The Majesticons

Beauty Party

The gap between creativity and accessibility is rarely as wide as in Mike Ladd's "Infesticons vs. Majesticons" series. In fact, the two are literally at war. Three years ago, the Bronx-based producer and rapper's Gun Hill Road set tensions between hip hop's underground innovators and its fur-sporting icons as a futuristic battle royal between the Infesticons and the Majesticons. While that disc rooted for the former group, the trilogy's second LP, Beauty Party, follows the style-obsessed Majesticons in their pursuit of cultural domination.

The idea is so obvious it's brilliant, at least at first glance. Hip hop's obsession with bling-bling culture practically begs for satirical treatment. For anyone with a love-hate obsession with commercial rap, a Majesticons concept album -- promising party beats mocked by hilariously knuckleheaded flows -- is a mouthwatering prospect.

Unfortunately, what Ladd -- and his posse of MCs, including Murs, Vast Aire, and EL-P -- actually delivers is evidence of how deceptively difficult it is to craft those disposable smashes on MTV and BET. Hyperactive groovers like "Piranha Party" and "Fader Party" reference the Neptunes in their all-electronic production, but the only thing they have in common with a real dance floor is how crowded they feel. Slick R&B cuts like "Love That Party" and "Parlor Party" bring the females in on the joke, with softly crooned lines like, "Beauty exists on the inside/ Who told you that? They lied." But irony seems a cheap excuse for an album full of trashy knockoffs.

Like pro wrestling, commercial rap lampoons itself best. Ladd is neither ghetto nor fabulous enough to pull off his role-play; he'll get no sex in the champagne room.

Then again, maybe such complaints miss the point. The innovative but inaccessible Infesticons are the heroic underdogs on Beauty Party, after all. Maybe we shouldn't be so sad they're winning.

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