Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Listen Up, Shitface

This is the debut 12" of Boston's Edan on Biscuithead Records, a label that had just made its name with the Porn Theatre Ushers' debut. The buzz of that 12" got a lot of us to give Edan a listen, and he definitely used that opportunity to grab our attention with "Sing It Shitface."

Biscuithead described Edan and his record, "EDAN has to be the strangest mother fucker I have ever met, which is why I respect his brilliance. This Berklee student is a living embodiment of hip hop. If you listen to Migrain[sic.] you will see that he is all about the old skool. As for Sing It Shitface, well that speaks for itself. Edan is a very unique individual, his production, lyrics, and attitude prove that on this record."

It's got a fun, unique beat and a deliriously catchy hook: a freaked sample of a small child singing in Japanese while Edan eggs him on with hostility, "yeah! Sing it, Shitface!" It created almosta s much of a buzz in the underground as his fellow Bostonians 7L and Esoteric did, using that Transformers sample on "Be Alert" the year before.

That's the plus side. The downside is this: I've seen a lot of Edan dretractors call him "gimmicky;" and it's clear to me, especially here, exactly what they're talking about.

...Well, actually, they could be talking about two things. They could be referring to his constant homages to the old school ("Schoolly D Knew the Time," "Ultra '88," etc) as an insincere facade to appeal to a jaded rap audience and a cheap bid for "street bid." Well, I don't know the guy personally to say just how sincere he is about all that offstage - but his efforts in that regard are good enough that I don't care. It works for me.

But there's another gimmick on display here that doesn't wash so well with me: his attempt at comic rhymes on songs like this one. Sometimes he can be pretty nice on the mic, but here (and other songs... but "Sing It Shitface" has to be the epitome) he's way too hackneyed: "I fart at family functions, landing punches in the face of life... I made 'em feel uncomfortable by talking about my hemorrhoids and how my parakeet's unemployed." That shit just sounds like a really lame attempt to make gradeschool kids snigger on the playground. I don't know if he's ever denied it or not, but it's clear to me that he was trying to immitate Eminem's "Hi, My Name Is" success. And he's actually done multiple songs with lines about farting in them - what is he five? That kinda lyric just makes me wince and hope nobody else can hear the music I'm listening to. And it's a real shame here, because like I said, the beat and hook are a blast. And he's shown on plenty of other songs that he has the skill to elevate way above this material.

His voice also sounds a bit "put on" here... like Chubb Rock on his debut album, before he relaxed into his natural cadence. While still not ideal, this is easier to ignore on some of his other early work; but coupled with his forced delivery, contrived rhymes and juvenille subject matter; it just lands square in the middle of "bad."

This song comes in three versions on this 12": Dirty, Clean and instrumental. The instrumental is a blessing (put any other acapella to this... even if it's totally off beat, it will be an improvement); but the notion of a clean "Shitface" is absurd and should never be listened to.

Now, the exclusive b-sides ("Sing It Shitface" eventually found its way onto his 2002 album, Primitive Plus, but not the other tracks on this 12"), while lacking the stand-out catchy elements of "Shitface"'s strong points, are much better. The first song is "The E's Have It," featuring Skillz Ferguson. This is the first of three collaberations Edan has done with Ferguson, and while it's not quite as impressive as "Clinical Rhymes" in '02 - neither MC's seem quite as fully developed yet - they're definitely on their way. They just flex fun, back and forth wordplay over a gruff beat with some cool piano samples, with some great scratching (cutting up vocal samples by Rakim and Erick Sermon) for the hook. Yeah, it's not his best; but this is the kind of timeless hip-hop song that holds up perfectly today as it would've in any era: hip-hop in its purest form.

The other b-side is even further in the right direction. "Migraine" features Edan back on the solo tip, just ripping it fast and furious over a quick, slick rhythm. Again, he's not really saying anything (a plus in his case, as we've seen), just freestyle rhymes for the sake of rhyming. His voice even sounds normal here. And while the scratching was nice on "The E's Have It;" the DJ (also Edan) really goes off on this one, murdering a Percee-P sample and downright stealing the show from himself. This cut would be top drawer random rap, you know, except for the fact that Edan went on to release a whole bunch more records and make an established name for himself in the indieand college circuits.

So, even though he really, frustratingly dropped the ball on his debut song (I'd really like to hear him take another stab at this cut, with the same beat and hook but all new lyrics), this is a great, must-have 12". Oh yeah, and this record also features an instrumental for "The E's Have It."

Edan hasn't done much in the last couple of years except for a couple of guest verses for Cut Chemist... hopefully that means he's cooking up his illest shit yet; and not that he's quit the rap game or been by a bus or something. :/ He has a website at: humblemagnificent.com, and of course a myspace; but there's nothing by of news at either one except for an out-of-date tour listing.


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