May 29, 2002


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Crack Emcee
Rap's Creation (Planet Rock)

One night at CELLspace I heard some lawn-wise idiot wearing a T-shirt with a Brown logo turned inside out mention Crack: We Are Rock in the same breath as the Crack Emcee. I almost force-fed him a trash can. It's not that the Crack Emcee's been riding that train for years, having adopted the handle during Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" jihad, when cozying up to hubba was roughly equivalent to declaring for Hamas during Intifada 2002. What's important is that the Crack Emcee is – and this is no joke – some kind of genius, with a gift that seemingly sparks randomly or maybe just when he feels like squeezing off a few rounds. Call him unpredictable, unwilling, or maybe, well, you know, but genius is genius, and you've got to respect it. He tosses a mix of underplayed rock, punk, and hip-hop up against the wall on Rap's Creation, and sometimes it sticks. On "Don't You Know" he raps, "Where you from / Why you here / Why you go / Don't come near / Stay away / Don't come back / Not today / Know where you at / Don't you know I'm the motherfucker out here that gonna hurt you" over an ominous, simple bass line. The result isn't thug rap but deeply sad, desperate blues. The Crack Emcee plays soul music for a twisted world; he's radical, challenging, unapologetic, weird, and at times so fucking brilliant that you worry he'll explode like a suicide bomb. (J.H. Tompkins)

Crosstops
Cloverleaf Fandango (Revenge)

San Franciscans, many of whom have escaped one boondock or another, still get one great belly laugh out of redneck culture. The Crosstops fellows (and ladies, on many of the better cuts) regard "white trash" as a crack-up and pull no punches when they take it on, playing sped-up country rock derived from the work of bands like Horton Heat and Jason and the Scorchers. On Cloverleaf Fandango they've served up a slab of gags that recall the great trailer park parodists of the '70s, such as Dr. Hook and Kinky Friedman, and when they get to pickin' and grinnin', the Crosstops are pretty damn good. They're self-deprecating, over-the-top and hilarious – songs like "I'm an Accident" and "Shotgun Wedding" take the white world to new lows. Of course, they can't resist traveling well-worn roads: by now "Truck Drivin' Man" has been flogged to death as much as "Ring of Fire," and the cover of "Rhinestone Cowboy" is pointless, because that song is so utterly suckola as to be unsavable. Still, the band have a great sense of humor and great chops – the album is a goof that'll have you howling in amazement even as it's musically strong enough to transcend novelty. All the same, I'd love the next one to rip the new, sterile, Republican Nashville instead of the tried-and-true hillbilly hickdom that every smartass aims for. I'm waiting. (Johnny Angel)