Rock and rap have been related ever since Steven Tyler tore down Run-D.M.C.'s wall in the "Walk This Way" video. With exception of a fortunate few, most crossovers after that successful collaboration failed to succeed in either genre. The Roots got scolded for "Phrenology," Rage Against The Machine's Zack de La Rocha was booed off stage for wanting to be an MC, and Ice T's Body Count was entertaining, but also a wee bit scary. The attraction of combining rap and rock remains, though. It got the Californian twosome Lexicon to replace the MPC for a Gibson Les Paul on "The Rapstars EP."
It's been a long time since Lexicon's last LP. They made it into 2003's RapReviews Top 10 (Number 8 position) with "Youth Is Yours," a cocky mixture of old school beats and clever rhymes. The positive reviews didn't, however, get brothers Gideon and Nick Black the critical acclaim in the hip-hop community they should have received. According to Steve 'Flash' Juon this was no fault of their own. They had the unfortunate honour of being signed to the same label as one of the biggest surprises of that year: Styles of Beyond.
While S.O.B.'s Takbir and Ryu eventually surfaced from the underground, Lexicon still is struggling to follow in their footsteps. S.O.B. impressed the hell out of the music critic wolf pack last year with their sophomore effort "Megadef." On that album, the two West Coast MC's blended Megadeth and Stooges samples, even some Depeche Mode, with their own distinct sound. The experiment could have resulted in a Coca-Cola/Mentos mixture, but instead got them into the major league.
Without saying Lexicon observed Styles of Beyond like a hawk while contemplating their next project, they sure added a lot of metal parts to their latest black plastic. "The Rapstars EP" kicks off with live drums and electric guitars on "Big Cars," which is Lexicon's guide to getting pussy by lying about your bank account, car and profession:
"Her daddy told her that a real man pays with cash
I only got a stash because my credit is crashed
But that's a secret between you and I
I'm counting out Jacksons while I'm giving her the eye
Twenty dollars short, forty dollars more
Sixty short for rent with every cent I spend
You get this round, and I will get the others
And duck around the bar for an hour or another"
With these kind of songs in the repertoire, Lexicon will surely attract screaming pierced little skater girls, but I would have to refrain myself from saying "Big Cars" has anything to do with hip-hop music. The lyrics are mesmerizing at times, but with a sung chorus and poppy guitar riffs Lexicon sounds more like an indie rock band than a hip-hop group. The next song "Junk Food" stands even farther from their musical career's starting point. The hook "You're my junk food, baby; I love you, but you're killing me" left a bad taste in my mouth while repeating out loud. Lexicon's support band borrowed U2's drum pattern from "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" and had a posh sounding female background singer do the support vocals. "Junk Food" could easily be included on the next soundtrack of this fall's favourite teen movie.
After these two misfires, Lexicon returns to the style they had perfected on "Youth Is Yours." The guitars are still there on "Bangyahead," but with a hypnotizing harmonica sample and an off-beat drum rhythm they create more suspense than the two previous songs combined. They keep up that quality on the replay version of "Rock," the lead single on their second album. Although this cover version again leans heavily on snarling guitars, it has a lot more balls than the first two compositions. If Lexicon want to keep up their headbanger's composure, this is the style they should aim at. Oak and Nick's voices have more aggressiveness and more direction than can be heard on "Junk Food." The last song on this EP is a Subtitle remix of "Big Cars." It is amazing to hear how a well-made hip-hop beat can change the outlook of a song completely. Spacey synthesizer bleeps form sound patterns in a thumping beat atmosphere. When Jodie Foster was listening intently to otherworldly sounds in the movie _Contact_, she would have bobbed her head to Sub-T's alien mood music.
This EP gives me the idea Lexicon is merely experimenting with a new sound. This is admirable, but after three years of absence, you would expect music that is more coherent than this EP. I hope they have a lot more material shelved than two rock ballads, one banger, and two remixes . Some songs are more successful than others, but I don't get the feeling Lexicon have found a style they can call their own. Let's hope they stay away from the little skater girls and 'rap and roll' more consistently, as they call it themselves.
Music Vibes: 5.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: September 19, 2006