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88Nine Radio Milwaukee

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An Exclusive Look Into LA's Biggest Hip-Hop Duo of '14: Dag Savage

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  • Courtesy of the artist

It’s the 12th round of a heavyweight title match. The boxer in this fight is drained of energy, his eyes are swollen, and his body is beat to a pulp. The fighter has two options: Either throw in the towel and try again next time around or---try to gain some energy and finish what he started; coming back even stronger than the first round of the fight and proving why he deserves the heavy weight title.

For Johaz, (one half of the MC/producer duo of L.A. based Dag Savage) that’s what the process for making their newest album had been like. Johaz put it best in a recent interview I had with both him and producer Exile,“My mind-state was like: ‘we are working at this record trying to build a buzz’, so I was in a fighter mode. I was trying to get that heavy weight title like ‘we in the ring right now’, you know what I mean?"When E&J starts out it seems like nothing short of that statement as Johaz comes with an aggressive delivery with imagery of his life and struggle painted onto the beautifully produced soulful Exile instrumentals.

The name in itself “Dag Savage” also has a lot of meaning about where the group was coming from. Exile explained the “Dag” part of the name, which I was unfamiliar with as far as the term went. “Dag Savage is kind of like a yin and a yang type thing. A ‘dag’ is a socially awkward person, and a ‘savage’ is the opposite of that.” With that, it was clear to see how E&J personified the “Dag Savage” character. What was interesting to me was how the duo, especially Johaz, could give off that savage-like energy in all songs while still sounding a bit, dare I say, conscious?

“Honestly I remember having a conversation with Aloe Blacc and Exile. It was around the time we were doing ‘When it Rains,’ when we were doing the video. They were just like, ‘really, you just want to approach these records like you are telling your story.’ I asked myself, what separates me from the next MC who is spitting raw emotional shit? What separates me is my story. So when I try to write, I write from the most personal perspective--- that way it’s me. Nobody else can be like ‘yo you are rhyming like this’ nah homeboy, this is from my soul. So that’s how I try to set myself apart from other MCs because I strictly come from a personal perspective and come from within.”

With that being said, it was clear that ‘conscious’ wasn’t the right word to describe this content. There really was no one set label to define this group because both from a songwriting standpoint and a production standpoint there was just a natural element that occurred between the two---sort of like the yin and yang chemistry aforementioned that compliments the soundscapes etched into the mind of the listener. When asking Exile about the production on the album, he had this to say, “Well for me, I’m just making beats I enjoy…some of it might be considered traditional but I also try to stay aware of where the music is going and I feel like I try to give a progressive addition to the traditional sense of hip-hop shit. (I’m) just trying to make classic albums, produce them all and make a platform for us to travel the world with and gain some fans.”

When asked about the favorite part of the process Exile jumped in and talked about performing at a local Los Angeles venue, The Echo, for the release party.“When Johaz jumped on stage and (we) already saw people knowing lyrics to some of the songs with the place just going nuts…That’s when you see your fruits harvesting and that’s the harvest moment right there when you actually see it connecting to the fans.” With E&J, an album that would make more sense to be labeled as a memoir rather than just a collection of raps, this previous statement would make complete sense. With just one listen from E&J it is hard not to connect, if not with the lyrics, the ‘dag-savageness’ and raw emotion of it sonically.

As Dag Savage currently tours Europe, along with labelmates Blu, Denmark Vessey, & Quelle Chris, it seems as though the hard work has paid off but this is in fact, just the beginning (no pun intended). Coming straight from Exile himself, “You are going to hear more Dag Savage on the Dirty Science album first with Blu, Choosey, Aloe Blacc and what not. After that you will hear another Dag Savage album for sure”. With the proverbial ‘title fight’ finished, there is a sense of accomplishment with the duo, and evidently we have more to look forward to hear from them in the future.