Arecee :: Background!!! ::
as reviewed by Rowald Pruyn

"Only in a world this shitty could you even try to say these were innocent people and keep a straight face. But that's the point. We see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every home, and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because it's common, it's trivial. We tolerate it morning, noon, and night. Well, not anymore. I'm setting the example. What I've done is going to be puzzled over and studied and followed... forever."

There is a thin line between genius and insanity. John Doe, the killer who-knew-it-all in the momentous thriller Se7en, crossed that line somewhere down the road. He couldn't return from mental Hades and decided to get back at the sinful strangers he felt to be surrounded with. Listening to Arecee's sophomore album "Background!!," watching the photos on his Flickr page, and looking at the music videos featured on a accompanying DVD makes me wonder which part of this artist wants to be a self-appointed outcast John Doe of the hip-hop community.

"Haunted by the dawn and song of personal meaning
Got a bad religion involving a personal Jesus
Without a reason, now they are planning to bomb the region
Trying to keep the legions calm, so speaking about the freedom
You know the feeling when you really fight for something?
Well, I was taught to sit still and live my life in the company
Fight for your country, but neither really comfort me
I write for the public, no wait: I write because I love it!
Hip-hop is stupid. I'm a student of the subtle
Struggle with the shadows, my reflection in a puddle
Drift off from the movement; it's lift-off to the moon
This body is getting useless: we probably should reboot!"


When the young Mills and the old Somerset track down Doe's windowless hideout, they find racks and racks of small notebooks. They are filled with Doe's assembled thoughts, neatly jotted down on densely filled pages. Scores of detectives are taken off their normal shifts to read through thousands of lines full of venomous observations, sarcastic comments, and desperate rants like these:

"On the subway today, a man came up to me to start a conversation. He made small talk, a lonely man talking about the weather and other things. I tried to be pleasant and accommodating, but my head hurt from his banality. I almost didn't notice it had happened, but I suddenly threw up all over him. He was not pleased, and I couldn't stop laughing."

Packed with the cardboard jewel case of "Background!!!" comes a copied DVD-R filled with music video clips. These little fragments of Arecee's mind amuse or disgust, sometimes both at the same time. "Pukey Face," a thirty second long scene of the MC lying on the floor while he gets vomited on by a friend is pretty hard to stomach. The ubercheerful children in "Hip-Hop 4 the Hopeless" look like insane extras in an eighties horror movie. The two pony tailed instructors in "All We Have" display aggression when they demonstrate their ways of disarming an assailant in a knife fight. They take their game deadly serious.

"My name is Arecee
I'm in the back of the party
To say I am anti-social displaying it vocals partly
Nerd like I'm Marty McFly
Traveled to the future, and I am already high (Chain smoking)
Self esteem broken: I need Oprah
Better yet: where is Dr. Phil
I will rock the pills, like I'm a grown-up
Another Corona, and a lime from a coma"

("All in My Name" f. Pugslee Atomz)

Aside from being his own home movie director, Arecee shoots photos, produces most of his own tracks, and rhymes, either as Arecee or his alias Cowboy Clark. His production style resembles Blockhead or even Aphex Twin's, but he never come close the whole nine yards. He uses electronic samples so alien, they are fit for H.P. Lovecraft stories. His drum patterns are seldom dull, mostly subtle, sometimes piercing. It is no surprise he holds the passed away J Dilla in high esteem. The tribute "Dunkin Donuts" with a soft-spoken "Jay Dee, I miss you" preceding a rhyme over one of the masters' beats proves that. Because most songs don't go over two minutes and the mood of the songs change faster than a ADHD patient with mood swings, I wasn't bored for a moment.

Arecee is in the twilight zone of the hip-hop world, a place where he can set his own example. His world is a puzzling one, without implying he is literally out to be a serial killer. His lyrics contain observations, which will most likely miss most rap fans. I think Arecee is a bit too stubborn to alter his message to gain a greater audience, considering the minor tone difference between his last album "Beating a Dead Horse" and this one. After the two detectives captured their prey in Se7en, they try to fathom his psyche and the young Somerset dismisses him as a psycho. "It's more comfortable for you to label me as insane," he tells him. You said it, John Doe.

Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10

Originally posted: February 27, 2007