He’s not as funny as he thinks he is, and there’s not much to Joseph “Afroman” Foreman except his sense of humor. He’s not a very excellent rapper, and he doesn’t have much to say, and he has nothing to say about anything that hasn’t been said already. Afroman is Lowest Common Denominator all the way, unrepentantly ignoring the head and the heart in favor of the stomach, genitals, and ass. And it could be argued—but not by me, it’s not my argument to make—that his bragging about his drunkenness and drug intake and horniness and drug dealing past doesn’t exactly elevate the race.
Nonetheless, I kind of love this album. Not because of these problems; that would be stupid. I just kind of love it because it’s funky and unpretentious and doesn’t demand anything more of me except my bobbing my head and the occasional guffaw at a not-all-that-hilarious joke. But mostly because it’s funky.
Afroman first got famous a few years ago with “Because I Got High”, a song I can’t remember in the least but was somehow a big hit. The song was downloaded tons of times from Napster and was heavily featured on the radio shows of sensitive intellectual types like Howard Stern and Mancow, and was suddenly there in the national consciousness. Afroman got a record deal with Universal . . . and then the whole thing blew up, he got dropped, and he was back to hustling his own stuff out of the trunk of his car and on his website, which is exactly where he should be—that’s where he’s at, that’s what he’s here for, that’s his whole deal.
The big difference between Afroman now and Afroman then, we’re led to believe, has to do with the modern version having picked up the Bible. “Jackin’ Afroman” (with melody freely stolen from John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane”) claims that Universal froze him out over his conversion to Christianity, and predicts that they will go out of business for maltreating their artists and promoting “evil songs”. This would all be a lot more convincing if there weren’t songs called “Let’s Get High Tonight” and “Suck a D*** Jockey” and “Drive Better Drunk”; it also implies that there are a lot more “I Saw the Light” songs than there are, which is maybe three songs on a two-disc album of almost two-and-a-half hours. So don’t champion him as a great brave Christian artist, and don’t condemn him as another victim of the people’s opium—he’s still just Afroman, except he likes Jesus a lot now.
Mostly, though, this album has a lot of songs that sound about as good as they can given the fact that they’re recorded on virtually no budget with cheap-ass equipment and a skeleton staff. Foreman plays a lot of his own instruments, along with keyboard and drum help and scratching by Mr. Mixxx (an original member of 2 Live Crew), so these songs have a down-home DIY backyard charm all their own, which reflects their dual citizenship: Foreman grew up in L.A. and then moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, so his songs kind of sound like that. “Ghetto Memories” has a sample from “If You Move I’ll Fall”, which just floats unobtrusively over a dumb drum thump as Afroman reminisces about “getting paid, getting laid and incarcerated” back in his old neighborhood. But that doesn’t mean the song itself is dumb at all, not really, with lyrics like “My system beats good off in my Fleetwood / Beatin’ in my Caddy like cops in Cincinnati / At the red light I stop and stall / Look at the liquor store and see my name on the wall”.
Okay, so that’s pretty much the acme of cleverness on this album. If you want great dramatic rap narratives or witty devastating punchlines, though, you’ll have stopped reading long ago. But stuff like “Just My Paranoia” (built off “Just My Imagination”, duh) has some funny lines anyway: “I got a little money but I need a little more / Damn, somebody’s knockin’ on my front door / Some guy in a shirt and tie, is it homicide or FBI / Does he have a warrant for Joseph Foreman? / Oh: you’re a Mormon”. Admittedly, not top-drawer stuff, but it goes down smooth due to the greatness of the original hook and the fact that drug-dealer paranoia is always funny. (Plus he invites the Mormon dude in, presumably to talk more about God. And maybe get blunted too.)
Better is the next song, “Let’s Get High Tonight”. The beat is just flat-out machine-sexy, Afroman’s bluesy guitar solo is easy to digest, the whole ethos of the song can be summed up in the title, and I can see a whole crowd singing along to the chorus. The fact that the crowd I see in my mind is the all-white fratboy crowd pictured in the CD booklet is kinda beyond the point, really, or maybe not, I don’t know. I just have to admire anyone who has a track called “West Coast Rap” (all about how he likes West Coast rap), or a dude who can do a song called “Airport” about flying being a pain: “FAA stands for Fuck African Americans”. (This song also disses Arab-Americans, and he scores no points on “Leaving California” for complaining about there being too many Mexican-Americans there.)
So it so far sounds like I’m praising a record with a whole bunch of negatives, and that’s true. But it all makes sense on “What If”, where Afroman and the legendary E-40 (the album’s only guest) rather boredly trade lines about all their worst fears. And it all makes sense when Afroman takes Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonite” to its logical conclusion: a tasteless X-rated blow-by-blow account of the sex that couple had after they came home from the party that she took so long to get ready for. (Leave it to Afro to create a track that even Howard Stern would be embarrassed to play on his show.) And it makes sense on “Girlz”, when he sums up all Camille Paglia arguments in a single couplet: “Feminists hate my guts / But you’re gonna love deez nutz”.
Oh, forget it, this record just isn’t very good by any critical standards whatsoever. But it’s fun sometimes to turn off the brain and just let someone with no shame at all make a fool of himself on a record. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s got nothing to it, it’s not interested in revolutions, the only thing it’ll soundtrack is some college kids getting high. And it is the most defiant statement of individuality of the year. He just doesn’t give a fuck what I, or you, or anyone thinks. That’s balls, y’all.
// Notes from the Road
"Josh Ritter kicks off a string of summer U.S. shows with rousing free performance at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival.READ the article