Federation: Its Whateva

It's Whateva

Put on your thizzle shoes, Earth people, for this is where hyphy finally ghostrides out the Bay and goes worldwide. Okay, you can only ghostride so far, but It’s Whateva is that good, a local scene busting out its beats and hedonism in order to knock the planet out of its ridiculous orbit. This is not just a party disc, it’s a rousing, brilliantly conceived, hard-hitting groove record that tags up all your emotions, from lusting after women, to lusting after cars, to aiming some well-directed abuse at the Bush administration. There’s also one song that might influence your college-application process.

After Keak da Sneak invented the word, the Federation put hyphy on the sonic map with the classic single “Hyphy” from their debut Federation the Album in 2004. It’s Whateva is only their second record, though you’ve probably heard ’em guesting on E-40 tracks and other Yay Area productions in the intervening years. Goldy, Stresmatic, and Dooniebaby are the not-so-young gas-brake dippers here, and their witty, dirty flow stanks with the authority of ethanol while conjuring the trickster wit of the late Mac Dre. Producer Rick Rock is the one you should congratulate first for this nonstop drunken-master thizz-dance that careens from post-crunk, to R&B Dramamine, to screamo-rock, to gospel (!) for eighty short minutes.

We’re all familiar with Rick Rock’s sonic prestidigitation from his various E-40 productions, not least last year’s My Ghetto Report Card, but this is different. He’s not dealing with a singular personality, but a trio of bumping egos, and so his rich sonic landscape leans heavily over and into the rhymes, a busy soundscape of claps, scratches, beats, keybs, melodies, and slowmo growls. It’s Whateva lives up to its title, a seemingly randomized batch of bristly genres, and so the “flow” really is schizosonic, just how I like it. But the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. This is the apotheosis of hyphy, a celebration of Yay area hedonism that’s in perfect sync with the fin de Bush era. The overall effect is the Ying Yang Twins crossed with the Coup. It’s hard, retro, resourceful, horny, and hilarious.

There is a forewarning here, recited by a dorky corporate-sounding type. “This album is intended for those who ride with their doors open, blow purple, wear oversize sunglasses — excuse me, stunner shades — gold teeth, dreadlocks, go dumb, and scream, ‘like what’.” After consulting various hyphy glossaries, I concluded that even though I do sometimes state “like what” in a normal speaking tone, I’m still not among this record’s intended demographic. Like I care!

This goofy warning bleeds right into an opening track, “Playtime’s Over”, which put me out on the floor immediately with its hard beat and rousing chorus, which I have yet to transliterate correctly. It’s the sound of a big black Borg cube tromping slowly east in order to flatten the Governator’s mansion. Or driverless whips bouncing like gazelles down your street. Or Ma Rainey’s ghost twisting your scrote and warning you off the sour apple drinks. Are you feeling it?

The Feds continues that party with some dirty unforgettable grooves, punctuated by a soundscape of a can of 18 Dummy getting slurped or a fly being unzipped. “18 Dummy” is actually an old (as in, fourteen months old) single, a retro-electro-funk ditty about some sort of energy drink, which may or may not include Tequila 1800. Yeah, it’s definitely tequila. You can smell it on ’em here. The excellent halitosis leads you into “Get Naked You Beezy”, with its obligatory refrain-shouted-by-a-toddler, and “College Girl”, a song of pure gratitude for the “knowledge” one might acquire from undergraduate women at a wide variety of universities (but only Howard U. also features blowing purple). Though this track does conclude with a student trying to talk with a penis in her mouth, it’s mostly just horny and hilarious, featuring none of that “disrespecting bitches” which was promised at the album’s outset. More like a male-gaze Dr. Seuss crossed with a dirty Peterson’s Guide.

There’s plenty of lust here, but forget about saltshakers and skeet-skeeting. This is cockwarming (if not heartwarming) stuff. The R&B floor-packer “Happy I Met You” is practically puppy love. “You hate the police/I hate the police/We got something in common/Ain’t that sweet.” Come to think of it, that one’s literally puppy love since Snoop Dogg shows up for a few rhymes, even promising once again to do it like his “grandpappy”. Even better is “She Go”, reminiscent of late-period Funkadelic with its melodic chorus and bed-squeak Roland synths. Plus whoever sings that chorus (Dooniebaby? Marty James?) evokes nothing less than the late Philippé Wynne. This being hyphy, there are also some great love songs to cars. “Scraper 2 a Benz”, practically a snap song, gets more hilarious as the scraper-porn gets more practical, in an auto-repair sense. “My Rimz” is mellower, sunnier and glorious. “My car look just like a big Jolly Rancher”. Be thankful for what you got, indeed.

It’s Whateva concludes with a gripping, epic series of songs that take you on a bicephalic journey through their deepening mindscape. “Black Roses” (featuring Travis Barker on skins) is a berserk, guitar-driven noise fest yanked off its hinges by that twitchy chorus of space angels. If you thought “Playtime is Over” was unusually hard, this actually takes them damn near into Blood Brothers territory. Following upon this cochlea-shattering business are two… well I guess you could call them ballads. “When I Was Yo Man” is humid southern nostalgia and regret sung (!) with serious soul and intuition by Dooniebaby, who is obviously channeling drunkadelic circa-1972 Fuzzy Haskins. “Fly Away” is the Fairfield cousin to the Coup’s “My Favorite Mutiny”. It’s a goose-pimply, gospel-hooked joint with a solid, angry escapist message. “Why George Bush be acting like that?/Maybe it’s because Louisiana eighty percent black”, they spit, as the Walter Hawking Choir puts that beautiful chorus aloft. “I wish I was a bird, so I can soar away from here.” A surprising track, is this one. Put it in your shuffle and see how you react when it shows up.

It don’t end there though. “Bang Bang” is a rousing communal hyphy throwdown featuring… lessee here… five, six, seven… seven guest rappers. And “Break Your Face” is another “rock” track with more of an epic Metallica stylee. Yeah, you heard me right.

Thus ends one of the year’s great records, a dizzying, propulsive celebration of 2007 from a charismatic crew who know how to thizz-dance their way into immortality. I’ve never ghostridden a whip, myself, but my impression from looking at the videos is that it’s a different ride every time out. Sometimes you tumble to the ground then chase the box Chevy to the fence. Sometimes you go all Gene Kelly on your hood for 1.3 miles straight. There’s no predicting your ghostride experience. That’s how this album works. You just need to open that door and get your metaphorical ass onto the scraper hood, see how it sounds from there. Me, I’m still up there, pal, until the seismologists call me down.

RATING 9 / 10
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