Shortly before they finished their new album, local rappers Dave Boutdy and Matt Dixon were hanging out with their close friend Bryan Taylor.
"He happened to be with us when we were trying to name the album," Dixon said. "We could not come up with a name, and he's like, 'You should name it after me.'"
They all laughed at the joke, but the idea started to make sense.
"That would be the funniest thing: Every time we'd talk about the album, we'd tag his name," Boutdy said. "And the goal was [that] girls would see this and they'd be like, 'Oh, I want to check this album out.' And it would take them to his [Facebook] profile, and hopefully, they'd be like, 'Man, this guy's really hot.'"
In a way, it suited the album's tone, too.
"Bryan is kind of a moody guy, and the album's kind of a moody album," Dixon said.
Jokes aside, Boutdy and Dixon, who together are Dedicated Servers, admit that their new album--the duo's seventh release since 2009 (not counting a Boutdy solo album released in July)--is different. Released on Nov. 26, Bryan Taylor is a shift from the Servers' earlier anime- and video game-inspired raps, focused instead on themes of struggle, mortality and perseverance.
According to the two MC's--who turned 27 this year--getting older encouraged them to be more serious on Bryan Taylor.
"I think we'll rap forever," Dixon said, "but you never know, right? And it feels more and more every time we do an album [that] this could be the last album. And if this is the last album, what's the most important thing we want to say?"
The album's first track, "For You," helps answer that question. Over a mid-tempo beat and some soothing synthesized chords, the Servers thank everyone "who stood by while we rode this rollercoaster ride."
A recent illness in his family inspired Boutdy to express his gratitude.
"A while ago, [my mom] had a stroke that just paralyzed her body," he said.
That crisis brought Boutdy to "a newer realization."
"Because my family almost lost my mom, and that was terrifying. ... If I were to die or if Matt were to die, I wouldn't want any of us not knowing that I was super-thankful for their company," he said.
In some ways, Boutdy and Dixon see the Servers as coming full circle with Bryan Taylor. Local musician Owen Havey, who supplied the beats for the Servers' earliest material, returned to create the beats for all but two of the new album's 18 tracks (Portland, Ore.-based DJ Spastik made the beats for "Split Us Up" and "Take It All").
"We just felt like it was time that we went back to Owen," Dixon said. "We took all Owen's stuff again, and we tried to ... think of what makes a Dedicated Servers album and really dive into that."
Havey, Boutdy and Dixon's first collaboration was a birthday song for their friend, Francis de la Pena, when they were students at Borah High School in 2004. Dixon considers it "the worst song we've probably written." Havey made the beat, Dixon recalled, while he and Boutdy wrote "the meanest things we could think of."
From that inauspicious beginning, the Servers began playing house shows. They gained a small bit of renown in 2007, when their song "Hall of Famers" was featured on the popular gaming site screwattack.com. The Servers played their first advertised show in 2009, opening for local MC Eleven at Neurolux on Valentine's Day. They went on to perform at the Promenade Music Festival in 2010, open for Lupe Fiasco in 2011, and play sets at the Treefort Music Fest in 2012 and 2013.
When the Servers started out, Boutdy remembered, many local rappers "came on the scene looking like these white dudes who want to be gangsters. ... And I feel like that conception about hip-hop here remains."
"Well, to be fair... a lot of people get into hip-hop because they are into [that] kind of stuff and being tough, and they want to feel powerful," Dixon said. "And that's how they write. We've done a lot of shows with rappers like that, and it doesn't make them bad, but it just seems weird to come from Idaho [and make that kind of music]."
"It just feels forced," Boutdy added.
The Servers acknowledge talent where they find it, though. One song on Bryan Taylor, "Twilight Zone," features a cameo from local hardcore rapper P Dirt. Its style is radically different, Boutdy said, but "there's that mutual respect because we both know that we're each authentic."
"A lot of rappers don't want to step out of their comfort zones ... but if we get any show, we'll do it. Or if anybody wants to collaborate, we'll do it," Dixon added.
Dixon and Boutdy's recent shows and projects support that statement. On Nov. 26, the Servers played a joint CD release show at Neurolux with local blues-rock band Marshall Poole. While producing Bryan Taylor, they got advice from electronica artists Magic Sword and Owlright's Eric Haven. They are currently working on tracks with The Dirty Moogs and Jeremy Jensen from the local indie-pop group The Very Most.
Although they still have to juggle day jobs and college courses--Boutdy is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in marketing at Boise State University--the Servers hope to take their music beyond Idaho in 2014. "That's one of the things that I feel like we're missing, that we haven't done--just go out on the road and perform," Boutdy said.
But no matter where they travel, the Servers say, Boise will always be home.
"We were going to move somewhere," Dixon said, but then someone told him, "'Well, why don't you blow up your own city? If you can't put your own city on the map, then why are you ... good enough to be in another city?'"
The more Dixon considered this advice, the more sense it made.
"You can feel Boise in our music," he said. "If we went somewhere else, it'd be weird."
"Might as well blow your own city up," he said. "You make it happen."