T.Q.D.: Not Yet

Not Yet

It's tempting to ask what kind of sense it makes for an MC to rhyme about being unsure of himself—it's an attitude that runs counter to the posture in decades of hip-hop history. Any sign of vulnerability means it's pigeonhole time—and guess what, kid? You're "emo rap." T.Q.D. stands for "The Quiet Dude," and the name suits the Bloomington-raised MC: He's audible, but his voice is measured and contemplative, lingering over syllables like he's got a drawl with all the South drained out. With a hesitant cadence and halting lyrics more honest than complex, his style's a bit hard to get accustomed to—it's like listening to Guru's first demo tape while the batteries in the boombox are going dead.

But the post-traumatic tone works when the subject matter's this self-conscious. While punk-rap firebrand P.O.S. threatened to go Death Wish on the hit-and-run driver who killed his uncle in Audition's "Paul Kersey to Jack Kimball," T.Q.D. reacts to a similar situation by aiming his anger inward, blaming himself for missing the funeral of a childhood friend in "George." "Freshman Mistakes" is a rundown of high school anxiety that bleeds out into a post-adolescent paranoia, and "Retrospection" highlights the isolation of the creative process: "Lost in self, made visions I imagined/I lost control of what once made me balanced."

Fortunately, T.Q.D. doesn't spend a lot of stage time alone: As one of the bookers for the biweekly Soundcheck Hip Hop Showcase at Big V's in St. Paul, he can bounce ideas and rhymes off plenty of other people. Not Yet benefits from a rotating cast of producers, including Doomtree's Cecil Otter (who contributes half the record's beats, as well as a guest verse on "Shore to Shore") and frequent collaborators Phingaz, Ecid, and Octave High, all of whom work the production backdrop into a haze of faded, grainy doom funk. The title might seem like a self-effacing answer to a question of potential, but once he reaches it, odds are he'll start bringing the noise.