PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

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
Amazon
iTunes

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?

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.