Friday, July 02, 2010

It's an EPP World

Having spent a good chunk of time in Central Florida throughout my early 20s, I learned fairly quickly that there is something in the water down there, metaphorically-speaking. As a direct result of the garish, vulgar nature of mega-attractions like Universal and Sea World and Disney, the rest of Orlando has been forced to adapt. Seemingly everything, from kitschy roadside classic Gatorland to that ridiculously oversized McDonald's on I-Drive, has swollen to outrageous proportions just to be heard above the incessant buzz that is the local tourist trap culture.

This same logic also applies to the music scene. From the sci-fi theatrics to of Killer Robots to the marathon performances of Marc with a C, there is a palpable differentness inherent in Orlando acts. And surely there's no better example of this than Emergency Pizza Party.

While 2nd generation nerdcore, AKA: the Rhyme Torrents era, was firmly centered on solitary artists toiling in private, EPP emerged as the scene's earliest recognized group. And though they've seen a number of personnel shifts in the years since their debut, the crew still produces the same kind of notoriously off-the-wall jams they were cranking out in the early days of nerdcore.

The band – now a quintet consisting of founders MC Wreckshin, Sir-Up and Betty Rebel, joined by returning member Benjamin Bear and longtime collaborator funky49 – recently celebrated their union with Scrub Club Records by dropping their first album in nearly two years, Shine Avenue.

Though as thematically diverse (and occasionally impenetrable) as any selection from Emergency Pizza Party's back catalog, the album is a love letter to the seedier side of Orlando, a warts and all portrayal of the outlying lands of the Magic Kingdom.

Shine Avenue kicks off with "Now Hiring," a fairly run-of-the-mill intro skit/song that gains bonus points for employing Gregory Abbott's "Shake You Down," but none for its inclusion of a superfluous bit character. There are also a few awkward rhymes that seem to barely contain the group's boundless energy. Still, with a fun chorus by Betty and BBear and a strong guest verse by Kabuto the Python, it's not without its charms.

Its follow-up, "Reppin'," fairs much better. With a James Brown beat and a just a touch of house, it boasts strong flows (particularly from Wreckshin and funky49) and a perfect mix. Sadly, "Orlando," loses that hard-fought ground. The intro verse by guest rapper Rappy McRapperson seems a bit stale, but the solid beat coupled with EPP's trademark lyrical surrealism makes it a fitting salute to the 407 nonetheless. Fan-favorite "Punch-Out!!!" rounds out the first third of the album, and, despite some textural problems as it attempts to blend live material and studio recording, it does give every member a chance to shine.

Shine Avenue sees a palpable shift on track five, "Omega." It's a brilliantly-backed apocalyptic jam with some solid scratching and a fantastic wrap-up by Betty. Ms. Rebel also comes through on "Kiss Kaboom," a damn fine effort that showcases her varying styles and includes a nice MC Wreckshin verse that helps break the piece up. This leads us to "Hyperbolic Torture Chamber," a silly send-up of a Wu-Tang classic that, while not strictly necessary, is perfectly indicative of EPP's shared sense of absurdist humor.

Deep into the release, Emergency Pizza Party come through with the rousing "Never Make the Airwaves," a bold statement of purpose punctuated by allusions to Public Enemy, a quick poke at MC Lars, a great chant chorus by Sir-Up and a nice outro verse from guest rapper KZA. "Look at My Mouth (Again)" was a total surprise for me. I went in expecting a loose collection of EPP in-jokes, but instead found another album highlight. The group totally gels and sounds more cohesive than ever before. Shit, as fantastic as ZeaLouS1's contribution is, the crew didn't exactly need the added firepower on this cut. This sets the stage for yet another fine selection, title track "Shine Avenue." It's a little repetitive with its Soft Cell-cribbed beat, but another great offering. The Bizarro Stylus-referencing chorus might be lost on some, but it merely adds to its eclectic charm.

Shine Avenue's final musical selection is a long slept-on joint – Betty estimates that the Oddioblender beat itself is easily three years old – simply titled "The Easy Way." Amid a string of high caliber numbers, this one easily stands out as not only the best Emergency Pizza Party jam of the album, but their absolute best to date. It takes their penchant for off-the-wall delivery and pairs it with an equally nontraditional rap song structure doused in just the right amount of dub. Moreover, it manages to be lyrically compelling, relatable and, dare I say, uplifting, while maintaining the traditional EPP sense of fun. It's a fine example of the nerdy musical affirmation that's already wormed its way into heavy rotation on my end.

But lest we fear that EPP has abandoned its core principle, "LOLd Dirty Dude" closes the album out with nothing short of good old fashioned weirdness. It's just the guys bullshitting in real life. And yes, Shael Riley is an old dirty dude.

Shine Avenue is a slow burn. It doesn't exactly start strong, but it manages to blossom into a thoroughly enjoyable offering.

If you're a longtime EPP fanboy who relishes their open-ended, off-the-dome rhymes and playful approach, what you'll find within the span of these 12 tracks is a slightly ratcheted up variation on that theme. However, if you've eschewed the band's previous efforts due to that same penchant freeform hip-hop, I still urge you to give Shine Avenue a try.

The honest truth is, Emergency Pizza Party has never sounded better. From the more cleanly spit rhymes of its five MCs and their new Scrub Club guests to the brightly polished production, Shine Avenue is an unlikely charmer from the misfits of nerdcore.

Give it a listen. And get your shine on.

"And I will serve you a very fine wine. I'll be very hospitable."


funky49 said...

I love you.

Z. said...

LOL Right back at you, Steve!

funky49 said...

Hey! That's what my girlfriend says too!

Z. said...

That's how you know it's real love.

Church said...

It's true, she does say that.

Nerd Fabulous said...

Man I can't wait to see you guys again this weekend.

Jesús said...

anyone knows about a possible nerdcore song that the singer says damn girl!! and a girl says uhh boy!
i want to remember who sings that song...please notify me to lic.guzman at gmail dotttttttttt com