Two Feet's Best Music Still Lies Beyond the Horizon
Photo: Shervin Lainez
Bill Dess, the breathing vessel of Two Feet, has weathered the algorithmic apocalypse of the past half-decade in music, but despite it all has become the embodiment of a genre, an independent vitality that is a benchmark of artistic commercial success. Yet, for those looking to template a priori: the sound, the verve, the unabashedly pointed messaging, most have failed spectacularly, struggling to draw the same genie from the same bottle. Why?
Two Feet without pretense, free from resistance took a model that hip-hop had seen prove successful for years, "make music, put it out." Not worried about the war-like planning some insist on for releasing music, or the hype train that was meant to deliver the payload to the frontlines, Two Feet established a notoriety for worrying more about the quality, originality, and purpose of his music than industry machinations. Others rightly sought to emulate this model, but few had the conviction for it.
A collage of concerned, or appealingly so, industry types sought him out, full of reverence for who he was, how he did it, and then sought to change it. The follies and foibles of Two Feet's past lead him to kindly share the following with prospective musicians that this platform reverently covers: 1) MGMT, avoid having a "boss," telling what you to do. Look for someone collaborative and balancing to your efforts. 2) Never sign to a major label (he did). 3) Don't deviate from what made you. No need to elaborate, but this writer suspects few can burden themselves with this plot, it requires an enormous amount of self-belief and the unassailable doubt that accompanies lonely positions. Not all can mirror this to great effect, but its prudence is in sharing an understanding of what others can offer to you, or more importantly what they can't.
How did this all come to be? One of Two Feet's first releases, "Go Fuck Yourself," is a good place to start as any when it comes to exploring the navigation, sound, and ethos of the prolific artist. The plucky, bass-laden, spoken therapy song trampolined his contrary sound to the front of pop music, remaining one of his most popular songs to this day, with enormous streaming numbers still climbing. It was a song whose construction style made Two Feet a genre unto himself, one he bitterly struggled with initially, but soon saw that old art adage play out - that his peers mimicking truly was an endorsement.
Dess admits that this initial rush of success quickly went to his head; the idea he wasn't fairly being accredited for the sound fucked with his ego, but eventually, it became a "major point of pride." But it also set a standard that needed to be debunked, a trend not to be repeated into oblivion. And so, as the catalog of Two Feet grew, there was evident pride in shifting his styles, often removing prior trademarks freely with each new release.
Two Feet has properly morphed into a world of contrarian pop with his latest album, Max Marco is Dead Right, a storytelling vehicle that harkens back to the era of the album's growth (originally a frustration levied again labels at the time from artists such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd) in the early seventies. That level of ambition is what has made Two Feet so successful. It's also what makes him so hard to surmise. Most artists do not follow such a rare path, one that sees them deliberately unshackling themselves and their writing conventions to deep dive back into more traditional song structure, crafting a legitimate concept album in an era where most artists think coupling names between songs account for the same.
More importantly, Two Feet has begun to take pride in the music shift he started. Noting artists such as SubUrban, who credited him with being a huge influence on their sound and creative delivery, Dess is "learning from people who learned from me." A noted discomfort in just being a legacy artist and a belief that his most influential moment is still ahead of him is what makes Two Feet such a virtuous artist, a force to be reckoned with, and one we have proudly been on the other end of the looking glass for his entire career.