I almost want to dislike this record on principle. I tried, in fact. Too sophomoric, too macho, too trite, too youthful. Then I listened again, and again, and again. And I can’t dislike S.A. Smash’s Smashy Trashy. Not with production this good, rhymes this funny, lyrics so base but so true. It’s gotten to the point now that every new Definitive Jux release is expected to deliver something new and fresh to hip-hop, which continuously starves for originality due to herd mentality trend-following. Smashy Trashy takes a couple listens before it really starts to sound good. The rhymes, often satirical, are annoyingly offensive and self-aggrandizing at first, a persistent problem with this album. Are we really still at the point where self-promotion, militant heterosexuality and “I’m so hard” rants continue to reign supreme in hip-hop?
Judging from this, apparently so. And without some spectacular production courtesy of Camu (of MHz and the Weathermen), Smashy Trashy would easily fall into boring, played-out-by-now thuggery. But good production makes a good hip-hop album, and S.A. Smash, composed of Camutao and Metro (the record features Cage, Aesop Rock and Vast Aire on one track apiece), got lucky to hook up with El-P’s Definitive Jux label.
To give S.A. Smash a little credit, it’s hard not to get your hopes up after the first seven songs or so, all of which have their moments, especially “Clout” and “Slide on ‘Em,” where the tough-guy posing actually works thanks to some eerie sampling. And there are moments of hilarity, thanks to a weird frat-boy aesthetic S.A. Smash seems to embrace (These guys are from Columbus Ohio, home of Ohio State University.). But frat-boy jokes are only funny in moderation, and the theme of Smashy Trashy is anything but. Most songs are simply about getting mad fucked up, via 40s, crack, coke, weed, or whatever’s around (see “AA”: “Fuck up the night, fuck up your mind, fuck up the club, get drunk!”). The rest are mostly about big tits, boners and gettin’ digits (see “Love to Fuck”: “I love porn, porn, all types of porn/Black, white, Puerto Rican, Chinese porn.”).
Nothing makes an album more boring than adolescent fantasizing, but S.A. Smash thankfully redeems it’s masturbatory moments with a committed theme of rowdiness, much of which is both funny and poignantly emblematic of the Midwestern suburban experience. The 17 songs are definitely overkill, but S.A. Smash shows a commitment to experimentation (bizarre “skits,” fuzzy electric guitar — very Williamsburg) that make you want to chalk up their faults as mere mulligans of youth. We’ll see.