By Ethan Maffey
From the opening track, in which Bend rapper Gabe Van Eikeren—who goes by Amsterdam—quotes "Mad Men's" Don Draper, Avarice is one damn good hip-hop album.
The solo effort by one half of the rap duo Top Shelf surprises with atypical ambient hip-hop beats on the first track, "Happiness." As Amsterdam begins his Macklemore-esque flow, the mash of rap and synthesizer turns into an anthem about struggling with depression. The rest of the album stands as a meticulous destruction of mainstream rap.
There is nothing cliché about Amsterdam's take on hip-hop. No I'm-better-than-every-one-else hyperbole and no exploitation of sex. It's simply an honest journal of personal experiences. Very refreshing.
The second track "On To You" is a dark march with wailing synth and jaw-clenching emotion. On it, Amsterdam angrily pops off about ending relationships and people's shady motives, including those of the duo who supplied some of the beats for the record.
With understandable stories that you can rap along with and beats ready for a dance floor, Avarice is a gem among the Central Oregon hip-hop scene. In a word, it's dope.