Thursday, 26 June 2014

Ill Bill & Vinnie Paz - Heavy Metal Kings (2011)

It has been observed that a surprisingly high percentage of white rappers tend to blow it by trying too hard, overcompensating for low melanin content by being more dysfunctional than the next guy, with more harrowing lyrical content, and a sicker than thou attitude. As I generally refuse to listen to backpack types amiably mumbling away about playing chess and eating lettuce whilst spinning their vintage Main Source twelves, this means that most white rappers who've made it into my collection fall somewhere into this spectrum, because a bespectacled man in a Sesame Street hoodie telling you about his little book of lyrics is essentially quite dull. Ill Bill - much like Haystak and R.A. the Rugged Man to name but two - whilst not afraid to get visceral, or to horrify the living shit out of his audience, succeeds because his bow has always had more than just the one string, so he's generally kept it gritty and intelligent, despite the occasional lapse into tinfoil hat wearing territory; and he can reel it in when required, offering genuinely sensitive insight into his subject, whatever it may be. This is why The Anatomy of a School Shooting remains, for me, one of the most powerful rap records ever made - a rare ray of light shed upon a topic which has seemed otherwise almost impervious to sense or reason.

I'm not really familiar with Vinnie Paz beyond knowing I probably have something by his group Jedi Mind Tricks on some mixtape somewhere. Thankfully, he's not quite the gross-out angry white bloke MC either. On the other hand, although his Cookie Monster delivery is plentiful in terms of lyrical acrobatics, a lot of it seems to fixate on subjects such as what happens when you add up all the verses of the bible and divide them by Nostradamus, and that sort of thing. It's okay as texture, but you probably wouldn't want a whole album, and Heavy Metal Kings is almost half an album of Vinne Paz, which seems like a lot to me, but I suppose at least he isn't Necro.

In case anyone was wondering, or is even still reading, given both of these guys elsewhere fixating so heavily on black metal and the like, the title here refers more to atmosphere than what it sounds like, which is thankfully free of guitar samples and Rick Rubinisms. Mostly it's that grimy New York underground sound, with a bit more of a hard rock punch on the beats than you might expect. - not a million miles from Ill Bill's solo work or what he did with Non Phixion. Unfortunately though, as a whole the thing isn't really what you would call a landmark. The pissed off and grunting is turned up to ten on the first track, which is where it stays for the next fifty minutes, and whilst there may be many great beats here, they're all arranged to roughly the same pace and mood so it takes a good few listens before anything really stands out, which in the meantime leaves you stuck in an elevator trapped between floors looking at your shoes with two fat, angry white blokes who seem to think you're probably working for the Illuminati.


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