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So Rich, So Pretty 

Mickey Avalon scores with hipsters, hustlers, and MySpace suits

Wednesday, Oct 4 2006
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Mickey Avalon's performance earlier this year at a downtown San Francisco gallery was one for the Flickr account. Surrounded by chemically baked females who looked barely old enough to own stilettos, let alone teeter around on them, Los Angeles' punk-ass rapper was smeared six ways to Sunday — his kohl eyeliner streaked greasily down his face, his curly rock 'do matted with sweat, and his eyes glazed like a coffeecake. The "kosher salami" could barely mumble the words to his ubiquitous track, "Jane Fonda" (a bouncy little ditty you may have heard on Entourage, celebrity fitness shows, or that MySpace thing — "One two three four, get your booty on the dancefloor/ Work it out, shake it little mama/ Let me see you do the Jane Fonda"). The impressive crowd (for a barely publicized event) didn't seem to pay his state any mind, though, shouting lyrics with an enthusiasm usually reserved for welcoming hometown football teams to the field.

A couple months later, Avalon was back, but this time he hit the Rickshaw, and none of the gyrating ladies on stage had to fill in on lines like "I used to work nights on hot cock dot-com, but then I got fired when my mom logged on." Once again, they all sang along to tunes given no Bay Area radio play. With a skateboarder sneer, a tattooed torso, and a fervent OC fan base, Avalon delivers performances that are as contradictory as the artist behind them. As he lays out in semislapstick raps on his eponymous debut, Avalon's been a Hollywood hustler, a dealer, a dope addict, and a drunk, someone all too familiar with L.A.'s die young/stay pretty cycles of vacuuming nose candy and vomiting lunch. He's also, as revealed in a recent LA Weekly feature, the son of a former pot-dealing mother and a heroin-addict father who has lost both his dad and his sister.

But as numerous gigs along the West Coast display, invites to play Germany and France indicate, and a record deal with MySpace Records pretty much guarantees, Mickey Avalon is about to rocket from rebel rapper with a difficult adolescence to something sort of gigantic in a very short time span. Avalon recently signed to Interscope, and his debut release for that label giant will be a partnership between it and MySpace — as the first "individual artist release" for the new MySpace Records. (Shoot to Kill Records, Avalon's label with manager/DJ Kev E. Kev, originally put out Mickey Avalon). Avalon will re-debut (on a disc featuring an intro from the MC5's Wayne Kramer, no less) under this deal on Oct. 31. "Mickey is a unique artist; he walks the razor's edge between Iggy PopÐesque rockstar swagger and outrageous novelty satire," writes Jon Pikus, Director of A&R at MySpace Records, via e-mail. "Witnessing one sold-out show at the Roxy here in L.A. is all it took to convince me."

So how does a dude crawl from the down 'n' out to a guest spot on The Simple Life with no prerequisite buzz from that all-knowing blogosphere? It's taken three years — and a little help from MySpace. J. Scavo, MySpace Records' GM, says Avalon's friend count has jumped from 14,000 to 23,000 in a matter of weeks through quiet promotions, a number that he expects to "increase exponentially." "This week he debuted on our top indie artists chart at No. 99," Scavo adds, "[And] we just passed 1 million songs having been streamed by new and existing fans from his MySpace page." But Avalon has also put in the sweat equity, selling his CDs out of car trunks and the Amoeba Records chain and handing out EPs wrapped in call girl ads at an old pizza-joint job. He still sounds a little mystified by his burgeoning success.

"I've been rapping since I was 14, but I always did it for fun," he says over the phone from his L.A. apartment. "I'd go do a verse on a record, but I never thought it would be a job. I'm white, and I was pretty much embarrassed to tell people I did it. But Simon was the first person I did it with where it was fun, and Andre and I were like, 'Fuck, that's what's been missing is this whole funny [aspect].'" Simon and Andre are Simon Rex and Andre Legacy — the former originally from the Bay Area and a one-time MTV VJ, more interestingly known as Hollywood delinquent Dirt Nasty. Nasty, Legacy, and Avalon make up the Dyslexic Speedreaders crew, a group that riffs on Tinseltown ridiculousness and sexual conquests from the toned belly of the beast. They're also the masterminds behind the hilarious, barb-loaded "My Dick" — the Pharcyde's "Ya Mama" of its generation. ("My dick, on the big screen/ Your dick, went straight to DVD ... My dick, so hot it's stolen/ Your dick, looks like Gary Coleman.")

Avalon's solo material is just as wry — if you dig locker-room humor and take the politics with a chunk of salt. In his songs he boasts of sleeping with your sister, sodomizing your father, doing truckers at rest stops, and dancing like Ms. Fonda. "Even when I'm talking about heavier shit it still is funny," says Avalon. "Because until you hit the ground, while you're alive it's all funny. I did the AA thing for a minute, and the one thing I thought was hip about that was that people would get up and tell these horrific stories and everyone would break into laugher almost on cue. It's the fact that you're still around, you made it through it."

Avalon adds that working with Rex and Legacy helps give levity to his darker subject matter, but the grit still slips through even the most upbeat tunes. "So Rich, So Pretty" calls out "a girl who eats and brings it up, a sassy little frassy with bulimia" — although it touches even deeper truths closer to the chorus: "She ... thinks it's really funny/ When her nose goes bloody/ 'Cause the blow's so yummy/ And it keeps her tummy empty/ And makes her act more friendly."

He's not only pulling lines about other people's skeletons, though, emptying his closet into verse occasionally as well. On another, more personal track, Avalon raps about the troubled DNA that runs in his blood, "With eyes in the back of my head after dark/ I'm just a lone drifter on the lookout for a mark/ ... when I was young my father rest in peace/ Taught me how to pick a pocket and copy car keys/ As a little boy I'd hop through chimneys/ Skilled at the art of making enemies."

On stage, he buoys his tales of accelerated adolescence with simple, infectious backing beats, and the songs' meanings nearly disappear between the dancefloor pull and Avalon's charms as a live entertainer. But over the phone, a real sincerity comes from this father (Avalon's daughter is in fourth grade) looking to use his current career to give his past new meaning. "I guess I'm trying to just recreate better memories," Avalon admits. "I don't know how long this 15 minutes is going to last, so as far as anything good I can get out of this now, I'm trying to milk it.

"[My life] could be chameleonlike, but the whole time it's kinda just looking for some sort of ease, looking for a sense of well-being and feeling all right," he adds. "And I guess that's where the drugs seem to poke their heads in even when things are going good. I just try not to be too esoteric about it, though, and it's no deeper than 'I like to feel good, and as long as I have everything in check for today, it's cool.'"

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Jennifer Maerz

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