Monday, October 21, 2019

Something Different

Remember when I wrote about the debut release of a newcomer Ohio MC named Pseudonym?  Well, he's back with what he calls his debut EP; but at three songs, I'd really qualify it as a second single.  Anyway, it's called Caught In a Deep Thought, and this time he's coming with production entirely by Joey Beach.

The opening track, "Factory-Made (That's the Shit)," has a weird slow groove to it, and his delivery is so off the wall, when I first put the tape in, I thought it was dragging, and I had to search out an online clip to make sure that's how it's supposed to sound.  But that probably makes it sound like this is awful, right?  It's not, the track has a nice DITC-inspired feel to it, actually, but with a more live feel (indeed, a lot, if not all, of the instrumentation is being played live here) with a jazzier bassline mixed with a little Dynamix II or something.  It's an effectively addictive head-nodder, and that's what counts.  And I like that Pseudonym is going for a gruffer sound than his debut.  It's very 90's in a way, particularly the shout hook and references to artists like Cool C and The Crooklyn Dodgers; but his style here, too, calls back the times when all the up and coming artists like Lords Of the Underground, the Fu-Schnickens, or Common when he was still Common Sense, were all trying to originate crazy, original flows that threw you off guard with each coming word.  Will the next syllable be a deep intonation or a high-pitch shout?  Only one way to find out.

But some of the angry aggressiveness of his flow seems like maybe he's over-correcting for the nerdcore twinge his first tape had.  Lines like "you're droppin' off like fruit flies; little motherfuckers better recognize" or "go ahead, get pissed off; I'm spittin' straight facts, bitch" ring more than a little overwrought.  I mean, giving the benefit of the doubt, I'll assume it's meant to be all part of the fun of a throwback to that particular era and style.  We can all think of some fun old records that went way over the top but still entertained (Ganksta N.I.P., anybody?).  But here it might be too many layers removed from directly connecting with an audience.  It's like trying to do a parody of a comedy: you wind up telling jokes that aren't supposed to be funny, and most people just dismiss what you're doing before you can really get them on board with the whole vision.  If I throw on a new tape, do I want to hear lines where I'm not supposed to believe the tough talk?

"Sometimes..." slows it down a bit, and again, I said to myself "okay, now this time the tape's dragging" and I had to check it online again.  The instrumental's well constructed but a little dull and doesn't marry so well with the sung chorus and playful raps.  Part of it might just be a mixing thing, with the lead guitar loop constantly competing with the main vocals.  Anyway, it's not un-interesting, and Pseudo settles more naturally into the groove by the second or third verse, but I don't expect I'll go back to this cut after I've finished this review.  The final track on the other hand, "A Friendly Reminder," is the stand-out, with some funky production with some kind of surf music riff, charmingly chintzy horns and appealing cuts by DJ Etch on the hook.  And where the other two songs are just your basic, "I'm not regal, but it's been twenty years since I've had an equal"-style skill flexing, this one has a clever and engaging concept where your brain is checking in with you for a little reflection:

"Don't let life be the downer at your party.
Also, give me some stimulaaaation;
These Instagram pages are just imitation.
Read a book, have some sex, do what the fuck it takes.

I'm so damn bored; that's why I put your life at stake."

That's just good writing!  There's talent evident throughout the whole "EP," and in general I think I like the direction he's heading in, but he takes a lot of risks.  This is the song where they pay off.

Like "Edible MC's," the digital options for Caught In a Deep Thought are a lot easier to find, but the cassette (program repeats on both sides) is coming out on the same label, Vestibular Records, and should be available to purchase on their bandcamp and discogs listing soon.  His full-length, Frustrated, is due out later on Hardcore Rap 4 Life... if you've heard of Caligula, yeah, it's that label.  Anyway, Cal caught a little flack on the DWG forums recently, but I thought his stuff sounded pretty decent.  Pseudo seems oddly mismatched for that roster, though, so that should be interesting.  And in the meantime, he's also got a crazy low-fi freestyle tape called Motion Of the Ocean that's fairly amusing.  So if this is the first you're hearing about him, Caught may not be the ideal moment to jump onto the Pseudonym train.  But if you're already on board, you're sure to find more to like here.

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