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  • Writer's pictureEvan

Another Talk with Dot-Com Intelligence: Shifting the paradigm, and the objective to rap with intent

Growing a stronger following each year, Dot-Com Intelligence is among the most consistent MCs this decade. After a grimy collaboration with producer August Fanon titled Precipice and a tape with Lunar named HAMMER BROS last year, the rapper has kept busy through 2023 with The Path of the Obsidian Way and, most recently, Shift Paradigm. Boasting some of his most vulnerable verses to date, the latest LP has been a whetstone for the MC to sharpen his skills as a lyricist.

Ranging from his troubled relationship with his cousin to the plague of racism in society, Intell covers a range of topics on Shift Paradigm. Unlike Path of the Obsidian Way, a more casual record filled with upbeat collaborations, Paradigm is on the heavier side. “I try to put intent behind every rap,” he said. “There are enough people rapping about just rapping … It doesn’t make sense for me, in my mid-40s, rapping like I’m 19, because I’m not.”

Conscious lyrics and dark themes are at the core of Shift Paradigm’s sound. Fully produced by Sycho Sid, the album embodies a harsh, gritty style, making for one of his most impactful LPs yet. “You can have fun with it, but the whole purpose of art is to spark something, and to get a reaction, whether it’s anger, hate, joy, or whatever … I want it to be here after I’m gone … If someone hears it, they’ll be like, ‘Wow, this was out at this time? Someone did this?’ That’s the whole goal. You want to eat off of it, but you want to make something that’s timeless.”

Of all the tracks on the record, ‘From T to D’ stands out as the most powerful. A gripping tale of Intell’s rocky relationship with his cousin, the track is as heavy on the ear as it was difficult to write. “I couldn’t push the words out because it was too personal,” he said. “Eventually, it comes, but you can’t force it … In that song, I’m dealing with my cousin D, who’s locked up still. The story of that was really true. He was the one who started me rapping, when I met him in North Carolina … The thing was, he really was doing it. He was performing in Denver with a band, rapping – he was doing what I wanted to do. He started me on the pad … Through things related with problems and drugs, doing stupid shit, taking it for granted, he lost it. I was really mad at him for that.”

Besides Shift Paradigm, Intell and Sid joined forces back in 2020 for The Days, the Hours, the Minutes, the Seconds. Since then, the MC has collaborated with a variety of different producers, but he was determined to get back with Sid for another LP. “I’ve been blessed to work with producers that are great, but Sid can do it all,” he said. “It's funny because the first song I did [for Shift Paradigm] was ‘R.M.A.N.’ He was like, ‘Yo, I don’t really like this song!’ But I loved that beat, and I just did it. He was like, ‘Yeah, it’s dope – it’s just not really my cup of tea, but I know what you’re trying to get at.’ … He’s always been honest with it.”

Sycho Sid isn’t the only artist Intell worked with for the new album. While he handles most of the LP himself, the MC left room for three rappers to deliver verses – Saga Asad, Aakeem Eshu, and Dat Boi Vic. Intell said, “I was searching, not only for who would sound good, but who raps like I do … I want someone who’s better than me, skill-wise, or someone who can complement me … I’ve been working with Aakeem for a minute, because he was on Precipice. Dat Boi Vic is a rapper, and I heard his stuff – he’s been grinding, doing his stuff. He’s a Southern boy like me, but he’s just really about his stuff. The people that I work with, I’ve always just been in the loop with. Of course, Saga Asad, he worked with August, and I found out about him through August.”

On the topic of August Fanon, the rapper had lots to say. In the run up to Precipice, he had made it a personal goal to collaborate with the underground producer. A year later, the duo have become close associates, with a new album on the horizon. “He will just bombard you,” he said. “By the time you find [a beat], it’s like, ‘Who’s on it? Aw, someone took it! Akai Solo got it? Armand Hammer took this?’ I’m just glad I’m in that cycle. I’ve got my baseline for what I want to do; it’s time to start formulating. The tracks are there – it’s just finding the concept to make it work … He’s a titan. Him and Sycho Sid – their output is incredible.”

Just a week after our interview last year, Intell teamed up with rapper/producer Lunar for HAMMER BROS. Since then, they have become inseparable, jumping on one another’s projects time and time again. “Lunar is a madman. His schedule is so busy. It’s funny because we kind of got caught on the tailwind – as soon as HAMMER BROS hit, he was really working. He has a massive amount of stuff that’s coming out. There will be another Hammer Bros album. Between me finding the skits and him making those skits fit, and us just having fun, that wasn’t work … I have an album with Lunar. I don’t know when that’s going to be done; I’ve got two songs for that. It’s just sitting because I’ve got to finish so much stuff.”

Between Precipice and Shift Paradigm, the MC took a break from his serious style, making music for the sheer fun of it. The Path of the Obsidian Way was one project that emerged from that period, with guest features on almost every track. “After Precipice, I had to decompress, because that was kind of a deep album. I just wanted to rhyme and have fun, and that’s what [Obsidian Way] was. It’s always easier to work with other people because you may just have one verse, or a hook and a verse, and you don’t have to put in the extra work for the extra verses. You can just have the other MC go and finish it up.”

After wrapping up the new LP, Intell is ready for another break from heavy subject matter. Working on an EP and hopping on tracks with dozens of artists, the rapper is closing off the year carefree. “Maybe this new one will be [Obsidian Way] 2, even though it will be shorter. I think it’s always best to the threepeat. After three, it kind of gets watered down.”

Among his upcoming collaborations is a project with Mississippi rapper Trash TompSin, with the two joining forces to form Good Omens. More than that, he has work with MC Matt Mars and producer Wulverine on the way. “I’m constantly working,” he said. “I’m trying to do it before I burn out. But then again, KRS-One and these other guys are still rapping older than me!”

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