Sometimes you stumble upon a world you never even imagined it existed. Not in the kind of radical way Alice experienced when she fell through the rabbit hole. More in a way of going to a party with a vague acquaintance, only to wind up in an empty meat locker full of people with a bizarre yet unique style.
When I first started listening to “Raptillion,” the sophomore effort of an artist called The Dirtball, I wasn’t sure what to think. Electronically amped bass and industrial sounding drums powered up to a considerable speed, augmented by an MC with bouncy party lyrics. The music reminded me of the soundtrack of the movie Blade (you may remember that great club scene). The lyrics made me think of a ‘Twista doing the Twilight Zone’ album. The combination sure is unique – well, not totally unique.
The Dirtball, who is originally from Oregon, is part of a larger collective called the Subnoize Soldierz. You can skip the Sub part, because these guys are noisy all right. The group, all heavily tattooed and in army fatigues, is signed with the very popular Suburban Noize Records, home of the rap-rock group Kottonmouth Kings. These guys immediately made me think of Insane Clown Posse, but although they have a clownish MC in their ranks, this is a strictly different deal. One of the Kottonmouth Kings even called their label a sub-culture by itself.
After sneakily checking out a couple of the Suburban Noize videos on YouTube, I was surprised even more. Bandannas, painted faces, Che Guevera murals, mime make-up, and Mohawks: it was the ‘stumble upon’ feeling I was telling you about. You could dismiss these guys as angry white boys, but they have a large and dedicated following, so what they do, they do well.
Apparently, The Dirtball is somewhat of a celebrity in the indie skate rock scene. He used to be front man for a rap funk band called ‘Chola,’ which is Latin slang for a girl with heavy make-up that likes to hang out with barrio gangs. Without going into that, the band eventually broke up. With his funk days out of the way, The Dirtball decided to drop a debut rap album (Pop-A-D-Ball) which got him on tour with the likes of Sugarhill Hang, Rahzel, and the earlier mentioned Kottonmouth Kings. One of his songs even made it onto the soundtrack of a popular snowboarding game.
As an MC, The Dirtball is not at all without merit. His rapid flow requires a lot of breath control, and he revs up his lyrics on more than one occasion without tripping over his own feet. When he slows down, The Dirtball’s voice resembles Eminem’s voice back in his Sway & King Tech freestyle days. I am not always impressed by his lyrical content, but there are enough exceptions on “Raptillion” to give him the benefit of the doubt. On “Just Me” which has an inciting beat similar to the opening part of Rocky’s “Eye of the Tiger” the ‘raptillion’ rhymes:
“It’s just me
The only one that gets my dirt done
And make my legs run underneath the hot sun
It’s just me
I’m motivating, dedicating
Stay hopping trouble
Bubble poppa hooby all the time dropping
A piggy bank breaker
A narc fund faker
An autumn leaf raker
All along: it’s just me
A green thumb grower”
Unusual, but at least entertaining. I’m not at all affronted by The Dirtball’s lyrical capabilities, but the techno beats he sometimes uses to rhyme over, get annoying after a while. It is impossible to concentrate on the man’s rhymes, because the boing boing sounds on for instance “Project Upwards,” and “My Show” are so utterly distracting.
I am not sure what the make of The Dirtball’s amphibian rap-rock, all-up-in-your-face antics. If you are in a party kind of mood, play this in your car stereo to get your juices flowing. If you’ve got a headache after the party: go lie down and read ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ but leave this album well alone.