“Thirteen tracks showcasing K-Beta’s presence on the mic and Scrilla’s ease making head nodding beats.” From the moment I unzipped the press kit for K-Beta & DJ J-Scrilla’s “Bad Rap” the bar had already been set high, but thankfully not impossibly high. At least they weren’t claiming K-Beta was the next coming of Rakim, or that Scrilla was the next DJ Premier behind the boards. It wasn’t a hard decision to take a listen to “Bad Rap” though. The release comes from Man Bites Dog Records, who I haven’t heard from since their “Happy Holidays” compilation last December. At least one of my all-time favorite albums comes from the label, who seem to have cultivated a Rawkus-esque level of indie cred and talent, but without the frequency of releases that they had in the late 1990’s. “Pakistan” quickly assured me that I had made a good choice.
Scrilla’s production isn’t just up to par here — he’s easily getting a birdie or an eagle. The manic electronic and bass sound reminds me of Non Phixion at their prime, the Sticky Fingaz sample on the chorus turns up the intensity just a little bit more, and K-Beta raps the perspective of a tortured soul who sees more death around the corner than the late Tupac Shakur. “I hate it when I dream and I wake up shivering/It feels like I’m, better off not remembering/It feels like a cheaply produced reenactment/What happened? Here I am, once again trapped in/clapping.” When Beta says he’s “swinging from a motherfucking, rope/I’ve run out of cop-ing mechanisms/God damn it, I’m all out of dope” it’s not just an excellent display of breath control and timing, it makes you FEEL his anxiety.
In truth “Pakistan” might have set an even higher bar than anything in the press kit that came with “Bad Rap.” Fortunately the album doesn’t shy away from this energy level, with the Virginia based team dropping tracks like “Raw Like” featuring Kingpen Slim that wouldn’t be out of place on a Jedi Mind Tricks album. Hell let’s be real about it — Slim kinda SOUNDS like Vinnie Paz. “When it comes to Coca-Cola, I’m the Ayatollah” brags Slim, unrepentant and proud that in rap “no one else is ignorant as this.”
I wasn’t familiar with Kingpen Slim (confusing him for Kingpin Skinny Pimp at first) but he’s definitely someone I’d enjoy hearing more from. There are more familiar names throughout “Bad Rap” though including Napoleon Da Legend on “Dice Roll,” Uptown XO from Diamond District for “On the Reels” and everybody’s current favorite rapper from Buffalo Conway The Machine on “DTLR 3.” You wouldn’t call them “household names” like a Lil Wayne, Drake or Nicki Minaj, but if your playlist is heavy with underground hip-hop all of them are going to hit your ears nicely. I want to hear “DTLR 1” and “2” after this joint.
One thing is abundantly clear from “Bad Rap” — K-Beta is a tortured soul. On songs like “Face the Serpent” he tells you all of the following things in the first 30 seconds: he can’t blame his problems on Satan because he did it to himself, drug abuse caused his infertility, he’d been lying to his girlfriend about it, and he constantly abused alcohol to mask the pain of his lost manhood. If you’re looking for happy-go-lucky rap, Beta is NOT THAT. This is one of those times when you really have to accept that rappers are just like actors and this is a persona he’s portraying for dramatic effect. If he was actually this fucked up he’d probably have put a bullet in his brain.
Since it would unquestionably be in poor taste to release an album on a well respected imprint after someone ended their own life, I’m happy to assume K-Beta is as alive and well as seen in the video above. “Bad Rap” is a misleading name for what Scrilla and Beta have done here. This is GOOD RAP about when bad things happen to people who make bad decisions. The stereotype of rappers when I was growing up was that they were glorifying violence and drug abuse, and maybe a few did (or still do) but there were many more like K-Beta who made “street cinema” serving not to praise wicked ways but to give you the harrowing perspective of a life with one foot in the grave at all times. This album will make your head nod rapidly and send a few shivers down your spine too.