DAX - PAIN PAINTS PAINTINGS
a review by Tamara Jenna
Dax a Singer/Songwriter and quite honestly someone who I crown a true wordsmith was born in Wichita, United States in 1994. Dax is an artist who blew away the minds of the public through social media in 2017 when he released his 'Cash Me Outside' remix ft Danielle Bregoli. Dax is not a typical influencer consumed in his own algorithms and success but is rather a Philosopher, a wordsmith, and a voice for the underdog. His music is highly skillful, taking on the narratives of several movies 'Villains' and making them relatable to the everyday human. Two classic examples of this can be found in his spectacular music videos and lyrical genius of 'The Grinch' and 'Joker'. These somehow dark yet satiric concepts are taken and made into the exorcism of demons from the narrative of a misunderstood underdog. Trying to fit what is a whole universe of creative genius into one article is difficult but I will never say impossible, so I will give this a go.
Dax released his latest album #PainPaintsPaintings towards the end of 2021. The project consists of 16-tracks that form from some of the rawest and darkest places of this artist's own existentialism but he also rises in strength to showcase himself as a survivor and advocate who wants to use his darkness as a superpower. Before I delve into the musical and lyrical content of #PainPaintsPaintings I want to take you through the cover art and indeed, the title of the project. 'Pain Paints Paintings' - What does that mean? The most beautiful thing about Dax's art is that it can be applied to anyone who feels deeply, who has a certain sadness in their minds and unless you're anything but human it is something that EVERYONE can hold perspective on. 'Pain Paints Paintings' what does that mean to me? It means that no matter how many insecurities you face, or your struggles with conflicting personality traits all of these demons can be used to create something beautifully moving, something that makes a difference to your own mental health and to those around you. Something good can come out of the darkness if you use it as a superpower. The imagery used by Dax stood out to me instantly along with the title - Let's start with how the title is illustrated, this is being painted in blood not only by the Dax as a whole entity but also as a split between heart and mind showcasing the many conflicting personality traits of human beings. More deeply, the trio could be compared to the holy trinity. One thing is definite here and that is that all of the versions of Dax in this image hold the same message, painting the same pain in a distant yet united struggle.
The opening song on this album is entitled #Suffocating. This track was written by the artist himself and produced by Nejc "Raspo" Razpotnik. It's difficult to sum these tracks in several sentences as there isn't a single empty word present. The piece opens with the lines "I'm tired man, sometimes I just sit in my room and I just hold my breath and let all the pressure and anxiety build up and I just let the time pass by". Anyone who has suffered from mental health will immediately feel understood, and spoken about and their worlds feel a little less distant. This track showcases a defeated Dax. Dax the fighter is shown in #TheDevil'sCalling. There's a sense of urgency, emergency, and anger in this piece through the productive elements. The way that Lex Nour (The Producer) created this beat with heavy 808s, cinematic synth chops, and a persistent trap drum loop allows for Dax to use this cinematic space to spit his anger in testimony to God and public figures who have made a difference. Dax states that the Devil's speed is 5G and is found on your phone feed - taking you through the concept that the Devil is absolutely everywhere in metaphors, in people, and in systemic settings.
#40Days40Nights is another production by Lex Nour. Here Dax collaborates with Nasty C to take you through their pilgrimage of life. From the struggles to the successes this track takes the time to sweep you through a vast amount of issues. From trust to the lack of sleep this piece is one for fighters.
#SearchingForAReason takes us into a vulnerable side of Dax. When I first heard this track I instantly connected with it and felt a different type of connection. I remember my mind sparking in excitement due to it being so different. #SearchingForAReason takes you into a softer vocal without being any less creative or impactful. Quoting the bible at the start gives listeners a sense of hope - "No weapon formed against you shall prosper, you are light"- Isaiah 54:17. This is followed by the hook "Trust gets you killed, love gets you hurt, being real gets you hated so tell me what it's worth" - a line inspired by Johnny Cash. Dax released the video #SearchingForAReason a week ago and has already met the eyes and ears of over 1 million on youtube. This piece being one of my favorites from #PainPaintsPaintings meant that I was super excited when it was revealed as his latest music video. When I saw the teaser for the visual I fell straight down the rabbit hole and into The Mad Hatter's bonnet! I'm a lover of Lewis Caroll's writings and the adaptations of Alice In Wonderland and feel that I am in fact The Mad Hatter conceptually (at times). The video does not fail to show Dax's creativity as he does a full circle from existential crisis reflections under a tree to causing chaos in Wonderland. This song is a must-hear and the video is a must-see - "Watch Me, Hear Me, Feel Me".
