Friday, May 10, 2013

Hip-Hop On a Work Night

When you hear the phrase "grown man rap," you probably think of Jay-Z flexing over how he turned MCing into a corporate gig, Nas dropping sitcom-levels of insight on parenting or Grand Daddy IU lamenting how he pimps fewer hoes now because he gets tired earlier*. But the problem with this stuff is that it's being made by people submerged and isolated so far up celebrity culture that it becomes a stunted conception of adulthood as seen through the warped telescope of perpetual adolescence. Think MTV's The Real World as opposed to the real world. Peter Pan was actually super old, right? But in Never Never Land, he and his friends stayed lost boys forever, and they probably thought "Open Letter" was really mature.

Back to show us how it's really done is WD40 himself, Whirlwind D. His latest record is a straight forward, two-song 12", titled Bristol Built. The opener, "Late Night Rhyme" is simply described as "tales of late night digging," but it's really a slice of life-style manifesto on the genuine experiences of a hip-hop fiend who hasn't forsaken his devotion in favor of the safe R&B or classic rock of your average middle-aged conformist.

"Passing time as I nod my head,
Interrupted by a child who won't go to bed.
Read another story or a glass of milk
Then back to the beat that's smooth as silk.
The needle skips in the run-out groove;
Choose some more wax; my mind's in the mood.
Classic Cold Chillin' is the order of the day,
Shan or Kane, can't decide which way.
...I hear the door slam;
Four hours in the room when I had planned
To spend an evening with my dearest wife."

This song is a very breezy listen. It feels really short even though it's a full three plus minutes, because D's just kicking a non-stop rolling flow over an uptempo but soulful beat by Mr. Fantastic. There's no hook except for the briefest scratch interludes which pay homage to the classic records he references in his verses, a perfect choice.

So as the A-side is a portrait of life as it is for a grown head now, the B-side is a look back at the way we were. "Star" is a cleverly misleading title... clever in that it's actually perfectly straight-forward and descriptive once you realize it doesn't mean what you think it means, plus the way it subverts the meaning of the staple vocal sample, "the star of the show." Anyway, this time around Whilrwind D shares the mic with Truck of Beat Route 38 (Mr. Fantastic's old group), to relive their pasts. They start with their childhoods as they discovered the genre ("BMX bikers, rough rhyme reciters, poppin' really badly, hangin' out with the writers. Biters we were, always buyin' ninja weapons") and ultimately document their origins as MCs.

I don't think WD needed the assistance of a second narrative on this song; he's more than compelling enough on his own. But Truck's voice does sound quite nice when he jumps on the instrumental. So the only real flaw I found is how Sir Beanz OBE just gets on at the end to add some super fresh scratches. Those scratches aren't my complaint, don't get me wrong; they're great. But he should've been on the track all along, for each hook. Because as it is, the hook is kinda flat, repetitive and lacking exactly what he's providing. It's still a very solid song, but that's no small detail.

Another thing we can always rely on WD for is presentation. Bristol Built comes on a high-quality pressing, fully loaded with instrumentals and acapellas in a phat picture cover. Each copy also includes a poster, a sticker and a press sheet. And it's only £8.99, so support. Because it's more responsible to listen to a record about staying up all night playing rap songs than actually doing so when you know you've got to get up for work in the morning.

*But in all seriousness, IU, you're on fire right now and we don't want you to change a thing. Just press it on wax.

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