Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Madd Rapper - Tell Em Why U Madd (1999)

...which brings us to skits on rap albums. Aren't they just the best!?

Sadly no, which is odd considering that rap as a genre generally has a fairly well developed sense of humour, and so much so that I would suggest that humour of one stripe or another is pretty much an essential ingredient of the form, unless you're Lauryn Hill or someone. It is therefore puzzling - at least to me - why skits on rap albums are usually so fucking embarrassing. The prize for the worst probably goes to C-Murder whose comedy turns have mostly been on the level of a hapless fan phoning him in the middle of the night to which our man quips suck my dick, punk ass motherfucker, with hilarious consequences. Ha ha. Even Ice Cube, whom one might ordinarily credit with at least a modicum of wit, has been known to shoot himself in the big red clown's shoe despite the assistance of Chris Rock who actually causes mirth for a living. I'm thinking here of the skit in which Rock plays some sort of punk ass motherfucker trying to get in on Cube's not unimpressive game, washing his car badly or something of that sort and with hilarious consequences. Rock is genuinely funny, but the effect is spoiled by Mr. Cube sneering punk ass motherfucker just in case we listeners were too stupid to realise that Chris Rock was playing the role of a punk ass motherfucker in pursuit of comedy chuckles. We might of course have misunderstood and thought that Rock's incoherently yelping character was a real cool dude, but no, Mr. Cube sets us straight by identifying him, as stated, as a punk ass motherfucker so as to make absolutely certain that we get the joke. Great.

Surprisingly, the oeuvre of Puff Daddy - which is what he's still called so far as I'm concerned - for all its faults, fares generally quite well in terms of wacky interludes, most of which manage to at least raise a chortle even if we're not exactly in the realm of crying whilst banging ours fist on the floor. The Madd Rapper, for the sake of argument, emerged as a running joke on various Bad Boy albums, a character brought in to complain about whoever album he was appearing on, to generally more amusing effect than you might anticipate. I could be remembering this wrong but I seem to recall reports of Bad Boy producer Deric Angelettie, usually trading as D-Dot, being pretty pissed off when someone outed him as the secret identity of the Madd Rapper. This seemed odd as I thought it had been common knowledge for a while, and it wasn't like he'd really gone to any great lengths to cover his tracks; and with the best will in the world, The Madd Rapper was never going to be the hip-hop answer to the Residents, because were there ever such a thing it would have been much stranger and would almost certainly have involved Kool Keith. But anyway...

An entire album from the Madd Rapper, Madd spelt with two Ds just to up the wackiness to the level of a bumper sticker reading don't follow me - I'm lost too! Just how good was it going to be?

Astonishingly, it's actually pretty decent. I suppose this shouldn't be too surprising given that D-Dot has been behind some of the crunchier Bad Boy tracks, but rhyming - as opposed to just gurgling angrily between numbers on a Puffy album - he's pretty tight and with a distinctive voice. The beats are doubtless very much New York at the end of the last century, caught somewhere between turntable and sampler - punchy kick drums, skipping pace and a nice deep bass kept simple, orchestral stabs and grimy piano loops promising that it will be a great day in the big city, but you should probably wrap up warm. It isn't jazz by any description, but it has some of that feel.

Anyway, last century or not, it still sounds great to me. This being a producer's album, there's a ton of guests, which keeps it moving along although probably wasn't strictly necessary as Madd holds his own with the best of them - Raekwon, Black Rob, Ma$e, Eminem when he was funny, and even the pre-fame-and-shooting 50 Cent whose How To Rob promises a hell of a lot more than he eventually delivered on albums comprising bank statements read out over sampled gunfire. That said, the assembled lyricists of D-Dot's own Crazy Cat stable are featured heavily for obvious reasons, and whilst none of them are exactly bad, most of them may as well be those members of Murder Inc. who weren't either Ja Rule or the lady with the nice hair, whatever her name was. They're okay, but nothing that shines too bright, although at least none of them are Jermaine Dupri, the stumpy capitalist who is called in to ruin only one of these tracks with the usual whiny voiced crap about his wallet and his penis.

Tell Em Why U Madd presents itself as the rap Barron Knights probably because no-one told it not to, but turns out to be a thumping good set for the most part, and not really a comedy album, or at least no more so than any rap album you care to mention is a comedy album. Come to think of it, it's probably a significant improvement on most of the records this guy has made for other people.

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