(Nipsey Hussle is nothing funny)
The cast of the musical Gypsy set a precedent in entertainment in 1962 when it declared, "You Gotta Get a Gimmick!" That song referred to strippers, of course, but the old adage still seems to holds true, particularly in the rampantly pseudonymous worlds of rap, rock and electronic music.
The good news is that there are at least some artists out there that understand that the gimmick is only the first step in the door and that talent must follow. Today, we're honoring 10 that have novelty-leaning names, but are actually worth hearing.
Epic Records is hoping that it will have the newest rap star in L.A.'s Nipsey Hussle, a young and focused rapper and beatsmith who first learned the finer points of creating and engineering his own music at age 14 through an after-school program at the Watts Towers that still exists a decade later. But while his name references the famous late comedian Nipsey Russell, there's nothing funny about Nip Hussle's street-focused subject matter. "Straight outta Slauson, a crazy m*therf*cker named Nipsey," he states, declaring his own South Central identity while tributing the legacy of NWA on "Hussle in the House":
Swedish DJ/producer Frederik Lager is better known as the smooth electronic artist Red Astaire, proprietor of the record label Home Grown. Here's a graceful Astaire remix of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing":
Frederik Lager also moonlights as Freddie Cruger, the Jekyll to Red Astaire's Hyde. His Last FM station features a number of his tunes, none of which will give you murderous nightmares in your sleep.
Edgar Allen Floe
This North Carolina MC raps with enough poetic force to justify the slight swindle of the beloved classic American author. 9th Wonder, the most celebrated hip-hop producer in the state thanks to his work with Jay-Z and Little Brother, definitely thinks so; he has lent his studio wizardry to the single "Floe Almighty":
By far the most famous act on this list due to the international hit "Crazy," Gnarls is helmed by Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse, one of the best combinations since chocolate and peanut butter. The group gave a wonderful performance last summer in San Francisco as part of the Slow Food Rocks concert:
Tie: Yoko Homo and Yokohomo
We've been hearing rumbling buzz about a 25-year-old New Wave revivalist from Chicago that is called Yoko Homo and will be keeping ears peeled for him. But there's also a decent band of nearly the same name out of Baltimore, who have a song called "The Sky is Falling" that we discovered while looking for the Windy City guy. Yoko Ono has a lot of cease and desist letters to send.
Hustle Simmons is MC Dave Ghetto and producer Tha S Ence, two young men trying to beat and rhyme their way from the streets of Philadelphia to top-baller status like their namesake, Russell. And in a sea of lackluster offerings, "Everybody" has a pleasant urgency to it.
DJ Donna Summer
We know she works hard for the money, but the real Donna Summer isn't actually a DJ. Jason Forrest, who resides in Berlin, calls himself DJ Donna Summer but doesn't try to dress like her or play her disco hits. Instead, Forrest has his own crazy mash-up style of creating and mixing tracks that borrow from Miami booty bass, Dutch gabber house, German techno and even Japanese trance-core, all of which he seems to neatly fit into this wild mix.
OJ Da Juiceman
Gangster rap is still alive and trapping in Atlanta thanks in part to artists like OJ Da Juiceman, who are trying to keep the art that was born on the West Coast alive.
You might need subtitles to really catch this interview with the often-copied "Da Ju" if you aren't used to hearing ATL street slang:
The three members of Lexington, Kentucky's 'Lynguists often lament in interviews that they think they chose the wrong name for the group when they started almost a decade ago and that its racy connotations might put some people off to even the possibility of listening to the music. And they do sound far better than their juvenile moniker, as evidenced on the brand-new and pro-pharmacology tune "Never Come Down":
Honorable mentions: Fidel Cashflow, Burnt Reynolds, Whoadie Allen