The Grafenberg All-Stars are a group lead by Ivy-League taught emcees Sable and Batalion. They are based somewhere out of Canada, though I'm not too sure whether they are indeed Canadian. Their website boasts positive quotes from various publications and other people praising their live shows and "Hip-Hop theatre." Despite all the fanfare and potential creativity surrounding this CD, the end-product is a confusing and very bad form of music that though technically Hip-Hop, desecrates the art-form.
To give Sable and Batalion credit, they are not that bad when it comes to the technical aspects of Hip-Hop. They both rap on time and their voices aren't too bad, though their delivery does require more attention from the listener than the average emcee. Beatwise, they are also not impressive but they do their job well enough not to warrant any complaints.
Where the major problem lies with Sable and Batalion is that on top of being barely average emcees and producers, the topic matter they choose to address turns out some of the wackest and most confusing "Hip-Hop" I've ever heard. Now I've tried to approach this CD from every possible angle. Their press packet promotes them as Hip-Hop Comedians/Playwrights and their website pushes the same idea. But flipping through the tracks on the CD it's hard to tell what angle these guys are using on any given song. "Gidget the Midget" is obviously meant to be humorous as the guys rhyme about being involved with two midgets, but it's not funny at all. This is coming from a guy who's laughed at midget jokes with no shame (I have comedian Shang to thank for my one-way ticket to hell). But the truth is that midgets alone are not funny, nor should they be, you have to approach the topic with a certain angle to get someone to laugh and the Grafenberg All-Stars fail to do that. They strike out again on "The Weed Ho's Placebos" where the duo tell a profound tale of an unfortunate Puerto-Rican man getting caught purchasing weed by a police sting operation. Why they decided to make the character Puerto-Rican I don't know, maybe it's because they wanted to show off their ultra-funny "Hispanic" accents. But I shouldn't be too hard on them since we all know Puerto-Ricans all smoke and sell weed, I was surprised they didn't manage to squeeze in a boxing match and a Goya cook-off to make the stereotype complete. And since I know Sable and Battalion won't stop this "killer" routine I'd just like to make a plea for them to at least get their accents right, as Enrico the Puerto-Rican sounds like a stereotypical Mexican. Once again, I want to say I am not above laughing at "Hispanic" accents, the opening scene of "White Chicks" where the Wayans' brothers pretend to be Hispanic bodega owners had me rolling, but Sable and Batalion just come off sounding ignorant. Of course it doesn't matter as I'm sure the crowds in Canada love to laugh at funny Hispanic accents especially since there are no Hispanics there to give these guys the ass-whooping they deserve for being so ignorant.
Another attempt at comedy is "Sesame Hood" where they come up with the highly original concept of Sesame Street really being a ‘hood. Now this concept has been done OVER AND OVER again by various comedians. Dave Chappelle's "the count is really a pimp" routine is a stand-up classic, so why they felt they could do it better I have no clue. Aside from being unoriginal, the song itself is wack. Bert and Ernie are gay (gasp…), Big Bird is some type of hardcore gangster (based on what?), and everyone else is high all the time (because everyone in the ‘hood is high all the time, right?).
You want to know the funniest part of this CD? It's a skit called "For Real?" where one of the emcees actually has the guts to complain about not being taken seriously. Maybe it was possibly meant as a joke, but it sounds dead serious. This is followed by a serious track, "Sure It's Love" where we are treated to a song dealing with a serious argument between a couple. It seems he has been unfaithful in the past and she is reluctant to take him back, this is articulated through cheesy daytime-soap dialogue between one of the emcees and a singer. Nothing of substance is exchanged, instead he says "I've changed" about 15 different times and in 15 different ways and she responds "No you haven't" in similar fashion. Other "serious" tracks might include "Showtime," "Lift –Off," and "Train of Thought." To be honest after listening to the CD I didn't feel like putting in the effort to sort out which tracks were meant to be funny or not. "Showtime" has the duo declaring how its show time and they are ready to rhyme, their lyrics are forgettable though the guitar and piano in the beat are decent enough. "Lift Off" may be a conceptual approach at an uplifting track, then again with lines like "It's me the stewardess shaking it gratuitous" maybe they find planes and the like funny, who knows.
Usually I'm not outright harsh or negative towards even the wackest CD I listen to, but quite frankly I love Hip-Hop way too much to hold my tongue this time around. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe Sable and Batalion love Hip-Hop just as much as I do and maybe that's why they try to rap, but after listening to "G Marks The Spot" I was left with the impression that these two guys thought it'd be cool to use rap as a gimmick to mask their lack of any comedy skills and sub-par conceptual skills. To me this CD was no better than when you hear about rapping grannies and rapping cops. I was actually shocked at the positive feedback these guys seem to get from Canadian publications. To be honest it reflects very poorly on the Hip-Hop crowd in Canada if they support this. Sable and Batalion are simply bad rappers, bad comedians, and decent producers. Somehow this mix of "talent" has been earning them a living in Canada, but to be clear their success will only be local and hopefully will only be short-lived. If you find midgets, Hispanics, and Sesame Street inherently funny then by all means rush out and buy this CD, while you're at it cop a copy for Satan as a housewarming gift. But otherwise, this CD holds no value in the Hip-Hop world, it's an insult to the art. For those who actually like these dudes and think I should lighten up, pick up Chris Rock's "Bigger and Blacker" to see FUNNY comedy and Hip-Hop (Prince Paul) blend together right.
Music Vibes: 5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 1 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 3 of 10
Originally posted: June 7, 2005