On Rap Music: The Rap Bus’s Final Journey

Last time we heard from Geoff the Rap Bus had been blown up by Nazis, and Geoff was stuck behind enemy lines in a brutal prison, hacking Spotify and making playlists. We embarked on a rescue mission that would require the commando-ninja talents of the whole Demon Pigeon team. It went off exactly like this

We were now somewhat unwelcome in parts of the USA that looked down on this sort of violence but fortunately, there were still plenty of places happy to welcome us and our fully-automatic large-calibre machine guns with open arms (satire).

It was now a race to get out of the country before Obama and his liberal communists caught up with us and took away our guns, but we tried to visit a couple of rappers on the way. We also had to get back home before Demon Pigeon closed forever and we all turned to stone.bus gifMinneapolis: Astronautalis

After being chased out of LA by some angry villagers we headed to Minneapolis because that was the next major city with a Greggs. Astronautalis was happy to let us hide out in his mansion for a couple of days while we rested and planned our next sprint towards freedom.

When I downloaded my digital copy of this guy’s latest album from the excellent Fake Four inc. label, the genre tags said “Historical Fiction Hip-Hop.” That’s funny isn’t it? It’s funny because it’s (somewhat) true.

I don’t know about you but I really like rap songs about US Civil War battles with huge choruses and videos with vampires in them.

I also like rap songs about Dimitri Mendeleev discovering the periodic table.

And I definitely like it when rappers “go in” over piano versions of Poker Face.

So Astronautalis ticks a lot of boxes for me.

Just as we were settling into life in the Astromansion though, a brick was thrown through the window with a note attached to it that read “Please Turn Over.” I turned the note over and read: “I’m coming for you. Love from Dog.” So Dog the Bounty Hunter was now on our trail?! We had to get moving.

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New York: YC The Cynic

There then followed a high speed chase along New York Road which is the main A road between Minneapolis and New York City. We were now being pursued by angry LA villagers and this guy:

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So running away was very much a priority.

During our time in the Astromansion, Noel had managed to modify the Rap Bus using some tin foil and banana skins, enabling us to get as close to Ludicrous Speed as possible without attracting the attention of American traffic cops on cool motorcycles (55 MPH).

After another chase that involved High Octane Thrills, Edge of the Seat Suspense and a horse, we arrived at our next safe location, YC The Cynic’s pyramid fortress.

The_pyramid_fotress_by_UnidColorYC agreed to let us hang out with him for a while as long as we promised to say that he is one of the most talented and exciting young rappers around and that he has in fact already got pubes, despite what we said in our end of year round up. His first album proper after three mixtapes, 2013’s GNK, was 100% self-released and is both accessible and challenging, often cleverly subverting hip-hop tropes to add depth and complexity to the impressive delivery.

The hook to Murphy’s Law for example sounds tired and clichéd if you’re not paying attention, but listen to what YC is almost whispering in between each line and pay attention to the second verse in particular.

Similarly the hook to Negus sounds familiar to anyone that remembers the days when the likes of  DMX and Ja Rule were dominating our radios and TVs. However, the song is preceded by an interlude that sheds a whole new light on the song.

Also, best flipping of Tom’s Diner ever.

It was all very lovely inside the Pyramid Fortress but the angry villagers and Dog the Bounty Hunter had begun a siege and we were running out of pasties so we had to make a break for it again.

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Would we escape the angry mob and get back to Pigeon Towers before the gates shut forever? Well, there’s no room for a cliffhanger because we’re not doing any more of these so yes, of course we did.

However, similar to old skool Doctor Who when occasionally one of the companions would decide to stay on an alien planet, the Rap Bus decided to stay in America. Its talents were spotted by a talent spotting talent spotter and it is now enjoying a new career and unlimited Greggs sausage rolls. It sent us a video of its new job, looks pretty cool. Good luck to you Rap Bus, it’s been a lot of fun.

Pigeon Playlists: Geoff’s Prison Break-A-Thon

Well it had to happen at some point. On the way back from LA after meeting Open Mike Eagle, the Rap Bus was chased and brutally shunted by some Nazis driving a jeep, and exploded. Geoff has asked us to post the following reconstruction in the hope that some witnesses will come forward.

Geoff escaped from the bus and fought off the Nazis with bold bravery, but the local Sheriff wasn’t too impressed with his antics so until we can fix the bus again and stage an elaborate prison break, he’s stuck.

