Like Cage and others, Pumpkinhead uses at least a slot or two on his 2005 release to criticize a publicly unpopular war. Orange Moon Over Brooklyn isn’t an album’s worth of this much-needed protest verse, but the lyrics are potent over occasionally prime beats. The beats are only half as good as the emcee, and Pumpkinhead’s flow, particularly when he calls out an ineffective administration, easily outdoes his sometimes less-than-spectacular production.
On his third time around the LP block, Brooklyn’s Pumpkinhead delivers his strongest verses when he’s speculating about the relevance of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and independent hip-hop record labels and when he spins the traditional “where I’m from” narrative. There’s nothing much traditional about Pumpkinhead’s frenzied flow, though, especially when he threatens to bulldoze George W. and his withered old man.
“Grenades” holds one of producer Marco Polo’s memorable snare-heavy beats, but the feel might have been better handled with a murkier, more ominous-sounding backdrop. Pumpkinhead is specific in his “fuck the military” stance here, owing his sour disposition to his father’s suffering from Agent Orange poisoning as well as the current ill-planned and ill-executed war program. On the chorus, he suggests that martyring himself via exploding grenade is more logical than signing up for the armed forces. Pouring boiling water into your scalp is probably a safer bet than checking the “yes” box at the recruiter’s office, but Pumpkinhead might be a little overzealous in this suggestion. Still, he’s one of the few bringing this topic to the forefront, and the only thing worse than supporting a war campaign is not giving a shit about this war campaign and then telling people you don’t give a shit about supporting this war campaign. Still, outside of this quality beat and those on “Trifactor,” “Swordfish” and the humorous “The Best,” the backdrops don’t match up.
Marco Polo pulls together mediocre, even repetitive beats on some of this record, and it tends to hurt Pumpkinhead’s always on-point wordplay. Moss handles a number called “Monkey Shine,” featuring a slice of the many successful guest spots here, this one from a huge crew called the Plague. Due to the aesthetic connection with the dismal 12 Monkeys film established at the intro, even Moss should be stepping up to a more bleak beat-scape – this is a rather light loop that seems to be on repeat. All the guest spots on Orange Moon (including Wordsworth and Supastition) are stellar, but Pumpkinhead’s choices are at their peak on “Monkey Shine.” The Plague deals vehement diss verses and, with the exception of homophobic slang in the opener, it’s worthy of revisit.
In a moment of biblical redemption, Polo’s layering of both harmonies and a moon-gazing ballroom string loop slips “Anthem for the End of the World” into greener, dizzying pastures. The eternally quotable Jean Grae rails against the focus on Hollywood instead of hard news, Pumpkinhead brands Bush an anti-Christ, and hum-able lush choruses close the best track here. Maybe under the next moon, they’ll all sound like this.
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