Themselves

After a six-year hiatus, Themselves return on a rampage of heady rap wrung from hardworking hands. Of course, the duo of Jeffrey "Jel" Logan and Adam "Doseone" Drucker are never too far from the frontlines of good art and honest music. Last year, their Subtle sextet released its third album, the critically acclaimed and wildly adventurous ExitingARM, and a 2005 collaboration with Germany's the Notwist yielded the cult gem 13 & God. There have been solo offerings, guest appearances, and ceaseless touring, but not peep from the name behind 2002's left-field classic The No Music. That blessed interim has seen Doseone and Jel become the fearless musicians and exacting artists they'd always meant to be. Now, hungrier than ever, Themselves are here to scrawl a bold new chapter across rap's too-stale tome. Furthermore, they set out to accomplish this feat unadorned, returning to hip-hop's most cardinal and carnal form, the number two: the DJ and the MC”neck-snapping beats and precision prose”accompanied by a little righteous indignation, of course.

Such things do have roots, naturally, and Themselves' are as colorful as one would expect. Drucker was born in Napa, Idaho, to a hippie pair whose relationship wouldn't outlast its ideals. Logan was raised in Chicago by Pentecostal parents. While the former spent his preteen years bouncing between Philadelphia and New Jersey, surviving by his mile-a-minute wit and ceaseless imagination, Logan nursed an early love for the decidedly safe sounds of Chuck Berry into raging crush on the unhinged backbone of rap music: beats. He'd pump gas in order to save up for the hallowed SP-1200 drum machine (of which he's now a renowned master); Drucker would hone his unmatched rap styles in street battles before moving to Cincinnati in his late teens. In that city's annual "Scribble Jam" competition, as "Doseone," he famously battled Eminem in a final-round showdown—as well as one of his idols, Freestyle Fellowship's P.E.A.C.E.—and the experience left him hollow. Meanwhile, Jel had forged a sound unto himself, but couldn't find a voice able to keep pace. In 1998, tapes were exchanged through the venerable DJ Mr. Dibbs, and history came to be made.

Of that initial meeting, much would be born: Doseone's ambitious, self-released debut Hemispheres (1998); Themselves' seminal unveiling, Them (1999); the landmark collaborative project, Deep Puddle Dynamics (also featuring Sole, Alias and Atmosphere's Slug); and the Anticon label itself. Soon, Dose and Jel moved to Oakland in order to spark a movement with Anticon's other co-founders, two of which (Odd Nosdam, and Yoni Wolf of WHY?) were in yet another celebrated group with Drucker, the eternally lauded cLOUDDEAD. Since, Doseone and Jel have continued to challenge rap—and our conception of music itself—every step of the way. Through their joint projects and an impressive body of solo work (see 2006's Soft Money, by Jel, or Doseone's self-released spoken-word album, Soft Skulls), these two have been nurturing the kind of legacy that only gets better with age. In 2009, Themselves return to a core that's been warming, strengthening, and expanding all the while.