Well, what would you do? After releasing a sleeper solo album that should be considered among the weirdest and best albums of 2003, Beans doesn’t really have anything to prove, but he’s got plenty to lose. The ex-Antipop Consortium emcee’s debut solo album Tomorrow Right Now is an infectious and irresistible blend of somewhat ironic (I think) early ’90s-inflected hip-hop/dance pop coupled with warped and abstract rapping. But instead of pushing the postmodern MC Hammer angle even further, Now, Soon, Someday retreats a bit, recalling Antipop’s early, more subdued sound.
Now, Soon, Someday is a nine-song EP, three of them remixes (two by Prefuse 73, one by El-P). Where Tomorrow Right Now is the ultimate marriage of Beans’ rapid-fire chorus-driven rapping sensibility with perfect pop hooks, Now Soon Someday‘s musical accompaniment is considerably more chilled out and minimal — this is the Beans show. And he meets the challenge, with typically abstract, weird and difficult rapping that’s almost impossible to keep up with. “Win or Lose You Lose” features Beans just kicking ass for minutes nonstop over a wiggly laptop sample and an unchanging, rim shot-driven beat. He’s got a lot to say and he’s worth listening to, but the gratuitous pop hooks are missed. “Crevice” is an interesting anomaly. Opening with an operatic voice sample (precedented in Beansland, actually), a plaintively gorgeous organ takes over and Beans waxes melancholy — and with surprisingly straightforward earnestness — about his father’s death from cancer when he was a kid.
“Databreaker” stands out as one of the only truly weird tracks on Now, Soon, Someday, which is a little shocking given the five or six out-there songs on Tomorrow Right Now. Alongside the weirdo Kraftwerk-style synth riffs, Beans has some of his funnier moments here. Examples: “Obviously you love what you hear — you stuck around past the first track!” (it’s the fourth); “White Plains Weird Wonderful Me” (shout-out to hometown Westchester County); and then Beans telling you you’re in the palm of his hand if you’re staring at his (amazing) photo on the cover of the first solo CD.
The remixes are disappointing. El-P drains the energy from “Mutescreamer,” Tomorrow Right Now‘s best song, and his cold mid-’80s production style doesn’t really gel with the ultra-flashy Beans. The Prefuse 73 remixes are somewhat horrifying treatments of two great Tomorrow Right Now songs — “Mutescreamer” and “Phreek the Beat” — turning them into generic, friendly electronica.
Now, Soon, Someday definitely isn’t bad, it’s just not as good as Tomorrow Right Now. The EP shows that Beans can really stretch out for minutes on end, a la Cannibal Ox, but the laptop compositions just don’t pack the punch they do on the first album. They start to drag after a couple minutes, despite Beans’ tendency to roll right along with maximum impressiveness.