TRØN & DVD
As TRØN & DVD, brothers Norvin and Darian Van Dunk have pushed themselves to take their music in new directions ever since they were kids, running amok in their hometown of Nyack, New York. With Manhunt, their second LP on Kiam Records (out on September 13, 2019), TRØN & DVD present their most confident vision to date: a story of two black artists leaning into their craft to navigate the anxieties of family life and personal vices — all while surviving the threats posed by modern America.
With 2017’s Afraid of the Dark, the Van Dunk brothers expanded the sound and scope of their previous releases, tapping their new label mates to refine an aesthetic shaped as much by emo music and sci-fi as it was by classic hip-hop acts like Wu-Tang Clan. In many ways, Manhunt picks up right where that album left off. Norvin again handles the bulk of production, with his signature blend of hard-hitting kick drums and fuzzy, blaring synths. On lead single “Me Time,” Norvin shows off just how far this style has taken him, opening the track with a hushed, clattering sound effect before dropping the drums in lockstep with DVD’s ruthless verse (“Fuck a feature/I’m the feature presentation”). Later, on standout “Raps To Listen To At Night,” a mix of sirens and vocal snippets induces the palpable paranoia inherent to living under a police state, recalling the duo’s earlier work on “Vigilantes.”
Even so, the brothers’ bolder, brasher songwriting approach on Manhunt showcases how this is not quite the same TRØN & DVD from 2017. Gone, mostly, are the references to teenage troublemaking that flavored Afraid of the Dark with its coming-of-age perspective. Instead, songs like “Lost Boys ” and the aforementioned “Me Time” boast the rappers’ shared skill for playing rap super villains, a sinister archetype that also allows for a dose of lyrical playfulness (“We the monsters you was hiding from under covers,” TRØN raps on the former.). While the brothers clearly revel in the thrills of making music together, their sense of purpose rings loudest when channeling justified anger at the state of the world. “I procreated in this madness,” TRØN raps on “Godless,” sounding both beleaguered and motivated by the thought of his children’s future.
Recorded over the past two years, Manhunt reflects the rappers’ expanded Rolodex — a natural side effect to a run of concerts that saw them billed alongside established indie rap acts such as Murs, Milo, Open Mike Eagle and Mega Ran. As on Afraid of the Dark, labelmates Amy Bezunartea and Jennifer O’Connor contribute vocals to the opening and second to last tracks, respectively. The duo’s brother, Lynk, also returns to contribute a verse on “Raps To Listen To At Night.” Meanwhile, “Hydro-Pain” boasts a guest verse from Deathbomb Arc artist SB The Moor, as well as a wailing guitar solo from Coheed and Cambria’s Travis Stever. Last, but certainly not least, Redman raps on showstopper “4 They Life,” which also features a verse and hook from Oran Juice Jones II.
In short, Manhunt amounts to TRØN & DVD’s finest work yet, while also serving as a continuation of the story they set out to tell on Afraid of the Dark. Taking its title, in part, from a form of tag that kids play at night, Manhunt is a cogent mission statement delivered under threat of survival, both in the rap game and in the morally bankrupt landscape of modern America. It’s both a promise and a reminder that — after a decade of performing as TRØN & DVD — the Van Dunk brothers are here to stay and are out to take what’s theirs. As Norvin said, “You’re not afraid of something when you’re playing games in it.”