Emcee D’Allie is something of an anomaly in the often individualistic world of hip hop. He has fashioned a career based on a steady stream of compelling collaborations with producers, other artists and fans.
avid Allie Strauss, otherwise known as D’Allie, grew up in a household where music was a family affair. He inherited a love for many types of music from his guitar-playing, Jewish father, Gary Strauss-who is featured extensively on his son’s albums-and his mother, Komeh Allie Strauss, who is from Sierra Leone.
“When I was maybe 6 or 7, my dad was playing at bars late night, and then waking up early to go teach,” D’Allie, now 28, remembers. “Occasionally he would bring me out for the first set, around 10 or so.”
Papa Strauss built a small, short-scale guitar for little David, but the instrument fell by the wayside when some older cousins introduced the youngster to “Yo! MTV Raps.” D’Allie began writing rhymes at age 7.
Fast forward about two decades, his hip hop duo Progress Report released the full-length album, “Eddie Logix and D’Allie Are Progress Report,” last month.
The group dropped its vinyl single several months before the release of the album in an effort to create a deeper connection with listeners. “Vinyl is a big reason why we have music fans in the first place,” he says. “It’s a very active listening experience when you put on a record and have to turn it over in seven minutes.
“I’m going to give you three cuts just to see how you feel about it. It’s a slower process,” says D’Allie. “I don’t want to jump immediately into bed with the listener, you know? Let’s go have dinner first.”
Through collaboration, instead of competition, he has been building a hip hop career for more than a decade.
D’Allie formed the group Cooperative Opposites with childhood friend, Richie Wallace, in 1998. The pair recorded and performed together until their graduation from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Wallace enrolled in law school, and D’Allie followed the music.
In 2008, he named his first solo effort “The Cooperative” in homage to the former group, and in honor of the ideal of music as a shared experience.
“[Music making] is kind of like a cooperative in college towns-a bunch of people living under one roof sharing a common goal,” he explains. “A lot of people live in the house that is a D’Allie album-the producers, the engineers, and all the people who help. It’s not just me. It’s definitely a cooperative process.”
D’Allie’s crisp, articulate vocal delivery, and clever, sometimes conversational lyrics aren’t flashy or boastful. This style, and his flexible, team-player attitude lend themselves to a variety of musical situations.
He worked with a cadre of young producers-DL Jones, Ohad, Eddie Logix and Crate Digga-to create the soulful, sample-laden sound of “The Cooperative.” And he enlisted a powerful live band for “Live @ The Get Up” album, a high-energy performance recorded at Ferndale’s Magic Bag in 2009.
The rapper is also a member of the seven-man Detroit hip hop collective United States of Mind. Together this alliance of two producers and five emcees produce shows to market and promote their individual projects. Their monthly event at The Old Miami bar, Blue Collar Gentlemen, features performances by local and touring hip hop artists.
For the last couple of years, D’Allie’s efforts have focused largely on Progress Report with producer and emcee Eddie Logix. The group hit the scene last summer with a critically acclaimed seven-inch vinyl single and video for the jam “Wake Up.”
D’Allie’s collaborative approach to music extends to his interactions with fans. Progress Report’s album was financed through crowdfunding-the act of soliciting donations and album presales to cover the cost of recording, producing and marketing it. The two artists raised $5,300 through a campaign on Kickstarter.com, a popular crowdfunding site.
“I feel like I know everybody who does support me,” D’Allie says. “If you started as a fan, I try to make the effort to personally meet you.”
For D’Allie, technology is just a tool to build relationships and share the music. “Everybody’s caught up in all the technology of music all the time,” he says. “I feel like an analog dude in a digital age.”
J. NADIR OMOWALE IS A MUSICIAN AND FREELANCE WRITER BASED IN DETROIT.