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."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 90: Nerdy Black Summer

There are rare occasions when it is acceptable to name a podcast after a Danzig song. Unfortunately, I am unsure whether or not this is such an occasion.

But what are you gonna do?

Yes, it's another sticky summer here in the southeast, so I am all but honor-bound to hit you up with my yearly musical celebration of the hot weather. That's not the entire sum of this episode, mind you, but it proved solid enough bedrock upon which to build a show.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 90: Nerdy Black Summer [hosting provided by Antisoc] Size: 49.5 MB Running Time: 54:05

Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah – "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
Because nothing says "summertime is here" quite like Beefy and Spellah! 

Track 1: The Garthim-Master – "Welcome to the Internet"
Who knew skekUng had such insight concerning modern electronic communications? 

Z's 1st interlude: "You'll likely notice a few recurring motifs."
This show doesn't have a theme, but instead focuses on summer jams, new releases and listener requests. 

Track 2: Beefy – "Smiles Times [feat. Epic-1 & Schaffer the Darklord]"
Matt suggested this one. I had another With Sprinkles song in mind to simply file under "new hotness," but since this one both has a summer feel and was a request, it gets the hat trick. 

Track 3: Parry Gripp – "Me and You and Pikachu"
Not exactly a new release (it's from January), but vaguely summery with its talk of islands and whatnot. 

Track 4: Math the Band – "Hang Out-Hang Ten"
A song not at all about surfing, but still possessing a certain fun-in-the-sun aesthetic. 

Track 5: Xoc – "Beetlejuice – Sandworm Planet"
This one rounds out a trio of vaguely beach-related tracks, what with its surf rock guitar. And since I haven't plugged it in a while, Xoc's Cinema 80s is the shit. 

Track 6: Bumper: "Bonebat Comedy of Horrors Film Festival Promo"
Since I actually stole the idea of including bumpers for other podcasts in-episode from The Bonebat Show, it seemed only fitting that the first time I do so should reference their Comedy of Horrors film festival. 

Track 7: DJ Topcat – "The Safety Booty" / Tycho Brahe dialog
Do the Ying-Yang twins make constant lyrical reference to onomatopoeia that only they understand, or is it just me? 

Track 8: Americans UK – "John Loves Wayne"
Another brand new release. It's quickly become my new favorite Am UK track. 

Z's 2nd interlude: "Which you may remember from episode 89."
Big thanks to all who listened to, commented on and shared my recent Wil Wheaton mixtape! 

Track 9: MC Gigahertz – "Summertime is Over [feat. OG Don Vito]"
Recently released as a part of the 2010 Puget Sound mixtape, this single was made freely available by new nerdcore netlabel Roll A Twenty. 

Track 10: John Anealio – "Unicorn Pegasus Kitten"
I'm not sure if John's musical interpretation can legally be entered in the fan fic contest it references, but if so it totally deserves to win. 

Track 11: The Kleptones – "Voodoo Sabotage (Beastie Boys vs. The Prodigy vs. Pendulum)"
This one's for my UK brother Talkie_Tim. He wanted to hear a "Sabotage" mash-up, so I pulled this one out of the collection. 

Track 12: Emergency Pizza Party – "The Easy Way" / Hot Shots dialog
I should have a review of the new EPP release Shine Avenue up later this week. In the meantime, enjoy this: it's musical highpoint. 

Track 13: Pixelh8 – "Spiral"
This Pixelh8 track is so new I don't even know if it's been officially released yet. It's from his forthcoming double-album The Schematic. 

Track 14: Calogero – "Pomme C"
And this one's for my pal Church. It popped up on Macenstein last month, and he all but demanded I include it in the rotation. 

Z's final interlude: "I will simply bid you adieu."
I really enjoy bidding you adieu. I like to think it makes us both feel fancy! 

Track 15: Matt Ryd – "California Gurls"
And before anyone says it, yes, I know Matt is actually a Chicago Boy.

I should be able to pull together one more episode before Nerdapalooza, but the content of that show is still up in the air. I've invited both Hex Warrior and Krondor Krew's Masu on to talk about the festival if time allows. If not, I'll simply improvise.

I'm also currently fielding requests regarding a post-Nerdapalooza wrap-up show, and, if you can believe it, recording a special episode on-site. While the former sounds doable, I'm a little iffy on the latter. Still, it doesn't hurt to investigate. I'll simply do whatever I can to properly convey the Nerdapalooza experience to those unable to attend.

Because I'm a giver! ;)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Keeping it Local

For years I have sought my own hip-hop home team, a cadre of nerdy rappers that are suitably close to my uniquely rural locality. Little did I know that such a clique was available a scant hour away in the nearby hub of Charlotte, NC.

I was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of The ThoughtCriminals, fronted by my boy Mikal kHill on MC Frontalot's last tour. With a full band setup that employs everything from biting guitar leads to homebrew DS blips and triple-teamed lyrics centered on subjects like the Ninja Turtles, it was clear fairly early on that these fellow Carolinians were indeed the droids I was looking for.

Last week the guys performed a benefit for the same venue that introduced them to me, The Milestone Club. And as cool as the concept of the band trying to help out one of the South's historic dives truly is, the most fascinating thing to come out of the show was the announcement of their forthcoming "tour."

Note the quotation marks.

This isn't a tour in the traditional sense, but rather an interesting variation on the theme. Rather than taking their show on the road, The ThoughtCriminals are instead bringing the rest of the country to NC as part of their Standing Still 2010 Tour.

Every date of the tour will take place at Charlotte's Milestone, and each performance will pair The TC's regional flavor with amazing rap acts from across the US. Though full dates have yet to be announced, the following have already been confirmed:

It's really rare that we're able to coax this caliber of hip-hop so far down the coast, so anyone within driving distance is strongly encouraged to come out join in the fun. Also, be sure to keep a keen eye on The ThoughtCriminals' official site and the band's Facebook event page for further details as they become available.

This is not a (stationary) tour to be missed!