Featured Music: Wednesday, October 10, 2002
No Rookies at Nookie

In defense of the Metroplex’s rap-metal forefathers, Pimpadelic.


Gotta tip your sideways baseball cap to Pimpadelic. These boys earn a respectable living by pissing all over good taste and breaking a few rules: One, that only African-Americans can rhyme nonsense words over snappy beats; two, that only guitarists who’ve mastered Wes Montgomery-style block-chord soloing can play in rock bands; and, three, that only “authentic” (read: black) artistes or sensitive, hardworking nerds with a propensity for getting shit on by girlfriends and/or record-label execs can milk the bloated cow that is popular success.

That Pimpadelic’s music provides the perfect accompaniment to any self-respecting stripper’s routine on the lap of Everyman only makes the band more evil in the eyes of know-it-alls and tastemakers the Metroplex over. The Pimp boys are popular and they probably get laid without having to sink to buying expensive meals or enduring hours of mindless Nora Ephron movies — and that makes them every CMJ-readin’, latté-drinkin’, Alias-watchin’ record geek’s nightmare. And coming from the right, what with Dixie on their minds and tales of abusing women on their tongues, Pimpadelic runs up against every card-carrying leftist’s high ideals. Here’s this talentless band of white boys, appropriating this African-American art form, distorting it into something that promulgates hate, and getting away with it!!! Pimp just drives everybody nuts. It ain’t for nothing that they’re the self-proclaimed “most-hated band in Texas.”

Pimpadelic wasn’t the first to rap metal-style, but the band made high-end rap-metal out of low-rent stereophonics before any other kindred spirits. A Tommy Boy record deal notwithstanding, Pimpadelic was basically a local rap-metal band, which is tantamount to saying that your 17-year-old cousin became a Hollywood mogul by producing and directing a summer blockbuster on his Burger King wages. If now-dead rap-metal was anything, it was a story about how the best production values money could buy and a little bit of musicianship could drive millions of otherwise civilized Wherehouse Music shoppers crazy. Like, push-mom’s-Discover-card-to-the-limit ka-ray-zee. A major-label rap-metal album is the audio equivalent of, say, Independence Day: macho gloss piled on top of gloss with a thin, sweet streak of lowest-common-denominator pathos running through the center. The way we like watching a starcraft filled with mean aliens getting blown up parallels how we like listening to polished music that makes us wanna bob our heads while marveling at the audio gimmickry. We’re talking primal urges here. There’s no room for character development or complexity, just louder and bigger distractions — ya know, everything we ugly Americans love. Quoth Saint Kurt: “Here we are now, entertain us!!!” (Itals are mine.)

The boys in Pimpadelic, who could probably get high-caliber bombast from a Mr. Microphone, should give much love to producer Alex Gerst (Slow Roosevelt, Slobberbone, Doosu) for the way he has brought raw musicianship to the fore on Reb De Ville (Down Rite Rotten Records), the latest in a series of white-trashian Pimp titles dating back to the dawn of man. The rap-metal is still up in there but it’s been reduced to a mere affectation, one style among the various styles quoted. You remember how every song sounded like every other song on a Pimp c.d.? Well, Reb De Ville is, um, different. “Never Alone,” a paean to stalking on par with The Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” has at its foundation a scratchy, California-rock rhythm, while the somber steel guitar lines that introduce “Rebel Out of Me” could have come from a mainstream track on The Wolf. So not only is Reb De Ville the best, most-accomplished, musical thing Pimp’s ever done, it’s one of the finest pieces of pop-distraction from the hands of Metroplexers so far this year.

You probably won’t want to listen to Reb De Ville while doing trig proofs or wallpapering the den. This is loud, social music that some non-literate types like me would even go as far as to call party music. “Come On Kids,” the best song on the album, could be a graduation-day anthem. Allow me to interpret: “I got the hydro,” Easy-J sings, referring to hydroponic weed, “I got the purple Sprite,” referring to soda pop mixed with codeine cough syrup (a.k.a. lean, syrup, purple stuff), “So, c’mon, kids,” he goes on, “Let’s get right.” Weed, lean, a trippy beat with a big bass line — these are a few of my favorite things. Count me in.

