Quick: is an underground aesthetic movement still underground if its practitioners blow most of their breath pointing out what’s wrong with the mainstream? Give up? The correct answer is this: while it is normal — indeed, necessary — for an underground movement to acknowledge the myriad problems it has with the “overground,” at some point, for it to be successful as an aesthetic movement, the underground must transcend and eventually distance itself from the mainstream that provided the impetuses for its creation in the first place. You feel me?
One of indie-rap’s most annoying tics is its complete failure to do this. A huge amount of indie energy is expended on excoriating the Nellys of the world, the bling-bling, the materialism, the what Chuck D would call “porch-nigger”ness of today’s biggest rap stars. I’m not saying these things aren’t worth criticizing; hell, I’m not one to rah-rah materialism (though I do like “Hot in Herre” just fine). But you gotta admit the bitching gets repetitive. Which is why it’s a total fucking relief that the new Project Blowed album mostly avoids such rote social commentary. You can call this music indie, you can call it undie, whatever — just don’t call it late for the party.
And this is party music. Ignore the opening track, which is dull, condescending (“Some think it’s a good thing, 9 to 5 — but it’s a trap”: it’s also a way to make a living, pal), and not at all an effective frame for the album that follows. Because songs two to 18 are all good-to-great body-movers, lyrically sharp with bass for your face. Eight different producers threw down beats for this record, including Self-Jupiter and Rjd2, and nearly three times that many voices contributed verses, yet the album retains a remarkable consistency in tone. Each song brings the hooks (see “When You See Me”), unless it brings the beats instead (check “Rock with Us”). And sometimes they even manage to pull off both (“GB in Your Life,” anyone? how ’bout “Give It Here”?).
Like everyone else, I’m still struggling to digest the unquestionable masterpiece Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (it’s loooong, buddy, and dense, like Ulysses). But in many ways, I’ve had more fun listening to the GB’s. It flows loose, like a sheet in the wind, punctuated by shorter, more experimental tracks to go along with the statement pieces. So grit your teeth and get by the album’s “state of hip-hop is dead” moments of Doom & Gloom and feast instead on the beats, the lyrics. “She was off the meter / sweeter than a virgin margarita” — what a great line! And there are hundreds of them.