Last year, the most visible members of the disparate Chicago enclave of rappers, producers, singers, and visual artists known as SaveMoney embarked on distinct journeys to the outskirts of common-practice hip-hop. Vic Mensa surprised with his snaking, house-inflected hit “Down On My Luck” and Chance the Rapper formed his own personal Illinoisemakers, developing the strain of symphonic pop-R&B he most effectively prototyped on Acid Rap‘s “Good Ass Intro”. Kami de Chukwu and Joey Purp—usually third and fourth-billed on the SaveMoney roster—charted a more wayward course, one which has gone largely unnoticed outside of Chicago, even as Chance and Mensa’s stars have risen. Dead-set against self-seriousness, Kami and Joey’s collaborative project, Leather Corduroys, is something of an unholy inversion of Chance’s recent experiments in genre-warping: Drawing on everything from outré indie pop to regional street rap idioms to Funkadelic, the duo’s often experimental music is fragmented and arch in attitude, instead of ultra-populist and grandiose.
On their debut full-length Season, Kami and Joey show little regard for honoring anyone’s definition of a hot rap record, or indeed for making hip-hop at all. When “verses” crop up, they are spare and gutted, like traditional sixteens that have been submitted to random subtractive processes (“Breadwinner, breadwinners, breadwinner/ Money sandwiches/ Cheese, bread and lettuce/ Let us all get it, we got it/ You better catch up with us”). The leftover bullet points—more based on matching attractive word sounds than logical syntax—are adorned with playful references (see the bromide of exaggerated Kanye flows on “In Da Club” and “Remember Me”). The approach is a far cry from the comparative pyrotechnics of their SaveMoney posse cuts, solo mixtapes, and formative Meth and Red-style collabs, but often engaging.
On Twitter, Joey used the metaphor of blurring imaginary lines to articulate a partial mission statement for the group. The image seems applicable not only to Leather Corduroys’ propensity for juggling and reimagining styles, but to a blurring of the divide between irony and sincerity that’s inherent to their music. From the detuned Ariel Pink capering of “My Good Girl” to the overdriven rap-rock of “Developers” (structured around the screamed refrain “N*ggas dying like it’s Baghdad in this bitch”), Season is a tough album with which to find a conceptual entry point. The first inevitable question—”What are they going for here?”—will loom large enough to alienate some listeners entirely.
Despite how risky the undertaking seems on paper, the album proves to be much more than a collection of half-jokes with short shelf-lives. With Serious Rap off the table as a posture, the raw, whip-smart musicianship of Kami, Joey, and their varied cast of producers (including SaveMoney insiders Peter Cottontale and Thelonious Martin, Odd Future traditionalists the Internet, and underrated French electro-cum-trapsmith Ikaz) is left at loose ends, resulting in music which innovates, imitates, confounds, and deliberately rankles. “Badmon”, the album’s highlight, begins with a clattering drum tattoo straight off a late-’90s New Orleans rap record, twinkling vocoder pulses (courtesy of frequent collaborator and asset Knox Fortune) and Kami calling the court to order in patois, before cutting to a bit of muscular N.E.R.D.-y funk complete with falsetto war cries. The more challenging “RMS/Launch”, another diptych, pairs an awkward rock shuffle and inscrutable nursery rhyming with what sounds like MC Ride shouting down a vaporwave-y Casio preset. But perhaps more surprising than these Zappa-esque moments is “Adios”, a rote tribute to Young Thug which uses “humina humina” as a placeholder for the polarizing Atlanta star’s usual un-Genius-able asides. The song is not a Lonely Island skit in the making, however—it’s earnest and successful pop. As with all of the best songs on the album, the key to its success is small, insistent melodic and lyrical ideas, repeated into significance.
Less than half way through the album, the hardly-there Stones Throw neo-soul of “Marijuana Smoker” is interrupted as unceremoniously as a Flying Circus skit: a door opens, and a smooth-talking entrepreneur (a kind of Italian-American answer to Bill Swerski’s Superfans) explains how to make leather corduroy pants out of dessicated banana peels, polyurethane, and mesh—in other words, without either leather or corduroy. Like this shaggy-dog monologue and the impossible process it falls short of describing, the Leather Corduroys project is an equation that doesn’t add up—a paradox apropos of nothing. The key to appreciating the music on Season is accepting that the questions it seems to raise don’t have answers, or aren’t worth asking. Moving past them allows one to appreciate the slight album’s full-bodied aesthetic, built from scrap parts and energized by Kami and Joey’s devotion to the old adage: First thought, best thought.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/15pqp1E