The worst thing about NBC’s 3rd Rock from the Sun (if one could narrow down such a lengthy list) is that it managed to remain unfunny and obtuse despite a clever premise. Forcing aliens to adapt to our often contradictory and nonsensical lifestyle was a nifty means to poke fun at those of us who can no longer see the forest for the trees. But much of human nature is ugly and incomprehensible, and yields no laughter when held to the same light.
On Take Me to Your Leader, King Geedorah, a space monster channeled by the ever-versatile MF Doom (aka Viktor Vaughn, aka Zev Love X from 3rd Bass’ “The Gas Face” and KMD), trains his magnifying glass upon this category of human inconsistency. Despite the farcical pretense of an album composed by a three-headed creature from Planet X, Leader‘s haunting B-movie beats overflow with humanity — but not always the good kind.
Doom again makes good use of the late-night sci-fi concept, filling the relatively simple drum tracks with over-dramatic strings and eerie pseudo-futuristic noises, as if replacing the hecklers from Mystery Science Theater with 808s and samplers. A bit of vintage jazz is thrown into the mix, and the result is an aural collage that’s surprisingly fresh, a sort of retro that isn’t really retro, since it’s never been done before. The scratchy production and occasional static is a nice touch, adding a transmission-from-outer-space authenticity to the album.
“The world ain’t the same no more,” Lil’ Sci raps on “Next Levels.” Under the increasingly watchful eye of the government, things have changed dramatically for people in this country and all over the world. The environment is pilfered for profit, schools are getting worse, gays and lesbians fight for equal rights, and violence still runs rampant. When Biolante (known elsewhere as Kurios) says, “Nuff rhymes tough times/ try talking to kids/ we walk around thinking that God doesn’t forgive” on “Fastlane,” you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees. Musical interludes crammed with samples are heavy on race politics. Other short takes include maniacal laughter directed toward a young girl who admits difficulty in school; later that same girl and presumably her father share a laugh about “helping homos,” as the cyclical nature of intolerance is made painfully clear.
When Hassan Chop offers, “That’s right, I got problems and personal issues” even before the beat starts up on “I Wonder,” we know the torrent will continue. He proceeds to break down lost friendships and analyze pieces of his tragic past with astounding honesty. The remorseful refrain (“I wonder/ Why certain people come in my life/ I wonder/ Why’d I get in so many fights/ I wonder/ Why sometimes things just don’t go right/ Why I gotta live this life?”) is a refreshing blast of realism in a genre that is often too superficial to hit with any emotional gravity. It’s one thing to live the thug life; it’s another to live with its consequences.
The concept of Leader is humorous, but the content is not. Countless issues threaten to divide and destroy our culture. The album presents no answers; however, resolution cannot be expected of a collection of songs. Geedorah simply aims to warn us of our potential fate: in the face of overwhelming ignorance, it need not be a three-headed lizard that strikes the final blow to civilization.