by chuck bell

There are very few bands that have had as much of an impact on the current state of both hip-hop and indie rock as cLOUDDEAD. The avant-garde group consisted of Doseone (Adam Drucker), Odd Nosdam (David Madison) and Why? (Yoni Wolf). While attending art school at the University of Cincinnati, Wolf met Drucker on campus after the semi-finals for the 1997 Scribble Jam, Cincinnati’s annual hip-hop festival. Drucker had just battled the then-unknown Eminem, and having been impressed with his performance, Wolf suggested they start a band. The two became close friends and soon formed a live improv group which they called Apogee, along with local DJ Mr. Dibbs and Wolf’s older brother, Josiah. It was not long before Drucker and Wolf began recording together, under the name Greenthink. While these two were the core members of the group, there were numerous other notable contributors, including Mr. Dibbs, Sole, Slug of Atmosphere, and Odd Nosdam. After releasing two albums, they decided to form a new group with Odd Nosdam as a permanent member in 1999. This was the birth of cLOUDDEAD.

Song: Dead Dogs Two (Boards Of Canada Remix)
Song: Pop Song

Although inherently based in hip-hop, cLOUDDEAD’s sound was extremely hard to classify into any particular genre, drawing from electronica, indie rock, trip-hop, and psychedelic rock, among others. When asked, Drucker simply said, “Just call it hip-hop.” During the first two years of their existence, they released six 10″ singles, which Mush Records compiled into their first self-titled full length in 2001. Madison and Wolf split duties producing the beats, while Drucker would rap/speak/whisper in his signature nasal voice. Wolf often complemented Drucker’s baffling verses with his lower, gentler singing/rapping. In 2004, they put out the single for “Dead Dogs Two” with a message on the sleeve saying, “This is cLOUDDEAD number 9 of 10.” This hinted that their following full-length, Ten, would be their final release. The booklet for Ten reads: “Yoni thinks this is our last record. Adam definitely does not. David remains optimistic.” Despite the album’s tremendous critical success, as well as its relatively strong performance on the UK charts, it seemed that the group had already decided its fate. By the time they released Ten, tension had been growing between the three members, particularly Madison and Wolf, and they decided to call it quits.

All three members are still involved to this day with Anticon, the Bay Area record label that they founded back in 1997. Drucker has worked with numerous groups, including Themselves, Deep Puddle Dynamics, and most recently Subtle. He has also collaborated with the likes of Boom Bip, Aesop Rock and Mike Patton. He has recently been releasing self-titled hip-hop and spoken word albums, as well as The Pelt, his first poetry book/CD. Odd Nosdam has continued doing production, having worked with various independent artists, including Sage Francis, Boards of Canada, Black Moth Super Rainbow and Eluvium. He also worked very closely with Mike Patton on his 2006 Peeping Tom project. Wolf has made the most drastic transition from his cLOUDDEAD days. After their breakup, he put out three albums by himself, maintaining the moniker Why? In 2005, he expanded Why? to a full band for the album Elephant Eyelash, including his brother on drums. Since then, their sound has been drifting further from hip-hop and more into indie and folk rock. In fact, following the release of his latest album, Eskimo Snow, Wolf stated that this was “the least hip-hop out of anything I’ve ever been involved with.” Even though a proper cLOUDDEAD reunion does not appear to be likely at this point, all of the members’ involvement with the Anticon collective helps to keep hope alive for the future.


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