Coley Cole :: Goldplated Straitjackets :: Grad School Music
as reviewed by Matt Jost

Just as I was about to give up looking for an angle to open this review, it hit me. "Goldplated Straitjackets"? Get it? It's a nod to Ghostface. I know it's nice of me noticing, but how do I proceed? Do I have to hyperlink our "Bulletproof Wallets" review? Do I have to add that we're not dealing with a Wu-Tang-related project here? That I don't think it's meant to be a joke either? Or should I just pat myself on the back for catching the reference and move on? If nobody bothered to ask Ghost what in the world bulletproof wallets are, why should I worry about Coley Cole's oddly furnished gear?

Because not only is there a title track, the term 'goldplated' appears in no less than four song titles. Late last year, the album's lead single "Goldplated Hustla'" dropped, where Coley professed: "I don't hustle with guns and keys / I hustle with drums and beats " - a hustle the member of Santa Cruz' Lost & Found Generation crew now hopes to take beyond Central California. As a musician, Coley Cole is ambidextrous, handling production duties and the microphone with equal verve. It's safe to say that Coley Cole the producer is easier to get down to than Coley Cole the rapper. With an aesthetic reminiscent of West Coast collectives such as the ShapeShifters and Living Legends, this is hip-hop without any particular regional leaning, a measured mix of soulful strings, hypnotically hammering pianos and those types of intriguing sounds and sources you never can quite identify, that aims for the neck muscles. Obviously, it would take a Just Blaze or a Carlos Broady to shape these samples into outstanding beats, it would take less chipmunked vocal samples and familiar patterns to call it truly original, but for what it is, it definitely works. Whether it's the lush atmosphere of "Goldplated Sauce," the confident strut of "Goldplated Warriors," the rugged romp of "Goldplated Hustla'," or the soulful thump of "The Eternal Curse (Money)," most of Coley Cole's beats would suit any rapper to rock over.

Since he decided to rock over them himself (with the occasional guest appearance by the likes of Oldominion's Bishop I and Sleep, Grayskul's Onry Ozzborn, the Living Legends' Aesop and members of his own crew), Coley Cole's odds of failing are far greater than for your average non-producing rapper and non-rapping producer, but there's also the chance that he redeems himself in one department after failing in another. While Cole easily passes the test as a producer, at this point RapReviews declines to pass any judgment on his lyrical abilities. To put it bluntly, I don't understand the man. It's not just his uptempo flow and the subsequent neglect of vowels causing me to miss every other word. I'm afraid to say this is one rapper that goes over my head. All I hear is words, some of which I do understand, some of which I don't understand, but even when I realize that they form an argument, the greater meaning of Coley Cole's rhymes remains undisclosed to me. Even in cases where I find words to summarize the content - "Sigh" is a biographical account, a social drama unfolds in "T.N.T.," "Sequoia Slump" takes you on a ride along the Central Cali coast, "The Sleeper Must Awaken" is about seizing the day - Coley Cole's rhetoric just doesn't resonate with me on any kind of level.

Failure to communicate or failure to comprehend? Probably a little bit of both. I'm a simple guy who prefers simple rap. But maybe it has also something to do with the whole 'goldplated straitjackets' thing. If there's anybody in film history you could imagine rocking a goldplated straitjacket, it's Goldfinger from the James Bond flick of the same name. But it's another movie that is sampled throughout this album - Terry Gilliam's _12 Monkeys_. If Coley Cole the rapper is anything like the psychotic time traveller James Cole, he's bound to cause some confusion. It's just that in most cases presenting yourself as being "mentally divergent" (a phrase that pops up in one of the _12 Monkeys_ quotes) doesn't mean people can't relate to you on some level. Rappers from Scarface to Eminem have made a living off being "mentally divergent." Ironically, Mr. Cole seems to realize that he's reached a dead end, exclaiming two thirds into the album: "Coley Cole with that goldplated nonsense again." I wouldn't go that far. I'll just content myself with knowing that "Goldplated Straitjacket" sounds straight to my seasoned ears - I just don't know what it's about.

Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: n/a of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10

Originally posted: April 5, 2005