Al Rogers Jr. and Drew Scott craft open-hearted, high-concept hip-hop on 'Luvadocious'
By By Brandon Soderberg
Nov 24, 2015 | 12:19 PM
The concept behind Al Rogers Jr. and Drew Scott's "Luvadocious" really started coming together at three in the morning on the light rail. The duo had been recording songs, but while cleaning the train on his overnight shift, Rogers thought of the word "luvadocious" and thus, this sci-fi feminist, industrial hip-hop album about a world where God is a woman first became something more than a cluster of art-rap tracks.
"Sometimes, you just got to envision shit," Rogers says in his Charles Village apartment, with Scott by his side and a Gil Scott-Heron record whispering in the background. "That shit came to me at like three in the morning, the concept came later. At first I just told Drew, 'Yo, I came up with the final name: 'Luvadocious.' He was skeptical."
"He had changed it so many times, but I was like 'all right . . . ,'" Scott, who produced the entirety of "Luvadocious," says.
Rogers, beaming, jumps in to detail the genesis of "Luvadocious" further: "A week later, I started building on this concept. The idea of it is there's a female god in a world, a new land, in another like, time zone or fucking dimension, like some space shit. And in this world, people really think God to be a female."
The idea unpacks a typically #fakedeep line by conscious rap star Common. On 'Faithful,' off Common's 2005 album "Be," he raps, "I was rollin around, in my mind it occurred/ What if God was a her?" Rogers quotes those lines on 'Godina' (that's the name of the female God) off "Luvadocious," though he then explores this idea across ten songs, charting his maturation and sensitivity with the help of Godina—it isn't simply a "think about it, brah" platitude plugged into a stray verse.
Rogers and Scott first met at Ratscape in 2014 (Rogers was doing a solo set, Scott was playing with Blacksage, his brooding R&B duo with Josephine Olivia), though they met more properly later on when Rogers spotted Scott with Josephine Olivia on 29th Street.
"I see him and Josie fucking walking down the street and the only reason—this was like my second time ever seeing Drew—why I knew it was him is because he had a fuckin' cool-ass fucking OutKast T-shirt on," Rogers says. "Like yo, no fuckin' average white dude is walking around with a fuckin OutKast shirt on. I ran him down."
They talked and made plans to collaborate. Their first song together, 'All Nighters/ Empty Lighters,' a doped-up, rave-rap song that also features Eze Jackson, ended up on Scott's "The Drewcifer Tape," released late last year. Then, earlier this year over the winter, Rogers and Scott began working on what would eventually become "Luvadocious." The first song was 'Dealamanbluez,' a novelistic tale of a struggling dope boy set to a pulsing, organ-heavy beat.
Then there was a long break until the spring when the collaboration became more fruitful than either had anticipated: "It was just supposed to be a couple songs for his album, but then we thought we should just do a whole EP and then it turned into [an album] pretty quickly," Scott says.
With the tracks coming together and the concept solidified, Rogers wanted "Luvadocious" to have a narrator. Specifically, he "wanted the tape to be narrated by a woman." He thought of LaDawn Black, formerly the voice of 92Q's The Love Zone and currently hosting The LaDawn Black Show Sunday through Friday on Magic 95.9.
"I was like, 'Yo, who has the smoothest voice? LaDawn Black,'" Rogers says.
Via Twitter, Rogers reached out to Black, a long shot that worked. Black voices Godina, often speaking to and encouraging Rogers throughout the album—she's like Peaches from OutKast's "Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik," Samantha in "Her," and Lynne Thigpen in "The Warriors" all in one.
Much of "Luvadocious" explores its influences, updating and riffing on some of the musical ideas floating around right now. In conversation, Rogers mentions the neo-soul stylings of D'Angelo and Bilal as influences, along with the emotive warbling of Future and Young Thug and the beat-driven pop of Toro Y Moi and Tame Impala.
Scott's production seems agitated and distracted, ready to move onto another idea before the next one is finished as if there are too many styles and experiments in his head and he's got to cram them all in: 'OodlesNoodles (Good 4 You)' features a The Cure-esque synthesizer breakdown; 'Conversations' tersely nods to Baltimore club and Rogers references Miss Tony's classic 'Whatzup? Whatzup?' in his raps; 'Waitin (alldamnday)' is a muddier take on trap music, picking up on the discordant sounds of Kanye West's "Yeezus" and Future's "Dirty Sprite 2."
And Rogers fuses rapping and singing, often switching up his delivery to follow Scott's lead, speeding up or slowing down or crying out a verse. Here, Rogers becomes part of the recent, rather heartening trend in hip-hop of reasonable young men rapping their way through their confusion, caught between two worlds, looking inward instead of lashing out. Think: Chance the Rapper or Kendrick Lamar. And thanks to Scott, the beats are as adventurous as the stuff you hear on Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment's Chance-heavy "Surf" or Lamar's "To Pimp A Butterfly."
Consider 'OodlesNoodles (Good 4 You),' a blunted lament on the topic of growing up poor and with limited options, best represented by those cheap-o, seemingly wax-coated dried bricks of noodles that keep so many people's bellies full when they lack the funds to buy anything else. "Couldn't afford Whole Foods with my EBT/ All we had was oodle-noodles and the shit came free," Rogers raps. "Wasn't in the cul-de-sac, these rhymes came cold/ I was raised in the coldest places you know, seeing crack being cooked before I ever worked a stove."
And 'OodlesNoodles (Good 4 You)' best highlights the thrilling tension that makes "Luvadocious" so complex. Rogers and Scott are two opposing personalities in Baltimore rap. Rogers is probably the city's most promising pop-savvy rapper—check out the spring's B.o.B.-esque 'BlueGreen'—while Scott's work is informed by noise, metal, and the avant-garde as much as hip-hop. Appropriately, 'BlueGreen' appears on "Luvadocious" as a remix, slowed down to a glacial pace by Scott and interrupted by wobbling bass and static hiss.
"I make shit that's on the darker, more sad spectrum, Al makes shit that's really happy and uplifting," Scott says. "I was like, 'What are we gonna do?' But it made sense. We met in the middle."