New wave on the tracks

Kirb and Chris seduce all the Molly Ringwalds with the truth on Niggaz and White Girlz

Hip-hop's maze is infinite in size, shape, and perspective, but sometimes MCs get trapped at an impasse and start repeating each other like a gaggle of parrots. During times like that — times like now — it takes imaginative minds to break through and open new verbal doors. That's what the two-brained Bay Area rhyme machine known as Kirb and Chris does on Niggaz and White Girlz (Rapitalism), a mixtape-turned-CD that launches the sound of new wave thuggin': loops of '80s hits and obscurities coupled with hard and hilarious truths about sex and race in America.

"We liked to go to the new wave clubs and do our thing," Kirby Dominant says when asked about the inspiration behind the concept. "We'd go out during the week and then on Sunday just compose what we went through, whether it was little chicks fuckin' with us, kissin' on us or dudes tryin' to downplay us. We wanted to come through and fuck with taboos and myths and stereotypes. It's not necessarily something we take to heart — I'll fuck anything that moves, first of all, I don't care what color it is."

Before they began recording, Kirb and Chris tried out the title Niggaz and White Girlz in social situations to see what kind of reactions it provoked. "A lot of people in our crew were, like, 'Dude, that's fucking ignorant,' " Dominant remembers. "I'd say, 'But if I called it Niggaz and Mexicans, you wouldn't say anything, huh?' "

"Or Niggaz with Niggaz," Chris Sinister adds.

Dominant claims some black-on-both-sides (or in clear jewel boxes and on the outs?) big names were up for cameos — until they heard about the subject matter. "I'm not going for these rappers saying they aren't fucking white girls," he says. "I've been on tour, and there ain't no fuckin' black girls in Canada. I'm not believin' it. I've been to those towns!"

The truth is calling the shots on Niggaz and White Girlz, and it's open season on any gender or color that just can't get enough. Dominant and Sinister sprinkle a ton of pop culture references on top of what one of the album's characters calls a "Rick James and Teena Marie love" theme that could have been just a gimmick: Hill Street Blues, the Cosby kids, New Kids on the Block, Vampire's Kiss, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Malcolm Little are all recruited for dissing or boasting purposes.

But dig beneath, and you'll find track after track that takes post–P.M. Dawn new wave rap in unexpected directions. The keyboard stabs of Gary Numan's "Down in the Park," for example, are an ideal sonic setting for Sinister to live up to his last name with a realist tale of the hustling that takes over city rec areas at night. Inspirational and even kind of spine-chilling, "In You" keeps Bono's histrionics on "With or Without You" to a minimum, allowing Sinister and Dominant to spin candidly detailed morality tales with different endings about a greedy promoter and a woman turning tricks to support a habit. "Human" gives Dominant an opportunity to provide the frankly hilarious sequel that LL Cool J never made for "I Need Love." On "Money" the duo get hot but not counterfeit, and DJ Ice Water is at his coldest in revealing what the B-52's "Legal Tender" has been all along — a prototypical money-stacking rap track, complete with synths and hand claps.

Some of the more obscure musical sources on Niggaz and White Girlz give Kirb and Chris the chance to lay down tracks on which the new wave sound is wholly submerged. "Change Your Mind" might be the album's hottest cut, with Dominant mocking the "foul quotations and little heart murmurs" of MCs who have a fear of the kind of music made by, say, the Talking Heads.

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