The period from late August through early September has become an uncomfortable memory for many U.S. citizens, some of whom would just as soon skip straight through it to October. It’s a time to remember two incomprehensible horrible events that caused a loss of life numbering into the thousands. 2005’s Hurricane Katrina was the most recent of the two, making landfall in Louisiana among other places on August 29th but causing devestation that would be felt through September and beyond. It was in many ways a manmade tragedy due to local and federal incompetence in both preparing adequate flood levees and in evacuating people from the lowland areas of New Orleans – neither mistake can ever be forgiven. Going back four years beyond that comes the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. The transfixing horror of watching the World Trade Center buildings be hit by Boeing 767 planes and then collapse live on the air will never go away for anyone alive that day, but it’s sometimes forgotten that two other planes were also intentionally crashed that day, killing all on board in each case and also killing many at the Pentagon. Approximately 2,000 people died as a direct result of Katrina and approximately 3,000 people died as a direct result of the 9/11 attacks. That both were in some way preventable makes them all the more insufferable.
“Lagniappe” is a word unique to the culture of Louisiana and the gulf coast in general, a colloquial way of saying “a little something extra.” Most pronounciation guides suggest “lan-yap.”If you buy a dozen rolls at the bakeshop and the owner gives you 13 instead, the extra is “for lagniappe.” Whether you ask for lagniappe or get it without asking, it’s a bonus either way, a cultural tradition of getting more than you bargained for in a GOOD way. It even has an implication in social situations, where if you’re ready to quit drinking and go home your friend might say “one more round – this one’s for lagniappe.” You won’t hear it much outside this part of the United States or anywhere else, but if you spend more than a day in New Orleans as a tourist you’re bound to hear it at some point. The cover of Impulss’ album “Impulss’ Beats and Lagniappe Social and Pleasure Club” implies a place where you’d be very likely to hear that word – a jazz restaurant or drinking establishment in the French Quarter or on Bourbon Street. Ironically the French Quarter was one of the least hard hit areas during Hurricane Katrina, given that most of it is at least five feet above sea level and experienced very little flooding when the levees broke.
What do any of these things have to do with reviewing the album that Quarter Rat Musique sent to RapReviews? Nothing and everything. It would be great to pretend neither of the tragedies of the first paragraph ever happened, but it’s impossible to do so. If they did prove anything though it’s that humanity has the resolve to recover from a crisis and move on. Lower Manhattan hauled away the rubble and re-opened for business – no one will ever forget September 11th but it’s also a tribute to those who died for the rest who survived to carry on and make it a vibrant economically and socially strong community again. The same is true for New Orleans, which is rebuilding and continuing to repatriate people who fled the rising waters. Some may never come back, some may never be able to, but the desire to fight on instead of simply quitting and giving up is there. That’s why even when it hurts to remember tragedy it also helps – it shows the indomitable will of the human spirit. QRM CEO Daniel Perez impressed me with just such determination, noting that despite what happened last year he would keep his record label alive and still release the album that they had just finished recording before Hurricane Katrina. With such bold words I could not turn down his request for a review, I had to do one more this week – one more for lagniappe.
So here’s the good news – Impulss’ does indeed have some good beats. He swings with the swagger of Jazze Pha on “Ack a Donkey.” The similarly themed “Showin’ Ya Ass Out” is incredibly busy, but the different layers of production all add up to a toe-tapping headnoddah. “Noone to Call My Own” is quite a different affair – somber and bluesy, but it’s a sadness you’ll be glad to hear. Impulss also reveals himself to be quite the storyteller on this song:
“It’s just ten o’clock and I’m fresh out of work
I feel like I need a rubdown cause I hurt
Got no one to do it – I’ll settle for beer
I step in the bar cause my friends’ll come here
While I wait, I notice this wo-man beside me
Distraught, besmote was the look of her probably
Lookin at first like a wolf at her body
Because she was foxy, I took to her finely
I started to speak, she offered a seat
Her head slightly turned and she talked to her cheek
The look she first gave me was awkward but sweet
Said she had problems, eyes poured out a leak
I said what’s wrong, she said I warned you it’s deep…”
And so as to not spoil the song, I won’t reveal how deep it gets. It’s definitely worth hearing the whole tale. Other great songs on this disc include the ultra-smooth “Dahlin'” featuring Saddi Khali, the piano funk of “Dew Dew Bruddahs” featuring Mr. Man, the crunk club anthem “Catch the Wall” and the comedic “Braggin’ Rites” with all due apologies to J-Live. However I must be careful here to temper praise with criticism, and not be overwhelmingly generous simply because of my respect for Daniel Perez’ hustle. “Impulss’ Beats and Lagniappe Social and Pleasure Club,” besides being an incredibly long title, is also an unexpectedly long album at 22 tracks. Granted many of these tracks are fillers and skits between other tracks, but it’s still a lot to digest – like that 13th beignet you got for lagniappe. Impulss’ himself is partly to blame for how hard this much music is to swallow. He’s got the beatmaking down pretty well but at times borders on sounding – well how can I put this politely – nerdy? It’s a little bit like he’s the New Orleans version of MC Paul Barman. The rhymes are well written and delivered but sometimes seem to come off awkwardly. It makes me imagine what the same beats would be like with a much harder N.O. rapper like Mystikal busting flows.
“Impulss’ Beats and Lagniappe Social and Pleasure Club” sends a strong message just by the fact it exists. It says “look here – the New Orleans music scene will continue to thrive – we went away for a bit but we’ll come back even stronger.” The Towers may have fallen in the city where hip-hop was born, but the neighborhoods and boroughs that brought it from subculture to mainstream were never wiped away. Hip-Hop is stronger now than ever, and the wildly diverse musical scene of New Orleans – which many historians consider the birthplace of jazz music – was not wiped away by the floodwaters either. It will continue to thrive and the human spirit will continue to persevere and overcome no matter how many obstacles are thrown our way.