The ‘Just In Case’ EP, a debut release from Bronx rapper Doley Bernays will leave listeners pleased and expecting more. Doley, still treading his lyrical waters, shows promise as he switches flows with ease and performs some noteworthy tongue feats. Coupled with MP Williams (producer of A$AP Rocky’s ‘Ghetto Symphony’) ethereal, dark sometimes haunting production, aural tastebuds will give praise as Doley moulds trap life testimonials into gems and flexes his wordplay in an effluvia of dank bud, New York streets, pill-popping and nostalgia.
When the intro track ‘Just In Case/Reelife Sound’ transitions (somewhat reminiscent of anime intro songs circa ‘05) it subconsciously hints at the symbolic journey of ‘Just In Case’, makes a silent pact with the listener and sets the proverbial tone. ‘Darkside Glow’ follows as an underdog’s anthem of rising despite being wounded and tipsy. ‘Blessing’ is distinguished with its uptempo beat. In ‘We Belong Here’, the dark grace of MP Williams is juxtaposed to Doley’s boastful (not pretentious) rattlings and bids the listeners to believe that he does in fact belong here. ‘Til We Fall’ is an easy favourite, with dope one-liners. Its trap boy mantra vibes drips effortlessly into ‘Drown’, a liquor-soaked lack-of-love note with an equally pleasing melody and rich piano keys.
More gentler keys usher in ‘Tommy and Keish’, titled after the infamous couple from the movie Belly is a tit for tat crazy girlfriend song told in the grand tradition of ‘Me and Bitch’ sans robbery-homicide and shitty toothbrush. ‘I Know Pain’ featuring Euro League and James Ashli is a wistful narrative of nostalgia, Doley lends a piece of himself here and is one of the standout songs on the project. ‘Funeral and Release Date’ fell flat production-wise and the hook is nothing to write home about. Doley oscillates from a slow to quick delivery on the bonus track ‘Waking up to Day Dreams’ putting his versatility on display. ‘Bad Guy’ bumps like New York Hip-Hop but somehow fights its way onto the project. The last bonus track ‘Raise Your Weapon’ featuring Denzil Porter was a sweet and fitting ending to a dark ride.
There are a few downsides to ‘Just In Case’. Doley seems to nibble, not bite, at the stylings of Yeezy in ‘Darkside Glow’, Kendrick Lamar (Section 8.0) ‘We Belong Here’, Future in the hook of ‘Funeral and Release Dates’ and most noticeably Meek Mill in ‘Blessed’ the hook (and title of the song) veered dangerously close to sounding like a carbon replica of Mill’s ‘Amen’. Just to name a few. The lyrics at the beginning of ‘Drown’ were sticky. Thankfully, they got sorted out by the second verse. ‘Reelife Sound’ can lose listeners if they don’t listen past 1:13 and the beginning was riddled with overused metaphors. ‘I Know Pain’ was a bit too long, despite ending on a high note.
If the intention was to make this EP sound like an LP, it fell short with its repetitive subject matter and lax production toward the second half. In this respect Doley’s wordplay sounds more “stunt actor”, performing similar tumbles and falls in various scenes rather than “leading man” throughout an epic blockbuster. MP Williams while lax, still cradled ‘Just In Case’ from ‘Funerals and Release Dates’ to ‘Bad Guys’ just as it stooped into its stunt act. Doley’s storytelling abilities on ‘Tommy and Keish’ could have made other songs distinct and may have rounded out the completed production. Ideally, if ‘Just In Case’ was condensed to 9 or 10 songs Doley’s potential for leading man could have been fully realized and he might have achieved the “EP that plays like an LP” sound. ‘Blessed’ and ‘Bad Guy’ threw off EP’s easy-going smoker’s delight effect, ironic seeing how ‘Bad Guy’ was rife with marijuana references.
These nitpickings in taste shouldn’t sway you from listening. While Doley lacks here and falls there, not one song on ‘Just In Case’ is completely atrocious. That’s a mark of what could be very well received future projects. A good match is made with MP Williams, dabbling with sonic luxury and tailor-fitting sounds to words. While a couple of songs could have been dropped, ‘Just In Case’ wasn’t thrown together haphazardly. Here resides a sincere attempt to make good music. Even when a style is borrowed or a point referenced one too many times something of Doley’s own wit resonates throughout the EP. He has only just begun to master his pen and find his stylings but knows how to arrange tracks. A solid rookie release, smooth and willful, best enjoyed with a fat L of kush, a snifter of cognac and ‘Knights of Sidonia’ playing HD on a big screen.
Doley will release his next EP ‘Bond Place Hotel’ on August 26. Listen to the first single from the EP via this link.
Words by Gia Shakur