July 17, 2002

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Voilà!

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE between Trick Daddy and Busdriver? On "In da Wind" (Atlantic, www.atlantic-records.com) Trick rhymes about how he "love the kids" while Cee-Lo implores you to "Get you a glass / Mix the coke and the hen." Meanwhile, Busdriver calls club hoppers "dumb yuppies, humpty dumpties, and young guppies" on "Party Pooper," a 7-inch single backed with "Buy One Style, Get Second Style Free" (Afterlife/Project Blowed, www.belowsurface.com). Both rappers have an irreverent style: Trick Daddy occasionally screams out the last syllable in his stanzas, while Busdriver ... well, Busdriver, to borrow a phrase from a friend, is "pure comedy." To most people Busdriver is just another backpack MC on the outskirts of the industry. Trick Daddy is a platinum thug backed by a major label; Busdriver's latest single is being distributed by Below the Surface, a record store in Burlingame. By the way, check out another single from Below the Surface, Spex's "Some Way Know How" backed with Insomniac's "Madman," both of which are grimy, freestyle-driven tracks.

But I digress ... I cover underground shit because, although I like mainstream records, too, I can't get with how crazily oblivious most major-label hip-poppers are. Oakland MC Bas-1 and producer Fanatik parody this attitude on their "Instant Rap Star," part of a double A-side single that's backed with Stimulus and Paul Nice's "The Master" (Bomb, www.bombhiphop.com). "It's a machine at work, a proven process / An MTV hook up guaranteeing you success," rhymes Bas-1. "No need for demos and fresh beats."

Case in point: I was watching BET's Rap City the other day, and host Big Tigger had Styles from the Lox on as a guest. Styles was promoting "The Life," a great lead single from the recent Soundbombing 3 compilation (Rawkus, www.rawkus.com), and his upcoming solo debut, Gangster and a Gentleman (Interscope, www.interscope.com). Styles's rhymes are perfunctory, but guest MC Pharoahe Monch's chorus is amazing: "My life is all I have / My rhymes, my pen, my pad / And I done made it through the struggle, don't judge me / What you say now, won't budge me / 'Cause where I come from, so often / People you grew up with layin' in a coffin / But I done made it through the pain and strife / It's my time now, my world, my life / My life."

However, Styles failed to acknowledge that both "My Life" 's backing track and Monch's chorus were purchased by Rawkus from New York-based indie label Major League Entertainment, which released the original version, Tribeca's "The Life," in 2000. When Big Tigger asked, "Now, on your first single you're rocking that Tribeca joint, right?," Styles was all like, "Naw, I don't know nothing about that," fronting like he wrote "My Life" himself.

Personally, I like to give props to artists that don't insult my intelligence, whether they're associated with hip-hop or not. The recent sampler from British imprint Lex Records (www.lexrecords.com) compiles five seemingly incongruous tracks, including Subtle's post-rock "Eneby Kurs"; "Just Listen," a straight-up boom-bap instrumental from Edan; and "Casanova," a wild electro track from Peaches and Mignon. Now, I don't really like Peaches, but her and Mignon's "hardcore female aggression shit" sounds refreshingly provocative when juxtaposed to Edan's whimsical, organ-fueled beat. Sometimes, of course, I want to hear a good, well-written song instead of a sonic adventure. Unfortunately, beyond what I've written about here, there isn't much to recommend. Send all products and gewgaws in care of the author to 484 Lake Park Ave., PMB 349, Oakland, CA 94610. Comments, tips, and disses should be directed to invisible27@earthlink.net.