Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spittin' Game In the Vegetable Garden

So, I've done a couple posts on Z-Man's side projects on this blog; but, to varying degrees, none of them have really been to his strengths. The Motel Crew, that pink 12" with Automator... And the One Block Radius stuff was especially disappointing. Through it all, it was still evident that this was a really great MC; but they just didn't hold a candle to his regular stuff. It was frustrating to see him experimenting with different genres or artists who weren't on his level, because it just felt like it was all wasting time he could've spent doing a real, dope album just by himself. Well, here's a Z-Man side project that happily breaks that trend; a side project that's just as good as any solo releases, albeit a little bit weirder.

It's called The Vegetable and the Ferret, and it's a collaborative album with White Mic of Bored Stiff, an underground San Francisco crew that dates as far back as Z himself. It's a limited edition cassette available pressed in Finland, for some reason; but since most copies were surely sold online or at shows, that doesn't make much difference in the long run. Only 100 hand-numbered copies were pressed (mine's #37), so that makes this harder to find than its country of origin.

There are no production credits on here, but whoever did what did it right. The tracks are really funky and thumpin'; just like the best of the indie, west coast underground scene from back in the 90s. And lyrically, it's just as refreshingly sick. One song is a surprisingly sincere examination of their roles in underground hip-hop, at once complaining that nobody supports the real, credible MCs, while at the same time not buying the tapes of their fellow artists themselves. Then another song is a bugged out extended metaphor about vegetables in a garden:

"Check it, ok;
The vegetable wasn't genetically modified;
He was organically grown

Without the pesticide.
I could testify:
His plant life wasn't the easiest,
He was a whole different strain
Around a gang of devious
Hedonists; mischievous,
Weavin' through the garden,
Hustlin' that sweet cream,
Not one fiend starvin'.
Rats and raccoons
Plottin' on how to rob 'em
For every little bit he had
Kill 'em than gobble 'em
Up, everything but
His big golden heart
He was known for;
What he built they try to pick apart.
But that's the homeboy,
Sippin' corn whiskey with the crows
Talkin' shit, cappin',
Blowin' broccoli smoke;
Talkin' to these folks like they relatives,
'Fuck the competitors,'
Goin' through his big lettuce head
It's Brussel Sprout
Lookin' out for the fat-faced farmer.
And these chocolate chickens
Tryin' to be his baby's momma;
But a really, really jealous rooster
On the barn top
I got beef wit',
Fuck him up and bare - why not?
Hot like a pot of grits
Killin' watermelons,
Duckin' buckshots,
Blood hounds tryin' to get rid of
The buh-buh-booty.
Me and vegetable have so much in common;
We're smarter than they think
And bigger than this garden."

And that's just one verse! I mean, the rhyme scheme is pure Kool G Rap, and the delivery is classic Z spittin' game, just a little bit slower over a track that's oddly mellow and smooth, with whistling and birds chirping over a cool bassline. It's totally crazy and wonderful. The whole tape's vibrant and lively, with crazy sound bites between the songs; it would fit right at home on Beneath the Surface, though its sound actually reminds me a lot of old Raw Produce.

There's a number of guests, including several appearances by other Bored Stiff members. There's also Akil (of Jurassic 5) and a couple names I don't recognize. There's not so many that it ever feels like White and Z have lost the wheel; and they all feel right at home on this production with their mates. Really, everything just works. Every time it starts to too crazy, they bring it down to Earth. And well before things get dry or generic, they get creative again. If you remember fiending for those ill 4-track tapes they don't make anymore, this is exactly what you've been missing.

You can find this on mp3 everyplace, and the label will sell you CD-Rs which is better, but this feels absolutely designed for cassette; so if you can find a copy (I got mine from accesshiphop), I urge you to listen to it the right way. Otherwise I'm sure it would still be fresh; but the charm and the magic would still be diluted. White Mic has gone on to release two more solo tapes on this label (Hiss Tapes... though their sound quality is actually quite clean and well mastered). And while I really picked this one out because of Z-Man, after this tape, I'm gonna have to check for those others and look at some of those other tapes. I'll need something to tide me over while I wait anxiously for a sequel.

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