For those who didn't spend too much of their childhoods parked in front of the TV: "Weird Al" Yankovic is the premiere parody musician of our age, an aper of supreme consistency and longevity who has almost single-handedly held down the genre for two decades. His brushes with Hip Hop include parodies of Eminem, Mike Jackson (not really Hip Hop I guess, unless you count that time he had Biggie drop a verse on that remix) and Coolio (who he had beef with for years after, apparently), among others. This review is less than a detailed examination of an artistic work, or even a mere cursory judgment on its merits and/or weaknesses. At its simplest, this review for Wierd Al's newest full-length has only one purpose: to warn potential buyers of misleading product packaging. On the cover and inside booklet of "Straight Outta Lynwood" (an eighteen-year-old reference...sort of lazy, no?), there stands Weird Al, a forty something white male getting paid off novelty songs, in his best gangsta ice grillin' you stance, complete with Chuck Taylors, oversized pants, and even a sad-looking pit bull. Excitedly, and not at all familiar with Al's previous CDs, I mistakenly imagined an entire disc full of Hip Hop parodies. Lord knows that in the current age of "Laffy Taffy," t-shirts that look like dresses and other wack shit, the game is ripe to be ripped, na mean? Anyway, I have to admit that I was sort of feeling the idea of a corny yet sharp outsider digging his heels into all the absurdities of the rap game. My appetite was tempted further with the first (and unfortunately, last) rap parody on the disc, "White and Nerdy" (set it to Camillionaire's summer hit and go from there). I actually prefer Al's knock-off to the original, as he essentially keeps the infectious beat and loses the nursery rhyme fluff in favor of dense and frequently amusing couplets. In describing a typical uber-nerd over a track originally intended for thugs and their lackeys, the Weird one achieves a supreme comic irony that adds to the humor of each line. A sampling:
"First in my class there at MIT
Got skills, I'm a champion at D & D
MC Escher, that's my favorite MC
Keep your 40, I'll just have an Earl Grey tea
My rims never spin- to the contrary
You'll find that they're quite stationary
All of my action figures are cherry
Stephen Hawking's in my library..."
And so on. Trust me, despite the fact that he's got about as much soul as the surface of Mars, Al delivers the lines with competency and at a rapid clip. It just might be worth a download. The rest of the disc, sadly, is not Hip Hop. Al applies his same tried-and-true formulas to a variety of other pop artists from all genres, from Green Day to Taylor Hicks, but the closest he comes again to Hip Hop is Usher and R. Kelly lambastes. And since I don't listen to the radio, the send-ups were generally lost on me. So, to sum up: if you happen to be a big "Weird Al" fan, then cop the disc, as it's full of his usual clever and well-made parodies as well as originals. If, however, you're a Hip Hop head who sees the cover and thinks it might be funny to hear alternative versions of all the junk on mainstream "urban" radio, then you may have to look elsewhere. Or you could just realize that some of that garbage passing for our music is funnier and more absurd than any parody could ever be. After all, no one will ever make George W. look more stupid than the man himself. But whatever. Weird Al, nuff respect.
Music Vibes: 6.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10
Originally posted: October 24, 2006