Radioinactive and Antimc

    Free Kamal

    Mush - June 29, 2004

    Some if/then statements regarding Radioinactive and Antimc’s Free Kamal, the latest of a string of Mush releases sure to confuse those inclined to neatly categorize music by genre:


    IF… You’re a straight-up undie fan …

    THEN … this one’s going to give you some trouble. It’s not that Free Kamal is entirely outside the hip-hop idiom, it’s just that it seems to consciously eschew belonging to any idiom as its primary mantra. As Radioinactive, who was born Kamal Humphrey and who debuted in the mid nineties as part of the Dirty Loop collective, directs listeners on the album’s opener to “have no genre.” And his record definitely doesn’t. It’s as consistently indie rock or reggae as it is hip-hop or deejay music, so prepare for maximum variety. Sounds fun abstractly, but it makes this album an extremely confused document that sounds as much like Merge Records as it does Mush Records.

    IF … You’re wondering what the hell’s up after that first track …

    THEN … join the club. “With Light Within” is all reverb-y guitars, triangle hits, vibes and So-Cal sun. But Radioinactive’s moralistic encouragements for the listener to divorce himself from contemporary life’s inevitabilities (technology, boredom), while well-intentioned, are simplistic and unrealistic. It’s a rivetingly off-putting opener. Radioinactive comes off as hinting that his listeners aren’t much more than McDonald’s-eating, cell phone-gabbing, porn site-surfing drones who are hopelessly trapped within the culture industry.

    IF … you’re into lyrics …

    THEN … Radioinactive gets a C at best. Some examples, picked at random: “I’m a bright-ideas lampshade/ Where your aunt formerly stayed/ Might be a turn-on to your cousin/ The suds in the kitchen sink are lifting ink/ Turn off the faucet.” Or, “Tangerine man/ Standing in an orange patch/ Using my thorn match to spark curiosity in the blossoms beloved/ Handshake.” Such lyrical abstraction and verbal image-painting will draw inevitable Aesop Rock comparisons (not to mention the nasal delivery and dense rapidity of each), but while Ace Rock’s rhymes rise and fall out of narrative flow with effortless grace, Radioinactive sounds un-spontaneous and weirdly un-fun for someone whose style is so legitimately idiosyncratic.

    IF … gimmicks irritate you …

    THEN … avoid Free Kamal, which seems to have been made under the premise that listeners don’t have the attention span for a cohesive album of similar songs and instead plucks a variety of genres to appropriate. Admittedly, this is versatile stuff, and lots of these songs are vaguely charming. But such schizophrenia becomes a bit of a chore to listen to and seems like a masturbatorily indulgent artistic gesture on the part of the Radioinactive and Antimc (Anti MC) duo. To certain ears, Free Kamal may be considered a creative classic liberated from the boundaries of genre. To others, these songs might sound a little too close to hypothetical Dave Matthews anomalies.

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