Gold Chains

    Young Miss America


    Somewhere, there’s a house party where thugs and club kids hold hands and dance in happy kismet-kissed harmony. Turning it up as the floor heaves from his solid bass degree, “compliments of Hard Beat University,” is emcee heavyweight Gold Chains, the Mr. T of hybrid beats.


    Begotten in the balance between Snoop Dogg, Faithless and Aphex Twin, GC, aka Topher Lafata, is effectively the freshest face in underground electronic hip-hop, and the harbinger of evolution in an industry wrought with species and types. Young Miss America, GC’s first full-length effort, is absorbing and anarchistic. It’s a music theorist’s worst nightmare, an articulate mix of method and madness, and an all around after-hours call to get down.

    With trans-continental, multi-ethnic dance appeal, San Francisco-based GC represents the determined tastes of Gen X-ers anxious to identify with a distinguished sound that transcends definition. His rhymes are smart and often tongue-in-cheek. New rappers with heavy beats and throaty rhymes like his are often “filed under gangsta,” and GC is often explicit with lyrics the likes of which have typecast Eminem and Ol’ Dirty, but he’s leagues beyond straight-up ghetto. His music is a sandwich of sound worthy of the great Scoob, layers of rhythm changes from funk-punk to groovy computer dribbles built on female rap solos evocative of Luscious Jackson and hard vocals the likes of Cypress Hill.

    As a gong and sitar collide with a bass trajectory reminiscent of DMX, tracks like “Nada” reveal a deep understanding of power, ambition and human nature in a consumer culture that defines personalities and shapes relationships: “Show us your mind/ open the heart/ produce the love/ let’s fall apart/ when everyone is acting/ do you play your part?/ or do you advance a new direction /use subtle insurrection/ against the liars and the cheats/ with their questionable intentions?”

    Even an informal listen will expose the incredible diversity of his rhythm and rhyme, riding the range from socio-political commentary to visions of hardcore romps in the oval office. “Much Currency Flows,” one in a number of tracks deconstructing man’s misguided relationship with money, hisses: “It’s a fucked situation/ when money is the fuel that moves the engine of your nation.” Yet his naughty “Revolution” proclaims: “I like the little bangs that you have in your hair/I want to bang you in the White House, meet me there/I want to throw those long legs up in the air/move that body all around and let the President stare.”

    Ultimately, GC tempts classification while defying a stereotype. His variation of sound and his self-proclaimed non-elitist platform make him a trail-blazing icon of pop culture in an era when technology should be used to bring people together.

    But you’d be hard pressed to get the fine jewelry department to find a box big enough to fit these Gold Chains. Props to the good folks at PIAS, those of us who prefer our music unwrapped, and to GC, who’s living the thug’s life with a conscience.

    – 2003