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Fortunately, being so hard and northern, Geoff has managed to become “Top Dog” almost immediately and has used his computer privileges to send us a hip hop Pigeon Playlist featuring all the rappers he’s visited in the bus and lots more.

He’s also managed to hack Spotify to divert the royalty payments from each stream into our prison break fund and away from the cash-loaded underground rappers. This can’t fail.

On Rap Music: Open Mike Eagle

Editors’ Note: It’s been a while since we last took a journey on Geoff’s Rap Bus. After a talking vegetable pasty ordered our massive wanker intrepid reporter to spend an inordinate amount of time filling in tiny boxes on pretend trading cards, the Rap Bus had a mini-breakdown, grew a stupendous beard, and has since been SORNed up on a driveway in Sheffield. While applying for SORN status, though, our thoughts drifted to imagining just how terrible a human you would have to be to buy a product like this.

taxdick It is also worth spending a few moments exploring the variety of emotions conjured by this customer review:

“The whole point of buying this holder was to have to slogan so it could be read by the council jobsworths – except they cant as the holder is designed so that faces into your car.”

Incredible.

Anyway, we decided it was time for Geoff to start earning the huge salary his agent demanded when we signed him, so we paid for the Rap Bus to be made roadworthy again, bought him a new hilarious tax disc holder (top bantz) and sent him off into the world of underground rap once again, this time to visit Open Mike Eagle.  

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A licence for this picture costs $15, so we just stole it instead.

While the Rap Bus was out of action, I spent the time perfecting my transitions from third to first person. If you get good enough at it then readers won’t even notice that you write your own intros. If I doesn’t practices enough though he get quite messy.

After a few weeks of talking to myself, and a few more weeks of Arthur Fowler style rocking I was pleased to find a plane ticket to Los Angeles on my doormat courtesy of the very generous and mysterious Demon Pigeon patrons. The Rap Bus was on the road again! (It folds up and fits into a suitcase or something so it can go on planes. Shut up.)

When I found out I was going to Los Angeles I knew straight away that I’d be going to see Open Mike Eagle because Open Mike Eagle is the best. Also I’m pretty sure he’s seriously undercharged me for shipping on that Rappers Will Die Of Natural Causes vinyl so I probably needed to buy him a couple of pints.

Open Mike Eagle is the best because he has the best rapping skills, the best lyrics, the best humour and the best song about time travelling helicopters.

He also has the best song that riffs on Frank Black’s Thalassocracy and is about being amazing at rapping but not having enough time to do it because you’re working a 9-5 job.

(I learned about the Frank Black thing from a YouTube comment. It’s amazing what you can learn from YouTube comments. I also learned that “megadeth turn to megaclown band”.)

Some of the other things that Open Mike Eagle is the best at are:

1. Having the best song about changing your password.

“Half afro and half jew-fro / I sneak around like I’m Clouseau / Got the password to your Netflix / I’m watching every Naruto”

2. Having the best song about grammatical modifiers performed live in a Laundromat

“We the best mostly / sometimes the livest rhymers / we the tightest kinda / respect my qualifiers”

3. Having the best song about being the smartest broke dude ever.

“They taught me all about metaphors / And other shit to make me smart but extra poor / Like which rivers flow through Ecuador / I got a high IQ and low credit score”

4. And of course, the best song about washing dishes.

“I’m just washing dishes / I got wet sleeves / don’t make dishes when I’m scrubbing that’s a pet peeve”

“If 50 is a millionaire / I wonder if he ever runs out of silverware / big acts fade away like Silverchair

If you like your rap music to be both intelligent and humorous with multi-layered lyrics delivered by a rapper who is at the absolute top of his craft then Open Mike Eagle is your man. If you don’t like those things, then I don’t really know what to tell you. As I sit in the Los Angeles branch of Greggs waiting for the Rap Bus to refuel I wonder if Open Mike Eagle will one day make it over to the UK to perform. I also wonder, if he were to somehow read this article, whether he would vow never to set foot in such a creepy, weird place. Anyway Mike, I probably owe you about $15 or something. Email me.

Thanks to Demon Pigeon for fixing the Rap Bus and sorting out the tickets to LA. Here are some pictures of the trip.

Me and Mike hanging out.

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Me visiting Hollywood

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Me about to land at LAX

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Pretty excited to see where the guys send me next time.

Buy Open Mike Eagle music from openmikeeagle.bandcamp.com Do it.

