Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The last horse crosses the finish line on Gnarls Barkley

So I kind of missed the whole Gnarls Barkley thing. I mean, I always meant to go out and pick it up, but it never really happened for many reasons. A combination of the fact that I'm lazy and I rarely make a point to rush out and buy big-label albums. Besides, by the time I got around to the record story, Crazy became passé and I was sick of it anyway, and then the public moved on and I had just kind of missed the phenomenon.

But now that I’ve finally listened to the album, I think I can honesly argue that it is the most necessary hip-hop album to come along in a long while, especially given the current state of top-40 radio rap. To actually see two guys making intersting music that actually steps outside the status quo of repititious hi-hats, cheesy synth samples, and ignorant lyrics about nothing puts a glimmer of hope into what is becoming one of the most co-opted art forms we've seen in quite some time. It's not just the wild, shirtless lyrics of Ce-Loo, or the bong-rattling bass courtesy of Danger Mouse, or even the competent drum work of the Roland 808. It's the fact that these guys are actually going out on a limb to make interesting music, when either one of them could easily sit inside the mainstream and cash checks pretty much as long as they feel like it.

It's also been fascinating to see how the music establishment has handled these cats. I can't even count the number of reviewers who have had aneurisms trying to figure out what these guys are doing. They want to consider them white guys, because only white people take rap in weird directions (goes the conventional wisdom), but both of them have such street cred that they have to be accepted as "real" members of hip hop. One reviewer, in trying to solve this paradox, figured their careers must be on the down turn, even pitying Cee-Lo for being reduced to doing "college" rap, in one of the more inventive ways I've ever heard anyone challenge somone's racial identity.

Theoretically, their due to release a follw-up in the ambiguous "late 2007" so it remains to be seen what direction they go in the second time around. Even more interesting, though, will be to see if their album has any kind of impact on the direction of mainstream hip hop, or if they remain relegated forever to white kid bin...sorry, the "college" sound.

1 comment:

Howard said...

Several thoughts:

1. Good point on "white" hip-hop being classified as "college" hip-hop. I would venture a guess that mainstream but thoughtful rappers like Common and Mos Def would be lumped into this category too.

2. I actually enjoyed Danger Doom more than Gnarls Barkley. It was gimmicky, and Doom is a terrible rapper (he comes up with multi-syllabic rhymes that don't make sense, just so he can be multi-syllabic... ie "But why stress? Try and remember when
Maybe bit the tender skin-ned babysitter Gwendolyn. The type to hit and run and go tell a friend.
Word to El Muerto cucaracha exoskeleton") but I thought Danger Mouse's production was unique.

3. Uniqueness has been huge for me the past few years... which has led me to gravitate towards bands like Gnarls Barkley, Beck, the Go! Team, the Audio Bullys and even Girl Talk. There needs to be more stuff like that.

3a. Gnarls beats the heck out of most mainstream stuff. For example: I've been very compliant with mainstream hip-hop. I've backed that azz up. I've taken my shirt off, twisted it around my head and spun it like a helicopter. I've even gone to the window, to the wall, until sweat dropped down my balls. But I draw the line at cranking dat Soulja Boy. Can't do it. Won't do it.

4. Finally, my favorite Gnarls song is Just a Thought, because I love the crazy drums. I'm a sucker for crazy drums.

In conclusion, I like hot butter on say what the popcorn. And I'm an epileptic, a skepacleptic, I'm cutting up beats from the bear I clept it. In other words, I have no idea what my real point of posting was, other than boredom on a Tuesday. Aberdeen rules!