By Ian S. Port
By Cory Sklar
By Godofredo Vasquez
By Gil Riego Jr.
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Christopher Victorio
By Ian S. Port
Nigel Pepper Cock
If you've ever wondered what would happen if you crossed a raging speed-metal assault with a funny back-story and a smattering of gay porn, well, your answer has arrived. The way the band tells it, Nigel Pepper Cock started out as six ordinary Stanford frat guys who were forever altered by a mysterious man they met on the way back from a righteous Spring Break party in Palm Springs. If the band's records are any indication, that man's message was this: "Get your asses to San Francisco and start a larynx-ripping punk-metal band. Name your first single '"Fresh White Reeboks Kicking Your Ass,' and have it be about how Gary Coleman and Mr. T once saved you from Camaro-driving Nazis. Then put out a punishing full-length CD with lots of photos of penises on the inside and a song called '"Cherry 2000' about having sex with robots. Got it? Good. Now, can I have a hit off that bong?" The desert dude spoke, and apparently the boys listened. Taking new identities as Deuce Labia, Oliver Klosoph, Yancy Peters, Captain Cum Socks, the Crackwhore, and Mick Jag-Off, the bandmates became the notorious Nigel Pepper Cock. In concert, the group has been known to dress as NAMBLA Boy Scouts or the Village People. The sextet's full-length debut, The New Way (out on Oakland's Life Is Abuse Records), requires a lyric sheet to understand the bizarre yarns the band is spinning -- which may be a bad thing or the CD's saving grace, depending on your point of view.
Ever wish for three smoked-out, schizophrenic scoutmasters to lead your musical mystery troop into a dark forest with no map? cLOUDDEAD makes that wish come true. With last year's eponymous debut on Mush Records -- actually a collection of six previously released 10-inch EPs -- this Cincinnati-raised, East Bay-based crew blazed a trail through swirling layers of sonic sludge and stream-of-consciousness sputtering. On tracks with esoteric titles like "Bike (1. Dead Dog)," "Bike (2. Cold Lunch)," and "Jimmybreeze (1. Lonely Monkey)," vocalists Doseone and Why? harmonize dadaist dream-journal entries and humorous shout-outs to dead presidents who don't show up on dollar bills ("Grover Washington is way underground!"). The MCs tend to begin songs at a metronomic clip, as if their words were marching backward, eventually gathering momentum until reaching Pentecostal crescendos. Meanwhile, beat-maker Odd Nosdam blends kitchen-appliance sonatas, multitracked boom-baps, and lullaby ambience around the rappers' lines. The result of this stunning technique turned out to be immediate international acclaim for an aesthetic akin to, according to the Anticon Web site (www.anticon.com), "what doing Whip-its sounds like." Three foreign tours, two new 10-inches, and innumerable side projects later, cLOUDDEAD is on every indie hip hop seeker's map. The genius here is that as impromptu as the music seems, the group is unified by a singular and inimitable vision. To believe that these cats actually planned this sound is to be forced to re-examine not just where hip hop music -- and society, for that matter -- is going, but where it couldgo. The merit badge for making a bad trip beautiful goes uncontested to cLOUDDEAD.
For a dozen years now,the Coup has hovered above hip hop's rank and file like a raised fist. Known for its revolutionary politics, the duo is loved for the heart and humor in Boots Riley's lyrics and the smoothed-out-funk-meets-Yay-Area-crunk of DJ Pam the Funktress. In Riley's rhyming parables, it's the personal that's political. Since the Coup's 1993 debut, Kill My Landlord, Riley has illuminated the lives of ghetto ugly ducklings and lovable hustlers -- illustrations of, rather than rhetoric about, the need for a just economic system. The duo followed up Landlordwith 1994's Genocide and Juice, a response to rappers with their minds only on their money. 1998's independently released Steal This Album captured both Riley and Pam in gorgeous stride, setting character-driven tragicomedy to some of the tastiest beats in the game. On the unforgettable "Me and Jesus the Pimp in a '79 Granada Last Night," a boy's once-flashy role model ages into a hooptie-driving has-been, while on the soulful "Underdogs" Riley renders poverty so vividly it will catch a listener's breath. Then came last year's Party Music on 75Ark. The controversy over the album's cover, shot well before 9/11 and featuring the duo detonating the World Trade Center with a guitar tuner, threatened to overshadow some of the Coup's best work yet. As the original artwork was changed and Riley answered calls for his head, fans raved about the bouncy beats and lyrical sophistication on songs like "Nowalaters" and "Wear Clean Draws." Even the catchy, uptempo "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO" turned out to be jestful fun, listing silly booby traps using dollar bills as bait. While the Coup's anti-capitalist message may hurt its album sales, there are few Bay Area artists who've proven more fearless or forward-thinking -- lyrically or sonically.
Gold Chains (aka Topher Lafata) threw down the gauntlet on last year's self-titled debut EP on Tigerbeat6, on which he dared to steal the foundations of Stereolab's "Crest" for the track "Rock the Parti." That song was not only one of the year's best dance floor anthems, but it also served as a shot across the bow of an increasingly moribund hip hop scene. Live, Gold Chains made good on his parti-rocking pledge. With his trusty laptop pumping out imaginatively sequenced beats, the artist roamed the stage like a panther, breaking shuddery dance moves and lacing his geeky odes to Roland 808s and portable DATs with San Francisco shout-outs. "Rock the Parti" -- and the EP as a whole, which included tongue-partially-in-cheek numbers like "No. 1 Face in Hip Hop" and "The Wonderful Girls of Hypno" -- was a crossover microhit, a glimpse into a boundaryless world where hip hop gets jittered and juiced on the spliced rhythms of electronica. The Gold Chains sound reverberated outside of San Francisco limits as well: Lafata toured an adoring Europe this spring, and has been written up in Spinand XLR8R. Recently, the rapper kicked things up a notch with the Straightfromyourradio EP. On hot booty tracks like "I Treat Your Cootchie Like a Maze," Gold Chains carefully lays out his repertoire of smooth moves, while the off-kilter electro explosion of "Let's Make It" and the disco thump of "Mountains of Coke" prove again that he has few peers when it comes to rocking the parti beats and rhymes.
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