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Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011

The Hollowz’s Tortured Hip-Hop

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The Hollowz didn’t intend for the lighthearted title of their debut album, Dreams of Sex and Flying, to be so ironic. The duo had conceived the title as a lark last year while kidding around on WMSE’s “Mad Kids” program, well before they finished the record.

“The title was supposed to be a joke—like, what could be better than dreams of sex and flying?” recalls Hollowz rapper Logic. “Analyzing the album after we’d completed it, though, we realized the title didn’t really fit the mood of the music. Somebody told me, ‘Hey man, no offense, but your album is kind of a downer,’ and the more I listen to it, the more I realize that’s true. There are a lot of depressing songs on here.”

Far from the escapist romp its title implies, Dreams of Sex and Flying is a moody, foreboding hip-hop record, kindred to Atmosphere’s doleful parables and the more tormented corners of Eminem’s songbook.

Unlike most hip-hop acts that pride themselves on this sort of dark-night-of-the-soul aesthetic, Logic and producer Edward Cayce never intended to make music quite this bleak.

“At first we were even calling ourselves SLDSU: Super Laser Death Squad Ultra,” Logic says. “We wanted a name that was kind of stupid and would catch attention. The more we recorded for our first EP, though, the more we realized we weren’t The Cranberry Show type of crazy, weird, carefree rappers. These weren’t party jams that we were making, so we needed a name that was more suitable, and that’s how we ended up with The Hollowz.”

The excerpt of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” that opens Dreams of Sex and Flying sets the album’s tone early, priming the listener for a set of songs about frustration, madness, loss and addiction. “Sow the Seed” contrasts two eulogies, an appreciative tribute to a friend who died at war and a bitter recrimination of an absent father who drank himself to death. Narrated from the perspective of a hateful addict viciously opposed to kicking his habit, “Group Therapy” is even more morose. The track continues even after the narrator commits suicide, lingering on the horrified screams of the former friends who discover his corpse.

The impetus for such tortured songs, Logic says, is Cayce’s beats. Eerie and lecherous, they suggest the type of music the RZA might compose if he’d been hired to score “Dexter.”

“Ed’s beats just kind of bring out that darker side of me,” Logic says. “Until I began working with him, I never really gravitated toward the darker stuff, but I’m enjoying making darker music with him. I think there’s more meaning to it than most party music. There’s more substance.”

The Hollowz play a 9:30 p.m. release show on Saturday, Jan. 29, at the Bay View Brew Haus with AUTOMatic, Raze, Bobby Drake and DJ Optimist. The $10 cover includes a copy of the album.