From the sound of things, Wales is a pretty boring place. Sure they’ve got the Super Furry Animals and the Manic Street Preachers, but they’ve also got… um. You know, I can’t think of anything.
Only a resolutely dull place could have given birth to the Goldie Lookin’ Chain collective. These guys sound as if they haven’t had anything to do but sit around, get drunk and act stupid for quite a while. Their music is the result of a lifetime’s worth of in-jokes and shared anecdotes, with the somewhat breathless effect of being stuck in a cramped basement apartment with a fuzzy fifth-generation cassette-tape copy of Doggystyle playing in the background and the atmosphere thick with cheap pot smoke and the rancid smell of cheaper beer. In the end, this could either be mind-numbingly stupid or deliriously brilliant.
But is it possible for it to be both?
This is something of a novelty, but it is a sincerely felt novelty. None of the eight members of the GLC posse who appear on this record will ever be mistaken for a lyrical genius—their rhymes are just about as awkwardly stilted as is possible while still managing to rhyme. But dammit, they’re having fun, and the fun is infectious. Many times, similarly “fun” bands end up calculated or annoying—the Bloodhound Gang is a great example of this phenomenon—but the GLC don’t sound like they’re doing anything so much as trying to crack each other up in the studio.
Take, for instance, a track like “Your Mother’s Got a Penis”. The rapping, such as it is, is primitive, so loose as to almost be non-existent, barely making it to the precarious rhymes placed at the end of each line. What is important, however, is building an incredibly elaborate musical edifice out of the very simple purpose of telling someone his mother is ugly. Do I need to go on about how people see the tip of your mother’s dong when she wears a short skirt? No, because they do it for me. These are the only rappers in the world who would brag about having a homosexual experience simply to freak out their crew (“It was purely accidental ‘cause she got me real drunk, / And she made me kiss her elephant trunk”).
They seem to get as much enjoyment out of exploding the myths of the music business as insulting each other. The album opens with “Self-Suicide”, an ode to the effects of death on album sales:
“Committing suicide to announce my career, /
It worked for Biggie and Tupac Sha-keer, /
Jesus was nailed up to some wood, /
Two thousand years later book sales are still good.
Then there’s “Guns Don’t Kill People, Rapper Do”, which claims that “rap is more deadly than fucking Kung Fu”. The track name-checks all the violent and anti-social things they’ve learned from listening to rap records (“Cypress Fucking Hill taught me to make a fucking bong”).
If it sounds like they leave off with a comparatively somber note, with “Time to Make a Change”, it’s only in comparison with the steadfastly silly tone of the rest of the album. It may sound like a paean to the virtue of having a crew and staying off the streets, but then you listen a little bit closer and you realize that they’re still taking the piss, mocking all the self-serious rappers who speak at exhaustive length about how rapping saved their lives and how their crew means the world to them. It’s funny because the GLC are only gangster rap icons in their fantasies, and their constant self-mythologizing is about as funny, once you get the hang of it, as that of P. Diddy or Dr. Dre. The only difference is that those latter artists have the gall to say these things with a totally straight face, with seemingly no awareness of how absurd it all is in the first place.
If the Streets and Dizzee Rascal came along to convince people that British hip-hop wasn’t an oxymoron, the Goldie Lookin’ Chain are intent on reminding everyone just how absurd it is for a bunch of pasty white boys to be frontin’. I don’t know if this is going to stand up as well as the Beastie Boys’ License to Ill, and I’d be seriously surprised if the GLC actually got around to making a Paul’s Boutique, but I do know that this is a funny album. It may not be funny tomorrow, but for the time being I’m laughing.