During the late blistering Summer of 2003 an album of epic proportions was about to hit the streets. When I first gazed, while listening to the tracks, at the album cover I was mesmerized. It was a brownish color with thick pictures of diamonds and gold, in the intrusive style that your fingers could feel the lettering and the sharp edges of each diamond. Amidst the visuals was a bugged-out looking mouse, and of course his name sent me back to my childhood in Tel-Aviv. This is one of the best rap records you never heard, and unfortunately at the time most let it slip into obscurity. This is the first album where I heard the production skills of the then unknown maestro by the name of Danger Mouse. He would be matched with the lyrical prowess of a discarded Brooklyn rapper known as Jemini the Gifted One. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Ghetto Pop Life.
When I first heard the music my mind spiraled at the immense creativity while using these amazing sounds in order to magnify the lyrical massacre. The album, as I noted before was the first Danger Mouse album, where he took his first foray into rap music. Before the release of the album the Atlanta-based producer mostly delved in House and Techno music. Thankfully he challenged himself, as he keeps doing to this day thanks to Gnarles Barkley, Broken Bells, and his Italian opera album Rome, by stepping into a new genre. He managed it with a helpful hand from a seasoned vet.
On the other side of the spectrum is Jemini The Gifted One. The Brooklyn bred rapper was an up and coming rapper in the late 1980’s and into the classic addled 1990’s rap world. His first single “Funk-Soul Sensation” sparked interest across the Hip-Hop world.
The single, produced by Organized Konfusion, is a perfect time capsule of the hard beats and sick flow of 1990’s rap music. The B-Side, “Brooklyn Kids” will echo in his next classic with Danger Mouse.
The single was part of an EP titled Scars & Pain set to be released after the single. Unfortunately, much like Large Professor’s vaunted and unreleased album The LP, it was another example as Ego Trip writes “an underground record falling through the major label cracks.” They continue to add that the EP’s artwork and track listing were all set, but the labels pulled on the purse strings, leading Jemini into obscurity. This would change by the new millenium as we shall see. So let us delve into this so-called (By ME) classic record, and it all starts with the birth of the MC.
Going through the album they weave the theme of life, or rather the ghetto pop life. It seems that this contradiction flies in your face as each song personifies a mania and pop addled life amidst the trials and tribulations of ghetto life. To have Jimini deliver the ode is far more poignant as he was one of these promising talents that was passed on due to the capitalistic nature of modern-day music. Songs like “Ghetto Pop Life,” “What U Sittin’ On?” and “Don’t Do Drugs” are perfect examples of this lavish life thanks to the spoils coming through rap stardom.
Although I like the original album version, this version is interesting thanks to Cee-Lo and their future collaborations. It should also be pointed out that the Liks, Alkaholiks for all you who don’t know the short version, drop some sick rhymes in this spot like when Tash drops that if you slap me in a dream, you betta wake up and apologize. THere’s also another great guest star on two tracks that caught my eyes and ears. J-Zone drops the “fuck you pay me” attitude on “Take Care of Business” and “Don’t Do Drugs” where they wax poetic with plenty of humor.
And fantastically the last track on doing business transitions right into the place to be, Brooklyn.
The song is a diatribe of Brooklyn heat and Brooklyn streets, Brooklyn women and Brooklyn Fillings. As a resident at the time I understood these words, but it also drew me back to those wild collages of rhymes I heard when I was younger in the early 1990’s. Jimini personified those sonic-old school laden lyrics of fury.
There are also a few slow songs, but they still carry such weight with the words and sounds. Songs like “Yoo-Hoo!” and “I’ma Doomee (Love Letter)” are heart-felt love letters, but they still resonate so well as they glide along the fast and slow beats. Both tracks are unadulterated truth as they cover taboo topics and harsh realities of love.
“Yoo-Hoo!” starts with a woman saying that she was told by her mother that, “A man would fuck a snake if you hold his head.” As a response a man retorts that, “With some dudes you don’t have to hold his head, just pull out the teeth.” The humor is penetrated by the truisms of male desire, and female respect. “I’ma Doomee (Love Letter)” is also somewhat tragic as the rapper admits to infidelity while on the road. However, you can’t hold him completely accountable as his sincere love and admiration for his number 1 lady will never be broken. These are tough topics in all our love lives, and if not then we need to check ourselves.
Luckily the album is balanced with moments of humor such as the moments with J-Zone, and his track for the excess of drug use titled “Don’t Do Drugs.”
It pokes fun at the excessive partaking in chemical and natural meds that celebrities use in order to show status and escape.
In the later part of the album we hear a rise in the intensity, triggered by the sounds as well as the content of the lyrics. On the track “Medieval” with members of the great group the Pharcyde trade barbs as the chorus chants “Medieval, Medieval.”
The call to let out the hounds, let the draw bridge down, shoot the enemies of the empire are chanted as it comes to a rising halt. It reaches its height with an operatic end as it slides into the serious stuff. Here come the politics thanks to the Bush boys! Remember, the album dropped in 2003 as we were at the start of the invasion of Iraq, or the Gulf War Part 2.
The track titled “Bush Boys” is obvious in its targets, and they are targeting them hard. The track begins with President George H. W. Bush’s speech calling for a new world order. It then steps into a vicious attack on the state of affairs thanks to the Bush presidencies. He calls out the injustices and military mindedness of the US and how we pinpoint our villains, while doing the same to our own enemies. Jemini is scathing and he drops some interesting lines about the war on terrorism, the war on Iraq and one of my favorite lines being, “I never thought I would see the one day where African people would say they’re republican.” This is a jab at black conservatives and insiders like Colin Powell and Condi Rice. The track ends with the words of President George W. Bush and the conditions in Iraq. We then shift to Iraq where a day of fun and play is penetrated with missiles and explosions, which was a daily occurrence at that point in time.
It all ends with a nice “Knuckle Sandwich”
This is some Brooklyn thoughts in a Brooklyn mind, where keeps asking, “Why they wanna come at me like that?” as if to ask why weren’t we attracted to this new revolutionary rap style. It strung the old with the new, and I feel as if it was a crime for this album to fade into obscurity. Every track is perfect, and even the remixes pack a punch. This was my introduction to both Jemini and Danger Mouse, and I hope it’s a point of re-entry for all of you’ll. Enjoy it cause it’s brick city outside!!!!
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