On Rap Music: Top Doomtrumps

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On the way home from Minneapolis after our visit to P.O.S. there occurred a rum and uncanny series of events. I’d managed to drive all of a hundred metres when Geoff’s Rap Bus spluttered to a halt outside a local branch of Greggs. Luckily the Rap Bus runs on sausage rolls instead of petrol, so in I popped, to the latest British export to take the USA by storm, in search of fuel. On the interior, the Minneapolis branch of Greggs was almost identical to the Sheffield branch of Greggs, because they don’t have a Greggs in America and I’m making this up.

The woman behind the counter pointed at me and shouted “ERMAHGERD it’s that kid that got the vegetable pasty at Damnation Fest!” After signing autographs for her children, I was invited into the back of the shop to sample a prototype vegetable pasty—named the FREEDOM POCKET—soon to be launched in my honour. As I stepped onto the hallowed ground of ‘Behind The Counter At Greggs’ the door slammed behind me, and I was alone, the autograph hunting pasty purveyor having mysteriously disappeared in a mysterious manner that I found mysterious.

Mysteriously, the room was completely dark, apart from what could only be described as a vegetable pasty sat on a plinth in the centre of the room, emitting a mysterious glow. The pasty began to address me in whatever voice you’re using to represent the pasty in your head as you read this. In mine, it sounds like Patrick Stewart on a megaphone. “How are you going to do an article about P.O.S which mentions Doomtree in a rather casual manner, and then drive your Rap Bus directly out of Minneapolis without covering the best hip hop crew since Wu Tang?” intoned the supra-natural pastry snack.

“Well, I did think of that actually,” I said, “and I thought it might be a bit much to cover the whole crew in an interesting way in one article. Also I’ve kind of already done it on another website.”

BULLSHIT!” shouted the frightening Patrick Stewart-bevoiced talking vegetable pasty in the back room of a fictitious Greggs in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “Here, take these Doomtree trading cards and put them on your stupid website that nobody reads.”

“But,” said I, “these trading cards only cover the rappers, there aren’t any for the producers, Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger.”

“That’s because I couldn’t come up with five categories for the producers to fit into this trading card template generator we found on the internet,” said the pasty. “Just tell your readers that Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger are reyt good at making beats, and embed some Youtube clips so people can hear for themselves.”

“Reyt good?”

“Yes. Shut up.”

And with that the pasty was gone (I ate the pasty), and I found myself once more at the wheel of the Rap Bus, speeding along the M1, past Meadowhall, where those cooling towers used to be, back to Sheffield. So once again I’d fallen asleep at the wheel on the motorway and dreamt about talking food. The Patrick Stewart pasty had been nothing more than a figment of my diseased and drink-addled unconscious.

But wait! What was this in my pocket? A special set of print-out-and-then-cut-out-and-keep commemorative trading cards? How fortuitous!

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P.O.S.Drumroll (prod. P.O.S.)

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SimsBurn It Down (prod. Lazerbeak)

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Cecil OtterBoxcar Diaries (prod. Cecil Otter)

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DessaCall Off Your Ghost (prod. Paper Tiger)

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Mike MictlanGame Over (prod. Paper Tiger, Turbo Nemesis)

Doomtree – Bolt Cutter (prod. Cecil Otter, Lazerbeak, P.O.S.)

“Oh! And one more thing,” came the pasty’s voice through the Rap Bus stereo, interrupting my Vengaboys cassette. “Make sure to end the thing by posting that video of the whole Doomtree crew performing Team The Best Team in a car park using the stereo in their tour van to play the beat because it’s one of the coolest things ever. Make it so. BYE!!!”

www.doomtree.net

On Rap Music: P.O.S.

It seems our first excursion into the hip hop underground—where we visited B. Dolan—was a success. Nobody got hurt, we found some interesting stuff and we all got safely home without major incident. There was that weird thing with the woodpecker on the way back but we all agreed not to talk about that, right?

As we all had such fun last time it’s time to jump on Geoff’s Rap Bus again (it’s like the Vengabus, but… well, actually it’s exactly like the Vengabus. It is the Vengabus) and head to Minneapolis, there to spend some time with the magnificent Stefon Alexander, AKA P.O.S.

P.O.S. combines the attitudes, cultures, aesthetics, sounds and influences of hip hop and punk better than anyone else. He does this because that’s who he is.

