Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Earthling Top.R

It's time to talk about Top.R.  I primarily know him from being on a whole bunch of Luke Sick projects, but the first time I heard him was all the way back in 1999 on the Persuasion of Art compilation.  That was a wild album featuring original songs from artists like Animal Pharm, The Shape Shifters and Abstract Rude.  Back then Top.R was going by the unabbreviated name Top Ramen, one of The Earthlings.  Then he had a catchy solo song on another must-have comp called Strictly Indee in 2000, and he's worked with Granola Funk Express, too.  So even outside of his recordings with The Earthlings and many guest spots over the years, 2017's Afterlife Of the Party is far from his first time out, with a whole bunch of solo albums and EPs to his name over the years.  But this is still his most recent actual physical release.

Top.R's got a tougher flow than most of the MCs we've looked at before, but still has a thing for punchlines... he's sort of the Xzibit to Gurp City's Likwit Crew.  Some of the lines are cornier than others ("I don't like people. I stay paranoid like a black dude going camping with white people"), but he keeps it moving fast enough that you've already heard ten more before any have had the time to rub you the wrong way.  It's tempting to fill this whole page quoting a million of them ("I leave pinheads puzzled like the Hellraiser box.  My pen game?  Sutter Cane out this world when I face off.  That's an 80's movie reference you probably don't get.  If you did, go ahead, show the proper respect"), but he slides pretty effortlessly between jokey braggadocio material like that to classic Gurp City hedonism:

"Pour me another shot,
Straight up on the rocks, fuck the cops.
'Cause the po-po pulled me over drivin' so slow,
Asked how much I had to drink, I said I honestly don't know.
Some drink to remember,
Others drink to forget.
I'll just drink the next day to cover up the regret."

Actually, that quote's from a guest verse by an MC named Philo on his song "Gone Off the Jamison," but Top.R's right there with him, "another shot to the stomach like Johnny Quid.  They said I threw up in her purse, well I probably did."  And that's when the material really comes alive.  Those earlier battle raps come off as a little overwritten and schticky, like that Vincent On Horseback album I covered last year, but when he combines the two styles ("my eyes are glazed drinking my life away, check 'em, they look like gremlins in the microwave"), the characterization becomes engagingly delirious and the humor really sings.

Speaking of guests, I'm not overly familiar with that Philo dude (he was on Mutual Daps and a couple other projects I've got, and also receives co-production credit on several songs), and there are one or two other names I don't recognize; but we've got some welcome appearances by the regulars, too, including Luke, Z-Man and Eddie KDJ Quest and a couple others drop by to add some nice scratches throughout the album, and the production is primarily split between Cutty Bang and Otayo Dubb, who keep the energy nice and high.  Honestly, this album could stand to trim the fat a little.  The cuts, beats and flows all really compliment each other most of the time, but there are a couple verses that hold the project back from reaching its maximum potential.  And I've found myself stopping the disc before the last two songs, where things get slower and self-serious.  I appreciate the experimentation with styles and injecting a message, but like Xzibit's albums, you just want to skip to your faves.

So this album was available on CD from Gurp's bigcartel, but it's been a few years and is long sold out now.  Of course, the digital's still available, but if you want a proper copy, you'll have to go on a hunt.  In the meantime, I'd recommend at least checking out some of the highlights, like "My GMC," "Gone Off the Jamison" and "O.G.s On Gurp" on his bandcamp.  And let's see what he creates next.

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