You can’t talk about Bobby Jimmy and the Critters without talking about “Roaches.” It’s not included on “Hip Hop Prankster” but the album would not exist without its success.

Conceived by comedian and aspiring radio personality Russ Parr as a parody of Timex Social Club’s hit “Rumors,” the novelty song “Roaches” took on a life of its own and got airplay on the very station (KDAY) he worked at. In a classic example of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” Parr quickly concluded that if one novelty rap song could be a hit, he needed to double down and make as many silly raps as possible. He was also uniquely positioned to take advantage of his friendships with other artists, which took him from self-distribution through his own Raspur Records to a deal with Priority. In fact “Hip Hop Prankster” is the ultimate flex of those connects as a variety of top producers like DJ Pooh and Battlecat are banging out his beats.

Unfortunately you’re going to have a hard time understanding what some of these parodies are. I’m old enough to remember MC Hammer’s “Let’s Get It Started” and recognize Russ Parr is poking fun at him with “Somebody Farted.” This creates a whole slew of problems. Hammer’s flow at that point in his career was incredibly slow and stiff, shouting one word at a time into the microphone, so Parr’s impersonation of Hammer results in an equally busted lyrical delivery. There’s a chuckle or two to be had at Hammer’s expense, but listening to someone rap about smelly wet flatulence isn’t that funny for long. By the three minute mark you’re ready to flee the song like the protagonist wants to flee his stank ass car.

This is the level of humor Parr operates at though. Everything operates at the most juvenile level of comedy. I don’t want to come off as a curmudgeon who doesn’t laugh at gross out humor or people getting their hit with a pie to the face. A bucket of slime poured on someone’s head? Sure. The thing that makes that kind of laugh effective is the timing. If someone trips and falls at an unexpected time it’s a belly laugh. If that same person realizes they got a laugh and does it on purpose repeatedly, it’s just not funny any more. You can see what Russ Parr’s intent was on songs like “Close the Door (You’re Letting Flies In).” He’s picking an oft-sampled song in Teddy Pendergrass’ “Close the Door” and doing the rap equivalent of taking pratfalls. He doesn’t just do it on multiple songs though, he does it multiple times in the SAME song. Parr doesn’t know when to quit.

The strangest turn of all has to be “Prankster Prankster.” Remember those connects I talked about earlier? Check this out — one of the “Critters” in the crew was none other than Arabian Prince of N.W.A fame. Prince is seldom talked about these days because he parted ways with the group right as their ascent to notoriety and mainstream recognition began, but he could still leverage his knowledge of the industry to Parr’s benefit. There may have even been a little bit of bitterness over being left out of N.W.A.’s success that led him to suggest Parr parody “Gangsta Gangsta,” but we’ll never know for sure whose idea it was. I wouldn’t want to take credit though. Ice Cube’s verse is so badly mocked that the song mocks itself. “Then you say hot damn, what silliness.” I do — just not for the right reasons.

Eventually the joke wears so thin that you stop caring who or what he’s trying to parody. Who is he making fun of with “You Pissed Me Off” really? Is it Kool Moe Dee? Is it Run-D.M.C.? It doesn’t matter because it doesn’t make me laugh. It’s not even a song with going on to justify that it exists. It’s minimalist for all the wrong reasons — it needs a melody or some bass and it has neither. “Hip Hop Prankster” has a lot of those “What was the point?” moments. I don’t deny that Russ Parr is a prankster, but I deny that these are good jokes. His humor is very PG, befitting a person who worked in commercial radio, but when you’re poking fun at the hard rap songs of the late 1980’s, being clean cut doesn’t cut it. That’s another rule of comedy that Parr doesn’t seem to have grasped here — if you try too hard to work clean so that your material can be accessible to kids, kids want nothing to do with it. I wasn’t listening to “Hip Hop Prankster” as a kid. Why would I listen to a bad parody of N.W.A instead of N.W.A themselves? Case closed.

Bobby Jimmy and the Critters :: Hip Hop Prankster
4Overall Score