Thursday, 28 August 2014

MOP - Warriorz (2000)

A couple of weeks ago I bought a box set of the first three albums by the Sound, a group I somehow managed to completely miss first time around. I'd stumbled across one of their tracks by chance and decided they sounded right up my street. They proved so much up my street that I've hardly listened to anything else since those aforementioned three albums turned up in the mail, and I've now played them so much that I've become almost over-saturated and sorely in need of a palate cleanser. I was going to write something about the Sound this week, but instead Warriorz found its way into my discman, which is about as far removed as one can get from the Sound without just listening to Cartoons, whom Wikipedia describes as a technobilly or glam pop band from Denmark, best known for their 1998 Eurodance cover of the 1958 novelty song, Witch Doctor by Ross Bagdasarian, as well as for their outlandish plastic costumes and wigs used in live performances as caricatures of 1950s American rock and roll stars.

Anyway, to get to the point, the greatest obstacles to a working appreciation of rap are, I would say, the failure to understand what rap does, and the misconception that rap necessarily does just one thing. This is particularly true of the sort of rap which relates sweary tales of villainy, once amusingly parodied by my friend Carl with the line I'm gonna cut off your face and use it to wipe my arse. Whilst Warriorz may indeed serve as a filmic glimpse of life on the mean streets of Brooklyn, a valuable insight into the world of society's most pooed-upon, it's probably worth remembering that this is also rap guys stood around trying to make each other laugh by saying outrageous shit. It's a conversation which has somehow ended up on a CD in the homes of people with very different lives to those of the originators, and which should be understood as such, and should be understood as something quite different to a broadcast message sent out to a bunch of strangers with slightly fatter wallets. I've probably said this before, but this is what distinguishes artists such as MOP or anyone else who was ever labelled gangsta from self-proclaimed edumacaters of the Native Tongues school and their disciples - this sort of material is not offered as lifestyle tips or guidance.

Okay, excuses aside, MOP have refreshingly little to say on most of the usual contentious subjects, concentrating mainly on how great they are, and how they're fairly likely to punch your face off for no reason whatsoever. Whilst this may sound something of a bore, the sheer joy they obviously had recording this album carries it along. Rarely has anything sounded quite so furious, so ready to bash your teeth in, and yet so raucously happy at the same time. It's like that weird moment where you find that, for no obvious reason, you're suddenly best friends with the most enormous and terrifying kid in the entire school, and he thinks all of your jokes are hilarious. Also, I don't think I've ever heard quite so much shouting on one album.

Musically it's definitively in the DJ Premier vein - although the man himself only handles a few of the cuts here - grimy east-coast nineties beats reversing over you like an unusually smelly garbage truck, old soul and film soundtrack samples ground into functioning tracks on the sort of sampler that leaves grease stains if you stand too close; and because, as I've attempted to suggest, the best rap generally does more than just one thing, there's something powerfully soulful about this collection even taking all the yelling and grunting and diarrhoea jokes into account; and never has a xylophone sample sounded quite so terrifying as on On the Front Line. This is easily one of the greatest rap albums of all time, pooface.

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