#BattlesWithFaith continues along the line of existential conceptuality but this time fuses the vulnerable with the strength in a track that showcases the internal David and Goliath within Dax's conflicting reflections. Claiming that he'll never be perfect, the subject to criticism but also a veteran. "I told 'em all I was sorry and that I'm heaven-sent But if I gotta kill 'em, then fuck it, I'll go to hell again". One thing that stands out to me about Dax is that he stands tall against his demons, even when they cause so much pain he still knows how to make the most of them making him the most realist and honest artist out there. #Eternity is a piece that I hold closest to my heart and use it to free myself from my own demons. This song isn't just a song, it's a sermon, an exorcism, and a therapy. Here, Dax wraps his soul around his pen and flows freely into dystopian anguish. If there was ever a piece of art that takes the concept of time and makes it infinite it is this one. This is a piece that works as a therapy to Dax but also to anyone who hears him - and I hear you. When debating your direction, this is the motivation that will convince you to follow your dreams before there's no time left. #DoesGodCry has a similar feeling - Dax thematically takes God's image and turns his narrative into something that we can all understand by using elements of nature - "Does God cry? Maybe his tears are the rain" therefore turning the human experience into something that questions whether or not the most powerful of beings feels pain too?
#Proparganda features Dax, and Tom MacDonald, and is another production by Lex Nour. This track moves away from the sermon-like statements found in the previous pieces and into something of a statement. #Propaganda is a piece that expresses the inflated media and institutional manipulations that happen within society. #PainPaintsPaintings is a piece that stamps, seals and delivers exactly what inspired the project."You don't know what I been through You couldn't even guess I was lost in a state of mind You couldn't find if I gave an address". Here Dax takes his anger and combines it with his passion to steal his own show.
#ALotAtStake is a track by Dax and Snow Tha Product produced again by the amazing Lex Nour. Watch the video below! I love the energy of the rap flows here and it's amazing to hear a feature from a fierce female. - You should definitely check out more from #SnowThaProduct. This track is one of my favorites due to the collaborative elements, the lyrical content, and the pure emotion in the form of aggression.
#BadThingsHappenToGoodPeople is a track that takes you back to the narrative of #DoesGodCry and #Eternity. We hear the vulnerable side to Dax show up again here in the form of another sermon. Lecrae makes an impactful feature on this piece too. This is one of my main go-to tracks when I'm struggling with some of the losses that I still find myself cyclically healing from. Addressing that with good comes evil this piece is one that you use to affirm that you are not the only one, you're not alone, and that even the most publically acclaimed artists feel depression too. #PTSD - where do I start with this one. This is one of the most confessional, pain-invoking pieces I've heard. Dax captures the characteristic of PTSD perfectly and addresses a narrative of the causes and the aftermath of turmoil. This piece is incredibly dark. This is a key piece that addresses the fight and sheer humanism found in the artist is #Dax. #Fame by Dax collaborates the lyricism of Dax and Yelawolf with the productive genius of Lex Nour and Yelawolf. The rap flow here is crafted with skill and lyrically tells the story of always wanting something new, wanting fame, and experiencing pain. #Wounded is another piece that I resonate with deeply. The emo-rap style here brings something sonically special through both rap and singing techniques both soft and harsh. The emotional guitar samples merge the world of R&B and Rock to bring an alternative R&B/Emo Rap production. Both Dax and Clever have created something extremely raw with producer Lex Nour that would move even the most stern of men. #MyEyesBleed brings a close to the album. This song brought all of my demons to the surface when I first heard it. It was late at night at a time when your demons like to stalk you the most. This piece took those demons and held me in a place of safety. As humans, we want to feel connected and understood more than anything. This piece offers that to the everyday person.
I could go on forever talking about each track, every time I hear them they address a different part of me that holds a variety of perceptions against my own demons. Dax is more than an artist - he is a leader, an inspiration, and a wordsmith who holds the most real and honest intentions. It has been an absolute honor to have written this piece. Make sure that you get familiar with the works of #Dax and #LexNour as they produce some of the most impactful pieces in modern rap.