A couple of months ago in his Skinema column, the dun Chris Nieratko—known for "pussy demolishing" and ordering six-packs of beer during snowstorms from delivery guys desperate for the money—put me on blast for my hip-hop scholarship, but also made the very worthwhile suggestion that perhaps I should start an "official rap college," where MCs could get their learn on without listening to Talib Kweli or KRS-One.
Well, young Chris, Boston's Mighty Casey has beaten me to the punch. Peep "Black Rapping School," from his debut EP Original Rudebwoy. Here's what you must learn: "First things first, nigga/Learn your limitations/Why be yourself?/Go be a Jigga imitation/We don't need creativity or originality/Just a R&B gangster with a thug mentality."
Take it in stride, young buck. These days, they teach rap in schools, but Casey's on to an even bigger point: Nowadays, rap practically adheres to a lesson plan. If the drugs don't work, the guns certainly will. And if the designer labels are getting stingy, the hip-hop clothiers will provide.
While he's grilling up some beef, Casey would also like to have a word with Pockets Dumb Fat poster boy Juelz Santana: "Rap used to be pro-black/Now it's just pro-crack." Thanks to Casey's deadpan delivery, it's unclear whom he's making more fun of: the thug wannabes in question or the nostalgists who mock them.
The rest of Rudebwoy is a comic hip-hop fantasia—sub-genius, but insider funny. The sometime math tutor rips off "California Love" on the title track, samples the Cure on an ode to dipsomania a la GZA's "Labels" ("Liquorland Part 2"), and secures nappy that's snappy in both senses ("One Night Stand").
[Worth noting: Casey is also responsible for the most subversive, hilarious video ever played on BET Uncut. Now, I love me some Joker The Bailbondsman and some Black Jesus as much as the next sex offender, but Casey's "White Girls"—to the tune of "White Lines," replacing "something like a phenomenon" with "don't tell Minister Farrakhan"—is such a rich spoof it practically transcends. Sample line, with debts either to Paul Barman or Big Pun: "I got Alyssa Milano hittin' high notes like sopranos/While we're in my bedroom, making some mulattos." Note to geek rappers: Stop trying to get your videos on Rap City. You are not Ghetto Mafia.]
"You couldn't hang with me if we both got lynched," Casey proclaims on "Makin' Sure." As hip-hop grows old, it's giving birth to its own internal critique and its own line of tricksters.
Sure, number one sonner Devin the Dude just dropped an album, To Tha X-Treme, but he'd give anything (except actual effort) to get some mainstream love. These other dissenters have little hope of getting acknowledged by the very mainstream that nurtured them. That allows them to get away with shit at the margins that those in the belly of the beast can only envy.
Like Casey, Philadelphia's Plastic Little are interested in the detritus floating in hip-hop's jetstream. Witness "Foil," from their debut album Thug Paradise 2.1, an ode to broke pimpin': "I rock foil/when I'm at the club/I rock foil/ when I'm sitting on dubs." Kids in the hood have been known to nice up their grills with chewing gum wrappers as bling approximants (peace to Kori Newkirk). And for Plastic Little, the followers are just as ready for rebuke as their idols.
Thug Paradise is genuinely hilarious, a lovers' quarrel smack in hip-hop's blithely grinning face. Enclosed within are mythical street battles between cousins sporting extra-long throwbacks, shitty house parties where they play Jurassic 5, and the plight of the bupwardly-mobile: "The token black/I'm at your house party/Tiger Woods/He's my nigger!" Kanye West, are you listening?
"Miller Time," which fucks up the drums from "Dwyck" and the horns from "It Ain't Hard To Tell," is an extreme play on hip-hop marketing of self: "We got our credibility/Even though we're black/We're not too menacing." And the jaunty "I'm Not A Thug" speaks for itself.
Plastic Little's beats are poly-layered, bouncy and chaotic; at times, they sound like someone making fun of El-P. But Plastic Little don't give a whit about a backpacker—their eyes are on a far different prize. A couple of years ago, crew member Jayson Mussen dropped a propaganda pamphlet called "Too Black for BET." Given the unlikely success of Mighty Casey, maybe that's not so true anymore. As Mussen and his boys know perfectly well, the truth in the song is the pro-black teaching, even if they're not listening.
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