“Black man with the posture of a punk cast aside ‘cause I ain’t right” — Stand Up (Let’s Get Murdered)

POS 1

“When he found punk rock that first time

He rode either the nine or eleven bus line, it slips the mind

But that way they didn’t need to fit in

He asked if he could pull the bell and said “Ma, I wanna be like them”

Found his kin, brothers at school thinking tryna rewrite skin

Others are fools, never seen some shit like him” — Out of Category

This is not some chubber in a red cap co-opting a culture in order to secure the requisite amount of The Nookie. This is a genuine outsider, honestly combining his influences to create some of the best hip hop music around. You can find references in P.O.S. songs to Fugazi, NOFX, Mitch Hedberg, Isis, Nas, Bolt Thrower, The Big Lebowski, Iron Maiden… the list could go on for a very long time—and if you ever come across me in the pub, it will.

He’s done a song with Craig Finn from The Hold Steady, sampled Bouncing Souls, Underoath and Kill Sadie, played guitar in punk band Building Better Bombs, and is one of the founding members of outstanding Minneapolis hip hop collective Doomtree.

Not this Doomtree though:

This Doomtree:

P.O.S. has a lot of material, including four solo albums, all the stuff under the Doomtree banner, as well as side projects like Marijuana Death Squads and Four Fists, plus guest spots all over the place. We’ll concentrate on his solo stuff here, and we’ve picked something from each album as a nice little intro to your next musical obsession. Seriously, get your wallets ready.

Music For Shoplifting

This is a track from the first P.O.S. solo album Ipecac Neat which came out in 2004. There’s one bit in this song that references Refused and Spirited Away. That’s pretty cool isn’t it? P.O.S tells us what the song’s about at the end of the first verse: “This is for those who can’t pay the rent.” Rap songs about being skint and struggling with the realities of day to day existence? We’re a long way from Busta Rhymes and his Arab Money.

Key Lines:

Run out of toilet paper /Find the Sunday paper /Wipe your ass with the President

This is for them thugs /Who dealt crack, but stopped /Cause they saw first-hand what crack does

This is for all the artists /Who know their work is just a drop in the ocean /But do it anyway, hoping

This is for everybody who carries the world’s weight /But stands up straight /Put a hand up, Try to relate

P.O.S Warped Tour 2009

Half-Cocked Concepts

After a short intro, this track gets the second P.O.S. album, 2006’s Audition, off to a face shattering start. That riff! That bass! Those raps! It’s a glorious, glorious noise. P.O.S. uses this track to show off his ridiculous rapping skills, pack in a ton of film references and have a go at dull twats.

Key Lines

It’s somethin so ridiculous /Funny, so fuckin sick of this /Consistent lack of vision from children claimin they listenin

[…]

The rebels fell, embedded in brick /Ain’t no fuckin marble memorial /For pissed-off kids waitin for Death Wish VI /Like Bronson, ain’t got enough to flip his face to vigilance again

pos

Purexed

In 2009, P.O.S. released Never Better and I lost my shit for about six months, listening to nothing else and yelling in people’s faces that they needed to hear it.  (I’m still doing that four years later, to be fair.) This album is just incredible and I could have posted every single track here but I’ve forced myself to pick just one.  There simply has never been a hip hop track like this before. I must have heard this song a thousand times but I still get the chills when the drums kick in. This is one of the very rare instances when it’s perfectly cromulent to say that if you don’t like this, you need to reassess some of your key life decisions.

Key Lines

I’m trying not to slip, been trying not to lose footing /Loose land keeps that pressure on my kicks

But when I fall I tend to land like a ton of bricks /Stand like a man made of concrete and sediment

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Fuck Your Stuff

On his latest album We Don’t Even Live Here P.O.S. purposefully moved away from the guitar-based samples of previous albums but went even more punk on the lyrics. Much like B. Dolan’s Film The Police, WDELH is a product of our times, with P.O.S. angrily channelling Occupy and Anonymous to create a collection of anarchist bangers. You can imagine hearing Fuck Your Stuff in a club and shouting along to the chorus until you realise what you’re shouting, and then you shout it even louder.

