“O-H-I-O, no place like home/Everywhere I go/I relocate my throne.”
You heard right. That’s one of Copywrite’s proud statements on his debut record, The High Exhaulted. Ohio. A state synonymous with the Midwestern mystique, home of endless, flat horizons, ranch-style houses, gangly white kids in Tupac tees and puke-yellow tinted eyeglasses. Until Eminem, hip-hop has never been a noteworthy characteristic of our country’s Plains states. But in the past few years, Ohio has given the music world their fair share of angry white kids who like to use the microphone to dispel their deepest and raunchiest secrets.
And it’s not just everybody’s favorite basketball-bouncin’, iced-out platinum-Mickey-Mouse-pendant-wearin’ emcee Lil’ Bow Wow. It’s the avant instrumentation of Boom Bip and crew at Mush Records, formerly of Cincinnati. It’s the so-called hippie-hop of Anticon. Hell, the driving forces behind the (at least) imaginative Anticon crew-Doseone (who co-founded the crew), Odd Nosdam and Why?-all got their start in Cincinnati before heading out west. And its Columbus’s MHz Crew, spearheaded by scissor-toungued Copywrite, that includes Camu*Tao, Tage Proto, Jakki da Mota Mouth and Rjd2.
Copywrite and MHz were raised, in terms of hip-hop, in the open mic, battle-oriented atmosphere of Columbus. Either by nature or nurture, Copywrite’s The High Exhaulted is a hip-hop battle record to its core, following the simple but tried guidelines of brazenly conceited when rhyming about your own and being equally disrespectful and condescending towards, well, everyone else. All while employing intensity, wit and rhyme skills to make everyone in earshot cringe with each cutting remark.
Copywrite drops bombs all over the non-specific “everyone else” in the aforementioned formula so fiercely throughout The High Exhaulted, put out on The High and Mighty’s Eastern Conference Records, that even the late Big L, a previous title holder of the bombastic verbal assault, would cover his face as an offering of respect at some of Copy’s punch lines. But that’s if, and here’s the rub, he were in the audience at an emcee battle. A lot of these lyrics, though they would be jaw dropping in person, don’t carry the same weight when put on record. His vocals hold up just as well over the sleepy, dark, dream beats of Rjd2 as they do over the energetic and gritty beats of Camu*Tao (who, it turns out, is a serious force behind the boards). But his battle style and technique just doesn’t translate well into CD format. The market for brazen and pompous and intentionally offensive emcees is as saturated as pop-punk, and listening to this record just makes you want to see him back up his claims in a live battle.
That being said, The High Exhaulted is full of talented wave-makers, with guest emcee appearances by the rest of the MHz crew and the Smut Peddlers and production by Rjd2, Intalec, Mighty Mi, Camu Tao and Copy himself. And, the record is full of witty one-liners, a few of which (certainly not the ones that concern the proportions of his manhood) are noteworthy. Lines like “Hope you ready bastards/My crews already classic/And like Laffy Taffy/I got a joke on every (w)rapper” from “Fire It Up” are dead on in terms of verbal tailoring. And, not surprisingly, his best lines, like, “You don’t want us runnin’ home/You don’t want it homes/If you a “G”/You’re silent as the one in front of gnome” are Copywrite straight off a battle. And in “Hear Me Though,” one of the record’s best, Copy commands the punch line and entertains, saying “Seven-Eight/Never fakes/I’ll leave you in the middle of nowhere/like the letter ‘h.'”
He also chose to include a good deal of previously released material, so after hearing new songs with the same old lyric style, he makes you listen to old songs as well. Tracks like “Tower of Babble,” “Badabing,” and “June” are some of the record’s best, but it would have been a little less disappointing to hear some of his newer, unreleased collaborations. Yes, Copywrite has captured the essence of the “Holier than Thou” mentality, but it’s the very grandiloquence that bogs the record down by redundancy and material that doesn’t, in the end, evoke emotion or thought. Most of it is, to quote Copy himself, “fascinating garbage.”
Still, even without much lyrical depth and the re-issue of songs, I am looking forward to hearing what Copywrite does with the Weathermen, which includes MHz, Yakballz, El-P, Cannibal Ox and Breezely Brewin’ and is one of the most anticipated crews in the game today.