The Keep Your Friends Close EP is up-and-coming rapper Dylan Owen’s newest musical project. Its first track, “Bookmarks,” begins with one of multiple segments on the EP that are reminiscent of free verse poetry; these portions are spoken rather than rapped completely in sync with the underlying beat. Dylan tells his listeners that his newest work is dedicated to the camp counselors “who taught me how to tell ghost stories,” and the teachers “who made me write a book report about the story of my life,” in doing so teaching him how to express himself. He also explains that his music is “for anybody who woke up without a feeling or a sense of home, and hates being alone, cause honestly I know how hard it can be to find yourself when you’re lost.”
But what does all of this mean exactly? With songs titled “Keep Your Friends Close,” “The Comeback Home,” and “Ithaca is Gorgeous” (the rapper is based out of Orange County, NY and attended Cornell University for some time) it is fairly obvious that Dylan’s small-town roots have had a profound effect on him: as much of an effect as urban environments have had on artists from New York and other cities that we studied in class.
On that note, images of railroad tracks and a field of marigolds convey a feeling that is distinctly rural in the rapper's song “The Book Report.” In this song he also confronts personal loss (parts of this song address a childhood friend with a sick family member) and reflects on his past and future. Those allusions to nature call to mind the themes of pastoral poetry; those to grief and loss strengthen ties to pastoral elegies such as Milton’s Lycidas.
I recommend at least a quick listen to the EP for those who enjoy hip hop that blurs the line between rap and poetry—Dylan’s work is impressive lyrically, not to mention it also tells a story that is as genuine as any other stuff out there. Anyone interested should check out a few tracks from the EP, not to mention the rapper's song “The Book Report” (video below).