. The melodic, 70s-sample era production with heavy percussion really shines in this record.
The follow up song is “Buried Alive”, another tune with a classic soulful sample that reminded me a lot of the Little Brother “The Minstrel Show” era, with 9th Wonder sentiments all through it. Pirtle ditches the rapid fire flow on this song, for a more mid-tempo, straightforward approach with bars full of Star Wars metaphors, self-realization and a harsh but truthful critique of the current and social issues prevalent in society, and even more importantly the immediate community that Pirtle works and operates in. This track really solidifies what Dante’s true approach to content is – being a teacher, he is truly attempting to teach through his lyricism.
For “The Audacity Radio”, Dante taps artist Niles and Minneapolis hip-hop legend, Big Jess from the group, Unknown Prophets. Pirtle touches on his humble upbringing and observations of his community in the 80s and 90s. He also continues to critique politics and the position of his influence within the construct, and not letting the audacity of such force-fed malarky to lead him astray from his mission as a lyricist and an activist. “You can still fight for your people if Kaepernick did it” was a standout line, urging new school activists to continue fighting for what they feel is right, even though the blackmail of the Black Male isn’t anything new. Dante Pirtle is all about the village and leading the new generation in the right direction.
“When The Universe Falls” slows things down a bit, as Dante takes a more sing-song approach, similar to what’s been popular in contemporary hip-hop, from the likes of artists like KYLE, Kid Cudi and A Boogie Wit A Hoodie. Award-winning songwriter and vocalist, Alicia Renee is featured on the song, with an emotion-evoking chorus and verse. This is the most commercially appealing record on the album, and should definitely be a single that is pushed from this record. Mixing 90s R&B sentiments with the topics of love and romance, this is sure to be a standout for the casual listeners of rap and hip-hop, and appeals to a larger audience. This was my favorite song on the EP.
The album ends with “The Hell I Know Radio”, an apocalyptic, rock-infused tune laced with haunting vocals from artist PROSPECT GRIZZLY. It serves as a chant-like rallying outcry for people to understand what Dante Pirtle’s reality really is, looking beyond his skin color and deeper into what his personal experiences in this crazy world has been. Overall, the project is a lot to digest, but for fans of lyrics about the social climate, society and political nuances similar to artists such as Lupe Fiasco, Talib Kweli and many underground rap enthusiasts, this is the perfect project for you to dissect and decipher. I’d encourage a few listens back to back to catch all the information packed into the 5-song journey. Dante Pirtle clearly lives up to his title of “teacher” and has a lot to say on his latest project, “The Hell I Know”, which is available on all major streaming platforms.