Phoenix, Arizona’s Penny the Great (formerly MC Pennywise) is part of of the Writer’s Guild collective/movement/imprint. Their goal is simple but important: “raising the bar and quality level in hip-hop music.” A goal like that might also seem obvious on its face – after all who would release a rap album purposefully trying to LOWER the bar? That being said I think we can all ID a few emcees who unintentionally do just that by releasing albums with incredibly awful lyrics and barely passable beats with a prayer to go “viral” and cash in.
These days being terrible actually seems to work, and that’s frustrating to emcees like Penny who care about their craft. The frustration boils over on “You Can All Die Now” and in the lyrics to songs like “Hands Up.”
“Everybody get your hands up, reach get your hands crushed
Penny’s on the mic and I’ma hit you with some man stuff
Niggaz havin tantrums, girls think I’m handsome
And you don’t wanna see my niggaz run up in yo’ mansion
Nobody’s laughin cause everybody’s starvin
so F#%@ this rap s@%!, I’m goin back to robbin”
Penny is far from humble, telling sucker MC’s to “hit the back of the line” and to “learn how to rhyme before you step in the ring.” He’s attacking on nearly every bar of the song, vowing to be “Freddy in the flesh – giving rappers bad dreams.” What inspired the hostility to brand that his hands are so strong they’re “chokin the world” and brand other rappers “nothing but a clown” in bar after bar? Whatever made Penny so hostile, damn it, he’s got a RIGHT to be hostile. It’s notBumpy Knuckles level anger (few things ever could be) but it’s definitely a reaction to hip-hop mediocrity. “I’d like to apologize if I come off a little abrasive, a little rude – or a little bit even crude. Y’know I’m just a passionate person” is Penny’s explanation between verses on the Slopfunkdust produced cut “The Recipe.”
The angriest song of all may be “Pick a Weapon” featuring Roqytyraid and Kaliq, but none of the sentiments about fraudulent emcees seem overblown or undeserved: “I won’t sympathize, everything I analyze/from your album to your image man it’s nothing but a lie.” If his voice was just a tad deeper and gruffer other rappers would be leaving brown stains in their drawers – and even without that they might want to consider Depends.
It’s something of a shock when Mega Ran and Mr. Miranda come in on “The Electric Yawn.” They’re all from the same collective of like-minded emcees, but neither Random nor Miranda has near the level of vitriolic venom that Penny seems to drip with every bar.
I understand Penny the Great’s frustration with the current rap scene – I think anybody who reviews 12-20 albums a month could understand EXACTLY how he feels. At the same time I admit to being borderline concerned that Penny could go straight up postal, especially with an album called “You Can All Die Now” and artwork that shows a revolver next to a pile of (presumably) spent bullet casings. The salvation to this scene is that a despondent Penny is clutching his head as though even he can’t believe his rage, and songs like “The Truth” featuring Elle Winston suggest he’d rather chill with a blunt than do drivebys and tear other rappers up. By the time you reach “Peace of Mind” featuring Nah’cir it’s as though Penny has exorcised his demons and reached a state of relative tranquility – even though he’s still paranoid about the police and has “a loaded pistol on (his) hip.” Penny may never truly be happy, but at least “You Can All Die Now” is his therapy.