Pop culture continues to be a source of inspiration for rappers of all sorts. Meet The Landlords, the Chicago-based duo of Mr. Roper and Furlee, posing on what looks like the original set of “Three’s Company” for their album cover shot. Turning into one of the most popular TV sitcoms of all time, “Three’s Company” (1977-84) captured the imagination of the American audience with its plot of two single women and one bachelor sharing an appartment for financial reasons, in a society where sexual freedom was finally prevailing. True to the rules of situation comedy and respecting the restrictions of family television, despite all the sexual innuendo that was part of the show nothing ever happened between the three. A key role played their landlord, Mr. Roper (played by Norman Fell), who was ever-suspicious of the things going on in that new age household. The Original Hip-Hop Lyrics Archive (www.ohhla.com) lists at least 11 lyrical references to ‘Jack Tripper’ in rap songs, the bachelor – played by John Ritter – who got to live the male fantasy of living with two women in a ongoing potential threesome. The only rapper who is listed as referring to himself as ‘Mr. Roper’ is Mike D of the Beastie Boys.

Opting for the nasty rather than the popular role, The Landlords have come to evict sucker MC’s from the premises. Hanging out at their recording spot Reagle Beagle (a play on the ‘Regal Beagle’, the bar Tripper and his friends used to chill at) gave them other ideas as well. In “Kinkle Epidemik” they adopt the perspective of one of the perpetrators of the many school shootings that have spread across the US:

“I hide behind my eyelids to shade my mind from all the violence
It’s like sometimes I don’t have to try to seem so lifeless
Why don’t you try this, a day in the life of a nerd
socially classed ‘herb’, when ‘self-esteem’ is just a word
and my dreams are just absurd, not to mention out the herd
hopin’ to have the world open wide and bite the curb
No girls will ever jock me and even my parents mock me
I got the barrel to my head and there’s no one there to stop me
Should I waste my time and bribe my way into the in-crowd
or let my .45’s do the talking?”

“Sword of Omen” finds them on some mystical quest, or so it seems, but in reality it’s just a battle rap hiding behind a fancy disguise. The same goes for “Iron Curton”. CH Productions resurrects the strings that have been popular for a minute, the drum beat is pounding well underground, but vocally the Landlords fail to hit hard. Furlee sounds like a sedated Common, while Roper gets a little more animated, threatening to “feed the Excalibur sword through your spine / and watch all the metaphors that you bit / leak out the 7-inch slit / that I produced in your rear abdomen.” What about him ‘biting’ the ‘metaphor’ about the lines on a piece of paper being the prison bars a rapper’s trying to escape? Heard that before. Guest Omega 5 comes better overall, closing the song out with:

“Don’t like my shit, then I’ma force ya
constantly droppin’ on your head like Chinese water torture
Those who wanna get this shot through the chest
two inches from your chest so I can smell your last breath”

Much worse though is “Pioneer”. No idea what they’re claiming to have pioneered. The only thing Roper should be awarded for is his stupidity on this solo effort. Did I catch him using the n-word? Yup. Even twice. Three times. Four. That is a BIG NO-NO for a white rapper. It questions every last bit of intelligence displayed in those rhymes. You don’t wanna be a ‘pioneer’ in that regard.

Producers Stowaways also forsake the musical potential of “Pioneer”, as they start off with some Easy Listening type funkiness, but later slap a totally different type of melody onto it. They don’t make the same mistake twice, letting the wrestling mania “Kings of the Ring” mainly stand out because of the ill Mariachi sample. Decidedly the dopest track though is “Paper View” which is based on the “Matlock” theme. Going right along with the humorous nature of the theme, they say “fuck bein’ underground, I wanna be rich and get paid / have a bitch and get laid”, because after all, these are The Landlords, not some bums off the street:

“Iced-out Rolex with the diamonds be the minimum
top hats on and platforms with the goldfish in ’em
I walk by and eyes squint like they’ve never seen me
The Landlords collect the rent and make more green than Cabrini”

I especially enjoyed the subtle “Even if it don’t make sense, it’s makin’ dollars” quote. Maybe next time they take it even further, so there won’t be the slightest doubt about the irony in their words. Then again, it will be hard for a crew that has a song called “Toilet Sonata” to get taken serious in any department. Too bad Furlee is sitting on the john while he drops quite interesting lines like “How the fuck am I a product of my environment / when I spend no fuckin’ time in it?”

The Landlords still have a lot of work to do before they can actually yell “rent’s due!” at anybody. Because right now things are a bit unbalanced. And what’s up with the whole “Three’s Company” gimmick? Where are the girls? It has to be two girls, one guy. Two guys just won’t work, period. Unless they change their name to “The Odd Couple”…

The Landlords :: Rent's Due