Initially I wanted to elaborate on how rap music, with the exception of acts such as The Coup, Public Enemy, dead prez, Consolidated, The Goats and Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy, chooses to ignore the topic of white collar crime and instead keeps glorifying offenses such as drug dealing, armed robbery and assault and battery, and how I take that as a sign of rap music's lack of political awareness. But I had to scratch that as soon as I began listening to this album. " Invest-Mentality" by the White Collar Criminals is not a political manifesto. They simply follow the tradition of rock and pop bands who will come up with the stupidest names just to fetch some ears. But this ain't pop or rock, it's rap. So the White Collar Criminals will be influenced by it, no matter how left of center they are. That's why they may not denounce white collar crime or engage in it in their lyrics, but they have their own theme song, where they make reference to it -- although the humorous nature of the song leads me to believe that this is indeed a hoax.
However, it's not all fun and games in this alternative rap universe. As a matter of fact, "Invest-Mentality" starts off pretty gloomy. The music is so monotone that you suspect it to be the reason for their hypnotized flows. But reading the fortunately printed lyrics I soon found out they're not speaking in tongues other than their own. The White Collar Criminals are so original most of the time they're the only ones who get what they're saying. Which again puts them into the 'rock/pop' category. But I will not discredit a rapper just because I don't know what he's talking about. Nor will I praise him for the same reason. But since rap music is full of lyrical clichees and often steeps to the lowest common denominator, the White Collar Criminals are exactly the odditiy their name suggests. Lyrically, they're either so ultra-realistic and detailed that you'll find it hard to see the big picture, like in "Crash", or they move like shadows over a landscape unknown, like in "Mists of Ko". Either way, the majority of the songs here will make the average listener say: what the fuck was that about? And since I represent the average listener, my reaction is exactly the same. This is as far away from the mainstream as possile. Rap from the Other Side. And as such it sounds exactly as you'd expect it to sound: simple beats and breathless flows, intricate rhyme schemes and big vocab, poetics so personal only the author can grasp their meaning. That's not what rap was about when it started out, and it isn't to this day, but like Bob Dylan said, the times, they are a-changing.
Although, later in the album I find out the WCC haven't gone too far yet. "The Bridge" tells of their moves in hip-hop, in "The Fletcher-Munsen Curve" they get their flow in gear thanks to shortened lines, and "Multiplicity" finds one of them stalking his ex-wife with an Eminem approach, while the other one gets inspired to talk about the deceptive dream that is the ongoing (sub-)urbanization of the US. "Mirages" reads like a script for the story of a Gulf War veteran being plagued by flashbacks (a scenario Rakim did it back in 1992). The stand-out cut as far as quality - not oddity - goes, has to be "Voice". Here their emceeing qualities - a distinct diction and a delivery congruent with the feelings they're expressing - are merged in an intelligently written scheme. Let me show you how it works. After his partner in White Collar rhyme has finished the first verse, the second rapper goes into the chorus:
"Letters are the seconds, syllables are minutes
words go by as hours and a day equates a sentence
paragraphs can last a week and and months become our essays
so we speak for years to reach your ears with the Voice."
He then delivers his own verse:
"Verbal acrobat, practice battle raps to keep the mind groomed
fine tuned, volley with the volume in my room
and time soon consumes all and doom falls like the darkness of light
over the city - harvest the light
Make shards of the mic, fragmented poetry
leave scars when I write, ask and you know it's me
Supposedly brandishin my banished bane as bandage
Makin love with the language, languishin my anguish
I think, therefore I sink futher into depression
pushed over the brink by a fink's stirring impression
of me at my very worst - but the words murder repression
so lack of fertile expression is sure to bring the regression
full circle, see, I once held the world within my sweaty grasp
but I lost my grip and now the planet's spinnin out of control
and my lile is tugged along for the ride till I take hold
of the Voice - the siren's song speaks to save my soul."
Following this you actually hear sounds that remind you of a siren singing her fatal chant in Ancient Greece. If the White Collar Criminals would let their intellect infiltrate their music as well as their words the way they did here, then they could make the news just like any violent (rap) criminal.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: November 27, 2001