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Hot Karl: The Great Escape

Stephen Stirling

Hot Karl is a white-rapper from the suburbs with a kitschy name, and doesn't fit the image mainstream rap is presenting right now, or likely will any time in the future.

Hot Karl

The Great Escape

Label: Headless Heroes
US Release Date: 2005-07-12
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate

UrbanDictionary.com definition for: Hot Karl

1. Any part of sex in which faeces from one partner is found on the other, regardless of the technique.
While you were sleeping, I snuck into your sister's room and hot-karled her.

2. A form of assault in which the assailant proceeds to fill a tube sock with his own faeces, to ready himself to engage in fierce guerrilla action.
Brandon is such a moron, let's hot-karl him after school today.

3. A white rapper from the San Fernando Valley.
Hot Karl is a pretty good rapper.

Hot Karl's got it tough. He's a talented emcee, and despite the first impression when you see his name, the story of his career and the origin of "Hot Karl" is equally impressive.

Early in his career Hot Karl, born Jensen-Gerard Karp, was participating in an emcee battle. As Karp began his impressive freestyle, some of the other emcees backstage joked that Karp was 'dropping a hot karl' all over his competition. The definition they were thinking of, for those not up on their deviant terminology, can be found above.

Hot Karl went on to build a local reputation, at one point winning A Los Angeles radio station's "Roll Call" freestyle competition 30 nights in a row to become their all-time champion. He was signed to Interscope Records in 2000, and was being touted as the next white rapper to blow up big. The likes of Redman and Mya slated to appear on the album, which was being produced with the help of Limp Bizkit member, DJ Lethal.

But Karp began to feel like he was losing creative control, marketed as nothing more than a gimmick that was being molded into a corporate image, and fled the deal. The sad thing is, he was right. Hot Karl is a victim hip-hop's amoral business culture, and what's worse, he may end up not being able to escape it in his career.

Hot Karl is a white-rapper from the suburbs with a kitschy name, and doesn't fit the image mainstream rap is presenting right now, or likely will any time in the future. Record labels don't care about passion, the story behind your funny name, or how driven you are. You can't sell passion and drive, that is, unless it comes with a near mortal wound or a wrongful imprisonment.

This doesn't change the fact that Hot Karl is good, and fans of truly talented battle emcees will hopefully continue to seek out talent like his. His response to his brief debacle with BMI is the aptly titled, The Great Escape. The album doesn't sport the likes of Method and Red, but nonetheless is a solid collection of tracks that center around the problems within the industry that has been taking shots at Hot Karl's ego.

Hot Karl's rhymes are all fairly solid; his years performing as a battle emcee have benefited him in that respect. However, the production on the album is shaky and doesn't support him the way he needs to be. His backing beats tend to be weak and often wander out of the realm of hip-hop and into a more pop-oriented framework.

Karl's cathartic honesty on several of the tracks highlight the album's stronger points. They provide a window into the life of a struggling emcee, pigeon-holed by the industry, and the forces stacked against him. Many of his verses, like those on "I've Heard" (I've heard I can't relate because I never sold drugs / Like every rapper out there really did grow up as a thug / Because of this divide I know my passion's slowly dieing / Only 'cos these popular emcees keep lyin'), are also poignant reflections on his dealings with a major record label and how the experience is wearing on his soul.

It's hard to say whether or not the The Great Escape would have been a vastly different album with more funding and a stronger team of mentors. Such benefits worked out for the likes of Eminem, whose shadow Hot Karl can't seem to dodge, but Mr. Mathers succumbed to the forces Karl was trying to escape. The album as it stands is good, but has room for improvements, and time will tell if Hot Karl gets the cash flow to give him the opportunity to make them.

Maybe the Red Cross can start a national fund for struggling battle emcees. Spare a dime?


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