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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Verbal Kent
What Box
Gravel Records

Rating: 9/10 ?

January 28, 2005
Want to impress that rare girl at your school or work who can wax intellectual about both indie rock and break dancing?

Next time she asks you for a ride home, have this CD playing. Put it on track four (There's a bunch of bullshit at the beginning, but we'll get to that in a minute). Turn it up loud enough for her to hear the words, but not so loud that you can't tell her about the lyrical genius she's listening to.

When she inevitably asks, "Who is this?" you pretend you've known about Verbal Kent for years. You tell her about how in the late 1990s, he started a live five-piece hip hop band called The Organic Mind Unit, and then he and fellow OMU emcee Willis Drummond II went on to form The Unusual Suspects. He's appeared on a few other albums, and he's opened shows for a long list of more recognizable rappers such as the GZA, who he samples briefly on What Box.

He still works with OMU, you'll tell your sure-to-be-impressed lady friend. But this album, the one you're listening to now, this is his solo album. And it's about to kick your ass.

Verbal Kent is simultaneously the past and the future of music. He's a battle rapper who, by his mere association with KRS-ONE, the Pharcyde and Wordsworth (of the Lyricist Lounge), doesn't need to spend much time explaining why he's valid in hip hop despite his skin tone. And he doesn't. So I won't either.

At the same time, he's taking the art of battle rap to a level that his predecessors couldn't reach. Like early Eminem (think "Any Man" from Rawkus Records' Soundbombing II), he spits ridiculously clever and calculated lines that will force you to rewind them at least once to catch what he just said.

You'll probably rewind them again to learn the lines so you can sing along. How about this: "I can spit an a cappella that can knock a fella from his chair out his Roc-A-Wear." Or this: "Badly bruised, battered and beaten by the bastard artisan. You couldn't move the crowd with a case of Parkinson's."

Or: "You need a new game, something to do instead. Because I wouldn't be supportive if I was your wooden leg." What Box is filled with some nice beats, particularly on "Tomatoes," that track I told you to have playing when you pick up that girl who is by now rocking along with you, and "Big Buildings." They're really simple drum and bass lines with some slick scratching and few fun samples, which is a perfect platform for Verbal Kent to stand out on. And if you don't bob your head to "The Remix," you better have a neck brace on.

But you don't buy an album like this for the production. You get it because Verbal Kent is sharp and complex yet immaturely funny. It's like his sense of humor stopped developing at age 12, but his brain went on to graduate from high school and then drop out of an Ivy League college.

There is one problem here, though: all the filler. At barely 45 minutes, this album is way too long. There are three little snippets called "Spit to Kill I, II and III." There's the out-of-place "Power," which, because of its forced optimism, is a bummer. There's a completely unnecessary intro followed by a ho-hum opening track, both of which are like tasteless, odorless, colorless sprinkles on top of an otherwise delicious hot fudge sundae.

Leave all of that stuff off the Verbal Kent CD you burn for your new girlfriend.

Reviewed by Taylor Loyal
The last we heard, Taylor was living in Nashville, Tennessee, home of the guitar-shaped swimming pool.

See other reviews by Taylor Loyal



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