A look at Dean Risko’s “The Good Wolf”
Dean Risko’s “The Good Wolf” is a pretty straightforward theses statement based on the old -Ostensibly Native-American- proverb about the raging battle inside of us between wolves, the victor being decided by our own actions. In recent years, the phrase has become a bit of an internet meme where the wolves represent silly conflicting concepts, but Dean seems to be out to revive the original allegory to speak out loud about the messy inner worlds that we harness and nourish inside of us in this tumultuous age, proving that ancient wisdom is called wisdom for a reason.
An avowed Mental Health advocate, Risko utilizes his impassioned soulful rap to paint vivid images of the constant struggle within between virtues and vices, how tempting vices are and how easy it is to “feed” them -even rationalizing them at times- while disregarding the importance of our virtues simply because they feel much more difficult to live up to. “The Good Wolf” encourages feeding that side of us that yearns to cultivate love instead of fear, understanding rather than anger.
The 8-track-long EP takes an episodic approach, with each song being a thesis statement on its own about the aspects within the proverb. The quasi-literary tour begins with “F.T.G.W”, an introductory chapter that lays it all out in plain terms and offers a mantra-like hook we can go back to.
-“So Do I”
The song is followed by “So Do I”, this time leaning a lot more on R&B elements and a perfectly tailored vocal performance to go along. “So Do I” serves as a personal introduction to Dean’s perspective, reflecting upon his own struggle, letting know the audience that he’s in fact experienced the same darkness and the same light as well. For Dean, self-awareness becomes all-important “You deserve a better me and So Do I” he says on the chorus, manifesting a sharp observation that should be obvious to everyone but that we forget all too often: Love flows in all directions or none at all- you must love yourself *and* others in a simultaneous feedback look.
-“All There Is”
When “All There Is” comes around, it’s clear that Dean really loves his dream-like synth introductions, as once again we’re treated to a very watery and spacious soundscape that brings us back to baseline from the ending of the previous track. In “All There Is” the self-described stoic takes a look at the hungry pursuit of fleeting pleasures. “All There Is”makes use of a beautifully paraphrased version of a Marcus Aurelius quote about the past, present, and future, one that is sung with strong conviction and will no doubt connect right away with all listeners.
“Gravity” follows, and in case you’re not listening along while reading this (and you should), there’s a very good reason as to why I will not say much about this interlude. “Gravity” is a deeply personal bit of audio by Dean, one that is best left between listener and artist, I will not prattle about it furder. Go listen to it, take it in.
With an interesting turn-of-phrase “Buyer’s Remorse” offers Dean’s take on the “American Dream” and his experience as an immigrant from South Africa. it’s not just a statement on materialism, but on the inequity that he perceives is being baked into the socio-economic core of the American Society. This song marks the strongest departure from the rap structures of the EP so far, deeper into R&B and Pop territory than ever before, perhaps allowing one to more carefully appreciate Dean’s range and vocal texture the best.
-“One Way Glass”
“One Way Glass” is a song that continues the musical shift of the previous, now with a more electro-pop sound. It harkens back to Dean’s Struggle with alcohol and how his life slipped away “Like Sand”. For anyone struggling with or recovering from an addiction, I think this song would be a valuable piece of art where they can hear their own story, as well as the first-hand encouragement that they need to pull through.
-“Father & Friend”
“Father & Friend” is our second-to-last song. It changes the usual synth introductions we’ve come to expect of this compilation into a warm piano instead, this analog alternative feels more intergenerational and deeply rooted, being a thematical fit for the lyrical content of the song, which is -of course- Fatherhood, and the beautiful change in perspective that comes along with it. This song feels the most emotional, the sound is minimalistic and personal, no doubt a gift that Dean Risko’s child will treasure forever.
“Your Company” quickly became my favorite song of the lot. It’s deeply atmospheric while having a rich tapestry of sounds and emotional vibrancy to it. The song strikes a graceful balance between melancholic and optimistic, between reminiscing and looking forwards. It incorporates very subdued elements of smooth jazz together with nu-soul and R&B perfectly together, and In my opinion, it is the type of sound that elevates Riskos voice and lyrics the most.
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