Killer or Filler?
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A new batch of local (rap) c.d.’s for the grill.
By ANTHONY MARIANI
The thought of Christmas in July sends an earthquake of joy through my lower lumbar region. Imagine my spasmodic delight (and my mouth a-covered in viscous fluid) when I walked into the office a few weeks ago and saw not one but four (!) local rap c.d.’s in my mailbox. The beauty is that even though this paper doesn’t circulate in the communities that generate most of our local rap, some rhyme-makers felt inspired, likely by a recent cover story on the Fort Worth rap phenomenon, to momentarily stop popping caps in one another’s asses, go to the post office, and snail-mail some c.d.’s my way. More rhymed stories about sticking nine-millimeter pistols down other people’s throats and smoking Indo — from really nice guys (in person) — is certainly my idea of jingling all the way. The lesson here is: When making your list and checking it twice, never forget your friendly neighborhood rock critic; the guy whose grasp of the English language is unparalleled by any other writer within two feet of him and whose predilection for hair metal is manifest in the various metal-band tour shirts enveloping his torso regularly and whose deepest wish is to talk sassy to at least one mischievous handyman — that guy. He almost makes you wanna get up off your ass and join a band.
Another lesson is: Listen to rap before you actually go and cut a rap record. Two of the aforementioned four were so gawd-awful that this writer had to reacquaint himself with the glorious days of rap (circa 1988), just to orient himself long enough to be able to scribble some notes pertaining to said two pieces of crap-rap. (A sample gem: “Sounds sohhhh much not like EPMD or Rakim. Grade: F.”) Then I thought about the ramifications of publishing harsh criticism toward the handiwork of harsh men and promptly destroyed any evidence of surliness on my part. (The truth is: I’ll never kick a person while he’s down. I talk shit on artists who can take my shit, turn it into aluminum foil, and twist it into the shape of a swan.)
Like I said: These folks probably can’t find our paper, anyway.
From Here to the Internist’s
Here’s a guy-girl team that bills itself as “Eternal Thugs.” Now I’m not really sure whether the name means that they’re thugs for life or that they’re thugs from the great beyond. Never matter. The music is gangsta — the way No Limit and Cash Money know it. It’s so over-the-top that it’s almost redemptive. Like a fine wine swilled by a fine wino, it’s to and of itself.
See, you’ve probably heard some short, fat guy with a bunch of degrees attached to his name talk about how rap is “the hair metal of the ’00s,” meaning that rap’s lurid over-the-topness is nothing but exaggeration (of course), and if exaggeration is the lingua franca for all rap acts, then originality is the bane of the music, assuming that we’ve all at one point or another listened to rap and have learned that guns and suckas and bitin’ MC’s and gats is what every rapper raps about. (We remember that when N.W.A. was rapping about shooting poe-lease we were enthralled, a little scared, highly entertained. A lifetime of guns and suckas and bitin’ MC’s and gats has come along since then.) But dig this: If you’re smart, you will ignore the hair-metal analogy. Rap will never die and never primarily be about any things other than guns and bragging as long as there are minority groups to carry the torch. The bad thing hair metal had going for it was its white-bread-ness. I’m sure the last thing people wanted to see was some snot-nosed rock star whose race helped him get by his entire life rolling in a bitchin’ Camaro on tv. Ain’t nothing worse than a spoiled brat. Rappers, on the other hand, are fighters. A large percentage of them are black, and a large percentage of them are male. These people have never had a damn thing given them and still got shit for it. Remember: We’re a culture of underdogs — most of us are not part of the upper 3 percent of the population that actually has disposable income. We’re all at the bottom of the barrel, if not beneath it. We like to see underdogs, like us, have their days — even if these days come in the fantasylands of rap songs.
Krazy-K of Eternal Thugs has picked up the torch and lit a fire under the rest of the rap (read: black) community. K-man is as crazy about being a Latino rapper as much as he is about rap itself. “Brown” gets disrespect, he raps, when we all know “blacks be smoking our damn shit!” (“Shit” being narcotics, which, if you’re a stateside smoker, likely come from Mexico.) More than that, K-Man is fast in love with his hometown, Funky Town, and, unlike a lot of local rappers, he isn’t afraid to show the love that dare not erect its building. But the place isn’t the Fort Worth of the past year or even the one of the past 10 years. It’s Fort Worth circa 1985, when crime was on the rise and didn’t have to sweat very hard to get noticed or attract notoriety. K’s goal, of course, is to rep the city by proving how tough life can be —or was — here. Tough life equals tough rapper and all. The thing we need to come to terms with is that this is how the rap game is played. Criticizing a workaday gangsta rapper for rapping tough is like taking Avril Lavigne to task for singing like an 18-year-old girl.
