Fun hip-hop with a few missteps
Hip-hop, save a few artists here and there, has always taken itself too seriously. But it’s not any one person’s fault. All of the involved parties, from the fans to the rappers, are equally to blame. For example, groups like Jurassic 5 are dismissed as catering to white audiences for their fun-loving, non-threatening ways. Even hip-hop pioneer Biz Markie is pigeonholed by fans today for having that song people dance to at their weddings; “Just a Friend”, if you weren’t sure.
Enter PPT, a trio of Texans looking to make hip-hop fun and interesting again. And if Denglish, the group’s second Idol release, is any indication, they are succeeding. All three members – Picnic, Pikahsso, and MC Tahiti – share the mic and don faux-English accents for this concept album that seems to tell the story of Brits falling in love in Dallas. Or maybe it’s about falling in love with the city itself, which doesn’t seem too far off since the album title is an amalgam of Dallas and English.
Much of PPT’s music could be filed under hip-hop, although it’s anything but traditional boom-bap. The conventional aspects are there, such as the drums and loop-driven melodies. But PPT infuses funk (“Jubilee (‘til the sunlight)”), soul (“Who’s That Girl”) and nearly everything else under the sun (“Save It for Another Day”) into Denglish. Don’t count them out as another Gnarls Barkley imitator, though, because that would be both lazy and inaccurate. Lazy because genre-bending artists are always being lumped together even though there are few similarities. And inaccurate because even though Denglish is enjoyable, it’s nowhere near St. Elsewhere or The Odd Couple.
Perhaps a more apt comparison would be earlier De La Soul. You know, when they were flower-shirt wearing bohos rapping about magic numbers and filling their albums with goofy, borderline cheesy, skits. But PPT rarely hits the level of 3 Feet High and Rising. But where Gnarls and De La succeeded in their eclecticism, PPT falls a bit short. Standouts like the infectious “Masterbook Theater” approach De La’s knack for amusing, and ultimately topnotch, music. But it’s a fleeting notion. Unfortunately for PPT, the weaker tracks on here lessen the album’s cohesive appeal. Those lacking songs make it difficult to sit through the album’s 67 minutes without skipping around.
As much as you have to give credit for PPT for branching out, their more refined tracks are the focal point of Denglish. Like “Masterbook Theater”, “Higher” and “To Me Mum” are two more straightforward hip-hop tracks that show the trio’s true potential. “Higher” is one of the album’s best with its catchy hook and excellent production while the moving “To Me Mum” still bangs in its sincerity. That being written, there are some stellar experimental tracks. The pseudo-trip-hop “Jubilee (‘til the sunlight”) is mesmerizing and “Drive 2 Rochester Park” is a smooth instrumental, and both demand your attention.
The true magic of this album is in its ability to make the listener feel good. The jazzy grooves, witty lyrics, and funky beats might not propel PPT to the top of the charts, but those qualities more than warrant a listen. The concept of having fun is alive and well on Denglish. And here’s hoping it doesn’t go unnoticed.
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// Sound Affects
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