Sunday, June 28, 2009

Album I enjoy #45: Escape from Monsta Island! by Monsta Island Czars

45. Escape from Monsta Island! by Monsta Island Czars

It seems like hip-hop has been getting a little too good for it's own good. Sure, rappers are more socially relevant than ever, producing slicker beats, wittier lyrics and harder hitting commentary than their predecessors. This can be greatly attributed to their standing on the shoulders of giants, but it seems like something crucial has been left down there in the muck. What has happened to nonsensically raw rap? What happened to Method Man ranting on and on about your death? What happened to the stupid level of hedonism displayed by even the poorest of underground rappers? What happened to the Geto Boys harmonizing shouts of "Die, motherfucker, die!"? What happened to the mysticism godly ego of GZA? What happened to rappers so far removed from reality that their antics can't help but be admired?

And, as a quick note to those thinking "Well Li'l Wayne is crazy and extravagant...", I mean good rappers.

So, I introduce you to Escape from
Monsta Island!, a mud-encrusted jewel, cut raw straight from the underground. These guys aren't poor suckers sitting on a street corner rapping about the corruption in the government. These aren't even pimped out coke-heads cruising around in a convertible. They aren't even gangster supervillains ruling the streets. They're monsters. Absolute monsters of rap. And they have come to destroy major metropolises with quake-causing bass beats and heat rays of pure, concentrated rhymes.

The lyrics aren't anything to write home about - standard ridiculous rap boasts - but the odd line is laugh out loud clever. And the delivery is often jaw-dropping. Listen to Rodan's last verse on "12.12", where he rhymes 16 phrases at near light speed, ending each line with some variant of "oh-oh" ("popo", "dojo", etc). Then, in the only way to top that sheer badassedness, Megalon nonchalantly retorts, "Is that so?". Sublimely cool.

This is a rap album made by a real team, a rare site in the megalomaniac-filled world of hip-hop. Each crew member gets a solo song, which they all knock out of the park. Production is split up, with beats being provided not to cash in on a bigger share, but to really lend the song personality. Doom gives songs a slow, hypnotic beat and eerie synths and samples. X-Ray prefers to match the speed of the rappers with rollicking drums and sped up loops. The styles seem to clash, but like so many other parts of the album, the odds are defied and it simply works.

If there were justice in the world, this would be a classic up with there with 36 Chambers and Cuban Linx. The whole thing is tight, decisive and pure. It doesn't do anything it doesn't need to. It's simply a half-dozen guys sitting down playing Godzilla vs. Ghidorah and rapping about it. It's classic. Just look at it:
Hey yo blast this, I flip these beats like gymnastics
I'm drastic, plus I mastered the ass-kick
Bombastic, wrap that ass up in plastic
You bastard, plus I'm rather sarcastic
Fantastic, I pull your girl like elastic

  I don't care how dignified or elitist you can get, or rightly be - there's now denying that those lines are just monstrous.

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