Rap heads like to pose the question of what is the greatest album that NOBODY knows about. Everybody can cite Biggie’s “Ready to Die,” Pharcyde’s “Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde” or Ice Cube’s “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” among many other classics right off the top of their head, but did your casual friends dig deep enough in the 1990’s to own Company Flow’s “Funcrusher Plus” or The Last Emperor’s “Music, Magic, Myth?” It’s going to sound to the uninitiated like somebody trying to get bragging rights (or perhaps “Braggin Writes” and that’s word to J-Live) and there is at times a masturbatory quality to it, getting to be “more obscure than thou” and all, but if you’re paying attention it’s also a way to discover some hip-hop gems you might have missed.
Ignore the guy with the biggest metaphorical dick to wank at how many import 12″ singles he has and listen to the cat who quietly mentions L’Roneous D’Versifier. I can’t be the one to act smug or brag on how I discovered L’Roneous, because I got the name through one of the very discussions I referenced above, but over the years “Imaginarium” became more and more legendary to me because I incorrectly believed it to be a singularly great achievement. I wasn’t incorrect about the album — seventeen years later it still holds up and happily it’s much easier to acquire now than it was back in the day. I was incorrect that it was “singular” as I was pleasantly surprised to discover that L*Roneous had been active this entire time and I had been playing the role of Craftmatic adjustable bed tester all this time.
Let me stop sleeping on L and tell you about “The World According to Gurp,” an album recorded and produced entirely by Brycon — and he’s a beat master you shouldn’t be resting on either. If the album title rings a bell it’s because it closely mirrors the name of a similar novel by John Irving, which would later go on to become a motion picture starring Robin Williams. You’ll finish “Gurp” faster than “Garp” given that this entire album is 21 minutes, but the allusion to the novel should not be lightly tossed aside. I can safely assume he would not choose a novel whose protagonist grapples (literally) with themes of death, feminism, sexuality and gender identity. L*Roneous isn’t trying to be the kind of rapper who just dominates hip-hop with the wittiest punchlines – like Irving he’s using his words to wrap you in a cinematic narrative that takes you up and down like a “See Saw.”
“I’m on a see saw, straddling the low points
Tryin to maintain +Coltrane+ on my +Love+ joint
Wadin on the upstream, weavin over boom bip
Swing so many, while they playin I be rulin s–t…
Amused in the park
Whole city is a playground, clowns doin art
Blowin doobies in the dark by the fountain, by the swings
See a spark in the distance, they do the same things
Mary Mary on the go-around, she roam around to miss you
Pants full of ass, shirt full of tits
My mind full of notions that I never would admit
While I’m sittin on the see saw, waitin on a lift…”
The metaphor of “playing childish games” takes on a very adult tone as does the metaphor of “getting high” and it all comes together very nicely with some Biz Markie samples at the end. That’s the nature of a L*Roneous track in general — they tend to work on multiple levels and acquire different meanings every time you listen. “If” seems initially to just be some wishful thinking about getting ahead in hip-hop but as he rocks his “vision to a dreamer” you gradually pick up the deeper levels: “Peep me off the top/never speak forget-me-nots/poetry resembles plots of the deepest s–t you got.” L*Roneous recognizes the inherent duality of crafting music, in that it is ephemeral ear candy that “float(s) around like a feather in the wind” and yet has the potential to transcend the “invisible like sound” medium and make a more lasting impact thanks to Brycon’s beats and L’Roneous’ carefully chosen words.
The short length of “The World According to Gurp” might seem to work against the purpose of being memorable for the long term, with no song other than the title track clocking in at over three minutes, and yet as L says on “My Soiree” it’s all about “Smoke signaling, mo’ wiggling/Indeed, we just turn up the heat to keep kicking it” with “a real ear jerker perfect for my spittings.” Brycon does indeed deliver the “ear jerker” in question, and does so repeatedly on half short and twice strong songs. Even the short instrumental interludes like “Live From the City” and “G-Pek” are worth sticking around for and not skipping.
It’s possible that no new album could achieve the stratospheric heights that L did for me when he spelled his name with a hyphen and not an asterisk. Even so that takes nothing away from the lovely “The World According to Gurp,” an album which by its very nature invites being looped two to three times in a row just so you can gain a deeper appreciation of the beats and the rhymes. If this is what he’s been doing for the last 17 years then I’m well and truly pissed off at myself for not realizing it and having kept up for all this time.