That the record is titled Fort Worth’s Most Wanted is kinda apropos: Krazy-K and his homegirl Shorty got their fingers on the proverbial trigger. Doing what’s been doing these past, oh, 900 years or so in the rap game, Krazy-K functions as your storyteller, leading you through the streets of sides north, south, east, and west to arrive at someplace like the black casings of your speakers. Listeners may be swooning to the artificial beats and synthetic synth lines and the lyrics; Krazy-K and Shorty are fighting for their lives in their own little street dramas. It’s their world, people: You’re just a gold-toothed squirrel, trying to get a buck.
The techno-beatsmithery on this disc is above average. The bass-drum tones discharge like brilliant ideas. Whistling keyboard lines float in and out of range like scents. Angular bass grooves pulsate with the deliberateness of time. Likely the best way to enjoy this c.d. is by suspending disbelief — leave your Jay-Z and Busta c.d.’s in the attic of your mind, ’cause FWMW isn’t necessarily super-professional grade. It’s local, and it sounds local. Following that paradigm that tells us to make tinfoil swans outta shit, the Eternal Thugs do a pretty decent job of getting by, thanks largely to Krazy-K, the masterminded rapper and producer — he slams the ethereal wisp of a digitized heaven and the bombast of his gangsta-infatuated mind on half of the songs on this 10-song disc. Clearly, it’s K who’s driving this Camaro. In the back seat is Shorty, warbling like a 12-watt car alarm.
Compared to K’s hushed, almost-threatening delivery, Shorty’s is destined to play deep right field in a game of right-handed hitters; her attempts at deeper meaning fall apart at the foundation. A song like “Went Through Love,” a kinda Lisa Lisa love number that the chesty one would have sung at an ’80s-era prom, is something that in its awfulness can rouse you from your slumber in a mood. Being stabbed in the ear by this song (track four) after having just enjoyed the disc’s best number, “Do You Wanna Ride?,” (track three) is an affront to the senses. When Shorty gets all teary-eyed and sings, “When my world was falling apart / You always knew what to say,” her voice sadly slips out from under the weight of the lyric and slides down into a patch of manure — she’s tone deaf, people!
While Shorty’s handle on the music is tentative at best (except when she’s rapping; she doesn’t suck then), Krazy-K has both hands wrapped around rap’s neck. It’s his world, after all. Grade: B-
I was really disappointed to learn that the name of this rapper was “Aggravated Foe,” not “Aggravated Pho.” (The best band names are typically made up of two great concepts smashed together, a la Aggravated Pho, Pearl Jam, Midnight Oil, etc.) Anyway, the aggravated one raps really fast and enunciates his words clearly. He’s (and I’m loath to say this, but ...) kinda like a black Eminem. Cadences vary (good), content doesn’t (not good). It’s all gangsta and boasting and toasting. The fact that Foe, unlike Krazy-K, has the power to deliver moving, powerful music yet refuses to rhyme about anything other than the same old-same old is frustrating to me (and, I’m sure, to a lot of the other folks who’ve heard this disc). What made the British rapper The Streets such a phenom was that he chose to rap about his life as a simple guy — his material, about dreading rent and looking forward to hanging out with his buds, was original and, believe it or not, exciting because it was from the heart, never matter that The Streets couldn’t rap for shit (he sounded like a professor giving a lecture to a roomful of distracted hamsters). Some stateside rappers would do well to follow his lead, though, and look inside themselves for original (good) material. If Foe tries this and his buddies call him a pussy for not acting tough (like every other rapper), then he doesn’t need those friends. The big question is: Is Foe really up to spending a couple days getting to know himself well enough to pull something like The Streets off? If he is, then get ready for a Next Big Thing: Foe’s definitely not short on talent, just a grasp of his unlimited potential. Grade: B
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