But you, miserable you, you don’t like “fun” music. You want rock with a “message”? Here’s a handy dating tip from “Reverse Psychology”: “I got the key,” Easy Jesus sings. “It’s called reverse psychology / And that’ll help me get into your panties!!!”

The easy assumption from this particular song, as well as from nearly every other Pimpadelic tune, is that these guys hate women. The Dallas Observer accuses Pimp of “junior-high misogyny” while The Austin Chronicle says Pimpadelic “are wifebeaters all the way” — and the six guys in Pimpadelic may very well be, deep down, but that’s none of our business. All that matters to us, as listeners, is whether or not the lyrics about “bitches” and blowjobs and anal sex are “truthful” in their contexts. Aggressive songs typically go well with aggressive lyrics; same with how peaceful songs harmonize nicely with peaceful lyrics (i.e., Johnny Mathis singing about oral sex over the melody to “Misty Roses” would only come off as gratuitous, as an example of Johnny trying to, as they say, capture a younger demographic — his voice is too sweet-sounding). Pimp’s lyrics are truthful to their worlds. Surrounded by the fuzzed guitars and pounding beats, these lyrics do what they’re supposed to: simply up the aggression quotient.

You can hear the outraged parents now.

But those same self-righteous blowhards who throw fits over a high school removing certain books from summer reading lists are the same people who should be stepping up to defend politically incorrect lyrics. The argument for retaining a controversial book like To Kill a Mockingbird, which treats the plight of African-Americans realistically if not tastelessly, is that through Harper Lee’s words we white-folk are given insights into black culture we wouldn’t otherwise be able to receive. I understand that a novel is not a song, but I will go out on a limb and suggest that we treat Reb De Ville like To Kill a Mockingbird — both pieces of art get us talking about subjects we’d much rather ignore. Protesting a gangsta-rap group or, worse, expecting morally upstanding art from these types of musicians is a waste of time that should really be spent doing something for abused women or drug addicts.

Here’s a famous quote for ya: “Poetry is useless.” That’s W.H. Auden. What he’s saying is not that poetry is meaningless, but that poetry cannot do anything. Poetry has never delivered a citizen to a voting booth or killed a man. Now, insert “gangsta-rap” where “poetry” should be and you get the idea. There’s no hard and fast correlation between what a person watches or listens to or plays and how a person behaves in civilized society. There’s a lot of theory, but no facts. You could even say that those Columbine murderers who regularly played a shoot-’em-up video game and listened to aggressive goth music were predisposed to act violently from the time they were children; gravitating toward violent video games and music was a natural progression for them. Blaming Doom or Marilyn Manson for Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s behavior shows that most of us don’t know a damn thing about parenting — and that our urge to blame something, anything, regularly outweighs common sense.

Was Columbine Marilyn Manson’s fault? Hardly. The moment an artist puts a song on wax is the moment he divorces himself from personal culpability for his lyrics. In song, the singer becomes just another “character,” like how, say, Tony Soprano is a character, an entity who doesn’t pay taxes, doesn’t eat, sleep, or drink, and whose “actions” have no bearing on the real three-dimensional world. While the voice singing “I’m a white-trash, scumbag mutha-fucker” may be coming from Easy Jesus, the voice is not the person, Easy Jesus. I know this seems elementary, but everybody often confuses the voice (the fiction) with the living, breathing person behind the voice, whom none of us or very few of us actually know.

I don’t know Easy Jesus from Vanilla Ice. All I know is that, in any other thriving metropolis, guys who go by names like Easy Jesus, Cha Chi R. Cola, Lo-C, etc. would end up coming off as parodies of rap-metal stars and as subjects worthy of our scorn. Here, they’re “normal” — as normal as screwy, mixed-up Texas, where Lexus-drivin’ oil barons and tattooed cowboy poets fight for turf and sometimes share meals. What with the Pimp boys striking their toughest tough-guy poses and with two of ’em in wide-collar button-downs, the pic in the sleeve doesn’t say Rap-Metal Gods as much as it conveys what it’s like being young and rambunctious and foul-mouthed and in need of many tattoos in the great state of Texas: I’m Everyman, I wear my influences on my sleeve, hear me cuss.

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