One of my favorite albums ever is “The Further Adventures of Lord Quas” by Quasimoto. Quasimoto, producer Madlib’s helium-voiced alter ego, cares about three things: weed, food, and women, in that order. I mention Quasimoto because I sense a little of his character in Viro the Virus. Like Lord Quas, Viro is the kind of dude that would steal your weed and woman without feeling the least bit of remorse. He’s the kind of guy you might want to hang out with, but wouldn’t want to get within 400 yards of your sister. In short, he’s frigging hilarious.
There are other connections to Quasimoto here; Viro shares Madlib’s laconic delivery, rolling out lines carelessly as if he was too stoned or too cool to care. He combines this with Lil Wayne’s knack for one-liners and non-sequitors (as well as Wayne’s carefully anunciated delivery), and the result is consistently funny and clever.
“Yo, I’m Viro and I’m crazy kid
Off the head like a lady’s wig
I spit on you like a baby’s bib
Since the 80’s I’ve been addicted to laziness
But motivated to be the sickest with lang-u-age”
I don’t want to take the Quasimoto comparison too far, however; Quas is a two-dimensional character that basically allows Madlib to indulge in his fantasies of bad behavior. Viro is definitely three-dimensional, and he puts a lot of emphasis on his skills on the mic. This is his fourth solo album, and he has clearly perfected his craft during his career. His “Sharpest Blade” is directed at all of the “wack-ass rappers and wack-ass producers” he calls out on “Easy Going.” He offers up the first anthem of the economic meltdown on “$12.50” (the price of his CD), explaining “I know that you feel me/Cuz everyone I pass needs cash/I ain’t the only one who has Comcast on his ass.” Other rappers may spend their money on jewelry and strippers, but Viro has bigger, nobler ends in mind:
“I dedicate this album to my daughter’s college fund
I need to sell enough of these so I can start one
So by the time she’s eighteen
I done made enough green
That my baby ain’t gotta borrow from your son”
Viro’s laid back delivery hides somes impressive wordplay. The one-liners are fast and furious, and he works some complex rhymes with his mellow flow. Blunted or not, Viro is a force to be reckoned with, and despite the humor in his songs, he ain’t playing around. He is equally impressive on serious on tracks like “Heartless” and “The Streets” as he is on tales of debauchery like “Old Time’s Sake.”
Viro’s deliberate style might get monotonous if he didn’t have such good beats. Luckily, he is backed by solid production work by Happ G, Caliph-NOW, Eyego, Decypher, DSM, and Jeff “STRESS” Davis. The emphasis is on dusty samples and loops, the kind where you can hear the snaps and pops in the vinyl. “$12.50” and “The World Is On Fire” work sped-up soul samples to good effect; “Repo Man” and “The Streets” use jagged guitar riffs; “Passion of the V” has a smokey jazz riff; “Word Flu” has a howling organ and grinding guitar; “Heartless” takes it down a notch with a mellow piano loop; “Going Back To Jersey” has a sultry Barry White vibe; and “Fresssh” sounds like it samples an old 60’s vocal group. The only real miss is “Push It Back,” an attempt at booty rap that doesn’t quite pay off. Even without that song, there are still 18 solid cuts of top-shelf sampled hip hop here. This kind of production is becoming an endangered species due to the rising cost of clearing samples, and it’s nice to hear it done so well.
“The Sharpest Blade” is a funny, impressive album, full of fat beats and one liners. He may smoke all your weed, he may sleep with your girlfriend, but Viro is no mooch; he’ll pay you back in full with his microphone skills.