Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Other Mark Seven

I was digging through my old tapes (you'll see why on this blog soon) and came across this neat little gem I'd manage to nearly forget about: The Bizarro Theory EP by Kram Neves, The Evil Twin. Kram had originally come out as Mark7, but when Mark Seven started blowing up with the rest of the Jurassic 5, he changed his name (read it backwards). I assume the "bizarro theory" title is at least partially in reference to that.

This came out in 1997 on INRPOL (like "interpol?") Records; and at eleven songs deep, you might think this is more of an LP than an EP. But just about every other song is actually a skit. That might sound annoying, but these aren't your usual blah blah blah can't-skip-it-fast-enough album skit. They're musical skits, or at least crazy DJ vocal samples, full of crazy snippets, including lot of super hero themed vocal clips that are responsible for a good portion of this tape's fun vibes. They tie all the songs together, often serving as thematic introductions to the proper songs to follow.

Kram has a slightly unusual style, just enough match the sonic landscape his producers and DJs (unfortunately, there are no production credits on the J-card) hooked up for him, but not enough to sound goofy or distractingly weird. It definitely sounds underground - you could never imagine this sort of stuff becoming a Top 40 Rap charter; but if you like that underground, semi-intellectual, creative west coast 90s music, then this'll be a great time.

You've got a lot of basic freestyle, slightly battle tinged rhymes, and a handful of cool guests including Zen (of The Visionaries' Writers Block), Droop Capone aka Dr. Oop and Fletch the Praymantis, who I don't know but comes off well. You know, they're those kind of west coast but not quite as artsy as the full-on Project Blowed types.

And when he does dip into "concept" songs, there's a cool old school hip-hop feel to the whole thing. "D.E.F.E.C.T." samples the bit where Wize starts singing John Denver's "Leaving On a Jet Plane" on Stetsasonic's "Faye" for a hook. And "In the Dark" (taking its title from a line of MC Shan's "The Bridge") and "Side Show Strugglas" are cool, smart reflections on the past and current (well, for 1997) state of hip-hop, respectively. It lends the proceedings a nice purist appeal.

On the one hand, it's disappointing Kram didn't put out more material back in the day. You might remember him from a couple strong guest spots, including Tony da Skitzo's South West Co Lab compilation. But most of his releases, including this one, are so rare, that he never even got the limited recognition as the obscure indie rapper from the 90s that he deserved. ...But, on the other hand, dude is still around today; and you can find him on myspace, facebook, twitter etc. Granted, those links don't show him to be the most active or prolific MC you'll come across online, but he has got new material out there, like this song from 2011, and he's also keeping his old music alive, too. I just ran across a couple songs from this tape on CDBaby.

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