Thursday, 8 May 2014

Twiztid - The Green Book (2002)

Whichever way you look at it, Insane Clown Posse are one fuck of a tough sell outside of their admittedly huge core group of fans, not least because they probably should have called it a day with the first Wraith album, quitting whilst they were ahead. Understood by the uninformed to be some sort of Insane Clown Posse tribute act, Twiztid are therefore amongst those groups least likely to ever make it onto the cover of The Wire. That fifty-year old middle-class white guy boldly declaring Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions... to be the greatest rap album ever recorded, like he's really gone out on a limb, striking against the downpression in stating such a minority view, and partially because it's the only one he's heard - he would never listen to Twiztid, not even if somehow obliged to do so at gunpoint. He'd rather eat his own sphincter sautéed in white wine.

Although it's certainly true that they jump about on stage grabbing their men's bits whilst painted up as zombie variations on ICP's clown make-up for the edification of a grunting multitude of fans of whom less than 40% will ever study philosophy at either Yale or Harvard, the music of Twiztid really needs to be assessed on its own merits, to which end it probably doesn't get much better than The Green Book.

In fact, fuck it - it probably doesn't get much better than The Green Book in the context of albums ever recorded, never mind just the oeuvre of Madrox and Monoxide, as those responsible are identified.

To first dispel a few unfortunate misunderstandings, Twiztid are indeed two white guys doing rap music. White guys doing rap music can often be a bad idea, particularly if they waste too much time going on about being white guys doing rap music, overcompensating either by getting angrier and more dysfunctional than thou - as Eminem has done on occasion - or more self-important than thou as with many of those backpack types, each last one as wearily edumacational as Blue Peter presenters with their caps twisted backwards; and of course, there's also the just plain crap like the Kottonmouth Kings. That said, rap ability is not dependent on racial heritage and for every embarrassing wanker there's usually someone who vaguely knows what they're doing, and occasionally that someone will turn out to have the talent of a Haystak, an El-P, or these two, whose success can be attributed to their recording what they want to hear rather than necessarily what they think we might want to hear.

Twiztid extend toes across that rap-rock divide from time to time, probably because they feel like it, but they're at their strongest with this kind of thing which, for the sake of trying to stuff it all into a single sentence, is sort of like Mellow Gold-era Beck off his tits on some fairly nasty hallucinogenics and going nuts with the Halloween dressing up box, but funnier and a lot scarier. It's hard to believe that something which works so hard at taking a steady stream of custard pies in the face could sound quite this intense, but even interspersed with the gobbets of the sort of drivel that kept Beavis & Butthead gurgling along, there are parts of The Green Book which make Joy Division sound positively breezy. This probably isn't what you would expect from rap that spends quite so much time lost in talk of weed and boobs, but judge ye not...

I was recently annoyed on facebook by a person responding to the incident of twenty people stabbed at a Pennsylvania High School with the crowing observation of how much worse it would have been had the individual concerned owned a gun. So in other words, now even tragedies with no firearm involved may be legitimately used to score points by advocates of gun control as opposed to - just off the top of my head - acknowledging the possibility that such incidents might be a mental health issue relating more to the kind of carnivorous capitalist society America has become than simply because there are guns involved. Similarly, whilst it may be all very well to inform black clad teenagers that they're not living in Rwanda and therefore, by some definition, have it relatively easy, this doesn't really address the problem any more than the impossible dream of banning guns and somehow implementing such a ban. What might be helpful, I tentatively suggest, is for our society to at least try to have some sort of dialogue with itself as opposed to overloading everyone with unrealistic and even undesirable expectations; because - to get to the point - at least one side of that dialogue, or a significant voice therein, probably sounds like this album. The World is Hell and Marsh Lagoon, for two examples, cut far deeper than any of the usual whining emo stuff, not least for the sharp contrast of sarcasm and slapstick black humour even before we come to the weirdly empowering Fat Kidz which is as good and riotous an argument as I've ever heard for the more generously built to keep sight of their self-esteem.

Off the chain, off the scale, I ain't watching no weight,
I'm at the barbecue, high as hell, fixing a plate,
XX to the XL, hit me three times,
Come correct with my burger and fries, they're king-size.

The Green Book really needs to be heard. The lyricism is fucking exceptional, it sounds like no other album, and there's far too much here to describe in a couple of paragraphs. The associations with ICP, or its being too far removed in spirit from some record that came out thirty years ago will be too great an obstacle for some, but mostly people who wouldn't understand and therefore don't really matter. Its authenticity, for those who believe they have an understanding of such things, should be clear from guest appearances by E-40, Esham, Layzie Bone, and Tech N9ne, and from the quality of their respective verses going some way beyond mere rap for hire. I don't care how stupid it sounds on paper, this is one of the greatest albums ever recorded, a genuine classic.

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