Key Lines

Catch me on a mission /Pissing in some convertible tryna create some tension

Or in a book discussing Christopher Hitchens /Or how to make bombs with shit you find in your kitchen

[…]

I never cared about your bucks /So if I run up with a mask on /Probably got a gas can too

And I’m not here to fill her up, no /We came here to riot, here to incite /We don’t want any of your stuff

(It says 'Optimist', not 'Optimus')

(It says ‘Optimist’, not ‘Optimus’)

Buy all the P.O.S. stuff directly from Doomtree, and then buy all the rest of the Doomtree stuff too.

And to close this article in a pleasingly circular way, here’s P.O.S. on a track with B. Dolan:

Until next time, please debark Geoff’s Rap Bus immediately. Many thanks.

On Rap Music: B. Dolan

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We don’t judge all heavy metal by the antics of Metallica (well, not all of us, at least). Therefore it follows we shouldn’t judge all hip hop by 50 Cent et al. Why not allow me to play the role of Lou Koller, as Demon Pigeon scratches the surface of this often misrepresented genre and its attendant culture, to see what’s crawling around in the independent hip hop scene?

(NB: I once saw Lou Koller dislocate his shoulder halfway through a gig and just carry on as if nothing had happened. After the gig I noticed that someone had been sick on my leg. Draw your own conclusions.)

Hip hop is political, relevant, inspiring, fiercely DIY and punk as fucking fuck. Today we shall explore the significant body of work, and the body, of Providence, Rhode Island rapper and activist B. Dolan.

Film The Police

Let’s take an easy route in. I’m sure we’re all familiar with NWA; particularly their love letter to the boys in blue, Cannon and Ball.

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Hip hop is so self-referential at times it feels like Oroborous in a shell suit. Also, I learned about Oroborous from a rap song, so hip hop is educational too, kids! Rap songs are typically filled with references to other rap songs, and occasionally someone will even re-work an entire song, which is what B. Dolan and friends have done here, updating a rap standard to be politically and culturally relevant to contemporary times. This song came out when the Occupy movement was at its height and takes the raw anger of the original and updates it to create the perfect post-millennial protest anthem.

Key lines:

They’d rather see me in a cell /Than me and my cell with a different story to tell. /Camcorder by the dash. Next time you get stopped, /Reach for the celly if you wanna shoot a cop.

We’ve gotta’ exercise our right to shed light in the dark. /There is an army on the march that doesn’t want you to watch. /You’ve got a weapon in your pocket whether you know it or not. /We, the people, are the only real media we got.

Good stuff, innit?

RSVP

Hang on, is this a rap song about the 1984 Bhopal disaster where a chemical plant leaked 32 tons of toxic gases with an estimated death toll of 20,000 bystanders?! Is B. Dolan reading out the addresses of Warren Anderson, the CEO of Union Carbide who was responsible for the disaster but fled India without ever standing trial?!! Does that make this the most punk rock rap song of all time? I think it unequivocally does.

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Key lines:

40 tons of lethal gas leak from a factory in Bhopal /Safety catches turned off by the company boss /More than 20,000 dead and negligence was the cause /and 100,000 more were injured and stillborn /and the rat fuck to blame for it all /ain’t never had a day in court.

Supposed to be in hiding but thanks to the DMV /the location of his snake den is still public information /got with any car registration /so you ain’t hard to reach… /Run and tell the State Department: “No justice no peace!” /For the Butcher of Bhopal and all killer companies /R.S.V.P.

Which Side Are you On?

Dolan pins his colours to the mast in this one and asks you to do the same. The second verse directly addresses homophobia in hip hop. I really wish someone would do that in metal. The video contains footage of demonstrations in support of CeCe Mcdonald, a woman who survived a brutal racist and homophobic attack and was then charged with manslaughter.

Key Lines:

Who wrote the greatest lines of our generation, /but couldn’t get from under their own small-minded hate trip? /The same rappers say they’re trooping the frontlines, /and casually use the word ‘faggot’ as a punchline. /That’s not a man, that’s not a tough guy. /That is a sucker and a fraud to the culture.

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If those three songs weren’t enough to convince you that hip hop’s got more going on than jewels and ladies, B. Dolan also runs the website knowmore.org, shining a light into the shady dealings of corporations, and he’s currently on tour with Circle Takes The Square. So you know, punk rock.

Oh and what’s this? It appears to be a version of B. Dolan’s excellent Fallen House, Sunken City album entirely remixed using sludge and stoner samples.

All of B. Dolan’s material is released by the magnificent DIY hip hop label Strange Famous Records so head over to their site  or their bandcamp  and throw this week’s food money at them.

bdolan.net