Image via Timmy Risden
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Jack Riedy has said it before and he’ll say it again: Beach Bunny >>>> Rolling Stones.
D2x has graduated college, grown close with God, and settled into domestic life with his wife and daughter all before age 30. So now what? On his new album Hotel 1105, the Chicago rapper confronts quarter life crisis anxieties with ambition and a resort’s worth of sunny sounds.
Demauris Dixon was a teenaged rap fan, working out to J. Cole, Mac Miller, and Wale mixtapes while playing basketball for Ashburn’s St. Rita High. During his first semester at Western Illinois University in 2016, he abandoned his plans to walk onto the team and started rapping instead, commuting back home to Chicago for weekend studio sessions using Amtrak passes courtesy of his mom. He dropped his debut album The Color Blue in 2021, inspired by the catchy and cerebral mixtapes of his adolescence.
For his sophomore album, he studied ‘70s classics by Marvin, Stevie, Nina, and more, emulating the all-killer-no-filler approach of a single LP. Hotel 1105 is focused on family from the perspective of a young breadwinner. On “From Hotel 1105 With Love,” D2x raps to his wife directly, apologizing for youthful indiscretions then rejoicing in their upward mobility, booking valets at botanical gardens and Christmases in Rome with cavatappi and birdsong on the balcony. He’s grown old enough to see older relatives as peers and mature enough to forgive them their shortcomings. He doesn’t blame his father for being absent, just shrugs and raps “I still love him, I just wish we had more memories to keep.”
Despite his resolute delivery, memories of mortality tint D2x’s verses. “I Am Here” is an evocative depiction of loss. He reflects that “slayed friends ain’t make amends” and recalls choosing his outfit for his first headlining show as an homage to a deceased older cousin. The beat pairs sampled vocal warbles with puffs of saxophone, drifting upwards like the jetpack he yearns to use to escape. It’s thematically similar to fellow young Black Chicagoans Saba and Noname, though D2x is more interested in maximizing his syllables per bar than experimenting with unorthodox flows.
D2x’s greatest influences are a generation older. His on-record persona is Jay-Z without the dope boy past, Kanye without the egomania, what if the biggest rap stars of his childhood had skipped the moguldom straight to domestic bliss? He’s devoid of irony but with an eye for Windy City spectacle: he announced his album at Soldier Field and headlined the famed Metro for its release show.
The album’s luxuriant production avoids the trebly, gospel influence of the city’s other Christian wife guy rapper, in favor of an adult contemporary rap sound (complimentary). “Waves & Moonlights” rides a jazz fusion groove plucked from a Toto single. “Route Paradise’s” 6/8 honks bloom into a gorgeous descending dirge on the downbeat of the chorus. “Faith” knocks like vintage Roc-A-Fella, complete with pitched-up soul, bongo fills, and a “Song Cry” riff in the hook. When D2x boasts about his young daughter learning new words, you can hear him beaming into the mic.
D2x and his executive producers Ro Moore and Zander Miller assembled his new album with care over 18 months of recording sessions. Songs with multiple movements flow easily into the next, and it’s over in less than forty minutes and therefore perfect for looping a few times poolside. It’s a compelling companion to Janelle Monae’s The Age of Pleasure, a soundtrack for a chaste Sunday afternoon rather than a hedonistic Saturday night.
Hotel 1105 feels like checking in with a cousin at a family reunion, paging through old photos and hearing the life story scraps of each person pictured. His kids will look back on it fondly one day.