Look, knowledge is great. Books are awesome. Bettering yourself, finding peace in God, spreading the love — all good things. But sometimes an outward expression of these things doesn’t transform well into music. Especially when you work under the impression that your deep new state of consciousness will simply flow out of you without any effort. It’s a romantic notion that lots of rappers (reportedly) love to subscribe to — the idea that the only pure artistic outpouring is off-the-cuff, no pen, no pad. For Stones Throw (Madlib) artist Dudley Perkins, he had a pen and a pad, but for Beautiful Mindz he “[wrote] away from himself”, says producer 2Tall, “[on] a page that was turned upside down.” I don’t know what that means, but 2Tall goes on to effuse: “creatively it just flowed.” Red light.
The gist of Beautiful Mindz can be summed up by a non-sequitorial xxlmag.com comment on the DJ Drama RIAA bust: “MFs aint even ready for 2012, son.” Perkins, similarly, is convinced the world is going to end in 2012 on the last day of the Mayan calendar. 2Tall and Perkins’ first collaboration, in 2005, was “Atall”, a track included on Beautiful Mindz. Over an appropriately spacey beat by 2Tall, Perkins doesn’t so much rap as freestyle talk about the end of the world: “2012 is approaching fast / Take this how you have to / Or don’t take it at all / Our times are growing small”. The rest of the album follows “Atall”’s blueprint: new-age jazz beat, fellow Stones Throw artist Georgia Ann Muldrow’s soulful backing vocals, and Perkins, front and center, “flowing” about supreme space knowledge.
Maybe its due to Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, the myriad new books out tackling the controversial subject, or because the date really is approaching, but other rappers, including Canibus on his recent album For Whom the Beat Tolls (the cover of which features Canibus crawling in the Egyptian desert towards a lone, shining, mic), have been trying to enlighten the masses about the impending date. It’s mind numbingly stupid. Lets not get into the actual, convoluted, quasi-technical aspects of 2012 — the aligning of the sun and the Milky Way, the shifting of magnetic poles, or the misuse of the calendar’s predictions by modern agenda-holding soothsayers. Everyone seems to have different interpretations of the date (and I’ll no doubt get at least a few angry e-mails because of this review), and thankfully, Perkins doesn’t try to get too deep.
Lyrically, most of Beautiful Mindz skims the surface of 2012 lore, concerning itself mainly with the ideas of love, future preparation, and spiritual awaking: it’s incredibly embarrassing, full of lines that would make even the firmest, cross-legged supernatural devotees blush. For example: “I’m smashing through the fabric of time and space / Next stop / The human race”, and “You are a timeless vibration of ever-loving light / Shine bright”. Perkins no doubt believes his words are life changing, full of cosmic knowledge that he, gloriously, was given the task of transmitting, if only people would listen and soak up his positive energy. His intentions seem pure and his cause noble, but his presentation fails on every level. “We gave you this entertainment for your enjoyment”, Perkins says on the album outro, and he couldn’t be more wrong. At no point does Beautiful Mindz come off as entertainment, but more like a half-cocked jam session between three musicians, stoked off esoteric theories used as an impetus to preach for personal change. Also, its not enjoyable.