Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Everybody Around Pseudo Keeps Fallin' Six Feet Deep

What's up, gang?  I know it's been a little while since my last post.  I wound up taking a few unexpected sick days this holiday season.  But the good news is that I've spent the time building up a list of topics I'm excited to write (and vlog) about this year.  So let's jump right into it!  For the belated start of our new year, how about one... none of you were waiting for?  😝

No, but stick with me here.  This is an interesting one.  Remember Pseudonym, the indie Ohio MC whose early tapes I wrote about in 2019?  I capped that off by saying how he'd just signed to Hardcore Rap 4 Life, an interesting outfit dedicated to hardcore (naturally) Onyx-style 90s boom-bap throwback stuff.  Yeah, the weird long-haired dude with the crayon-style album covers, a pretty weird fit.  Imagine if The Geto Boys had replaced Willie D with D-Mob & Cathy Dennis instead of Big Mike.  So, come on.  You've gotta be at least a little but curious, right?  Well, he hooked me up with that album and his two subsequent EPs, catching us up with his full discography to the present, so we can find out what that's like.

To be fair, this step isn't 100% out of left field.  He came out dissing wack MCs pretty aggressively on his previous tapes.  And the fact that he rocked his own mini version of Ultramagnetic's "Chorus Line," over the original beat, shows he's clearly got not just an appreciation for classic boom-bap, but a willingness to dive in.

So 2019's Frustration, we're told in the intro, is an expression of our joint frustration (naturally) with the world.  And in his case, particularly the music industry.  It's almost entirely produced by Blowin Up Beats (the three skits are handled by Tobe Donahue), the label's house producer, and he has definitely perfected a consistent, aggressive old school sound.  My favorite track on this album is "Tight," which utilizes Diamond D's funky little "Soul Clap" horn with deep, bassy piano notes, hard drums, and some nice cuts by DJ Etch, from Pseudo's last tape.  Blowin Up really does capture, across all his releases, that 90s vibe, I have to hand it to him.

And how does Pseudo sound on it?  Not bad.  He definitely throws himself in with full gusto and absolute commitment.  His eclectic delivery always called for a lot of energy, and you all that energy to live up to these tracks.  That said, I remember saying he sometimes sounded a little overwrought on his previous EP, and that's all the more case here.  All the complaints about not being a celebrated MC, like "wackness gets negated when I've got a million styles just waiting to be demonstrated.  But nobody wants to hear 'em," "living in a city where the ego outweighs the talent," and so on just aren't that sympathetic.

And a few over-the-top bits will have your eyes rolling: "in fact, I caught a motherfucker last night, talked a lot of shit and couldn't handle the fist fight.  Took a blade to his skull and now he's got no eyesight.  Leave the cracker brain-dead with multiple stab wounds to the head.  Enough said."  Or the skit where a demon voice is telling him to kill.  There's a horrorcore influence that just feels like the wrong direction for Pseudo to have gone in after "Super-Ego."  The songs where he's just freestyling, following a flow rather than a strict topic, like "Hardcore Shit" or "Who Wants It," sound better.  Then you can just nod away to an MC spitting fast and hard over a tight track without any awkward bumps.

Ultimately, it was an interesting experiment, but I think I'm glad the Hip Hop 4 Life time is over.  Though he didn't totally find his ideal lane immediately after.  The title of 2022's Cartoonish In Nature certainly suggests a dramatic 180 from Frustrated.  And guess who has a guest spot on here?  Kwest tha Madd Lad!  The whole EP's a collaboration with a producer named Kilroywash3r3, and he does a good job coming up with a creative and varied soundscape that better suits Pseudo.  As a whole, though, this EP sounds a little adrift... like they said, we can say anything on here, so why not just say anything?  It kind of reminds me of that period when Eminem and Nicki Minaj just started arbitrarily rapping in faux British accents.  "Obtuse" is a reflective and melodic opening where the two really blend well.  Then "Psycho Losing His Shit" is like a hold over from Frustrated that goes even further:

"It's a tragedy, like when I survived my abortion.
Born to bring an end of the Earth in epic proportions.
Yo, you want problems, we can settle them like men:
Smash each other with rocks until our worlds cave in.
Take ya back to the beginning when I didn't know shit;
Now I've hit my rise; and all the hipster girls are on my dick.
Fuck a trendsetter.  Give me five minutes, he'll be a blood-letter.
Then I'll write a letter to his grandmother requestin' a new sweater.
Shit ain't a game, people do anything for the fame,
Endure the fucking flames before their lives go down the drain.
Thinking homicidal shit 'cause I ain't got a damn thing to lose;
Cooking culture vultures stewed with their blue suede shoes.
All battered and bruised, 
killed 'em all 'cause I hate to choose,
What's the fucking use if all it does is leave us broke?"

The old school horror movie organs and Just-Ice scratches on this song are dope, but lyrically, oof.

Big correction 5/14/24:
As you can see in the comments below, I misheard the lyrics, thinking "all battered and bruised, killed 'em all 'cause I hate to choose," was "all battered and bruised, kill 'em all 'cause I hate the Jews."  The correct version is better in a lot of ways - i.e. it just makes more logical sense.  But also, obviously, because what I thought I heard would've been in pretty poor taste, which in fact, I proceeded to take him to task for.  I did also say, "I think it's safe to assume he's just playing an outrageous character for shock value, as the title suggests, and not an actual Nazi looking to spread propaganda.  In other songs he's called himself the Marquis de Sade, talked about stomping crews to goo, and all sorts of the usual Hip-Hop wylin'."  But still, I'm relieved to know it was all my embarrassing error and Pseudo's lyrics were completely above my reproach.

Let's move on.  Kwest sounds fresh as ever, and he has fun mixing Spanish into his verse and dropping silly punchlines.  There's another guest on here, named TINO, who flips a tight, bouncy style, too.  Kilroy's tracks are fresh and low-key that consistently compliment Pseudo.  I wasn't a fan of the love song on this EP, but the instrumental worked.  And "Leave 'Em Wanting More" ends things on a charming note that does what it promises.

I could end this piece here, but Pseudo's already come out with another EP for 2023, so let's me thorough.  It's called Moments Like This... It's more of a maxi-single (like his earlier tapes) at just four songs, one of which is only 90 seconds.  It's all produced by CJ Satellite, a producer from Massachusetts.  The opening instrumental is unusual and pretty great, bringing to mind the best parts of Pseudo's early work.  Delivery-wise, he's mellowed out a bit, but I'm feeling the substance of his lyrics more, and he still flexes a quick, dexterous flow on "Never Do It Again."  I think we saw Pseudonym wander off the path there, but now he's back on it.

You can get all his CDs and tapes on his bandcamp, except Frustrated, which is still available through Hardcore Rap 4 Life's.


  1. Pseudonym here! Thanks for reviewing my shit homie! To completely clarify, the lyrics were “now that I’ve hit my rise, all the hipster girls are on my dick” and “killed em all cause I hate to choose”. I have never written an anti Semitic line nor would ever endorse lyrics like that. Just wanted to establish that because that is a rather damning interpretation of what I said. Nontheless I appreciate the review Werner and nothing but love for my Jewish people.