Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire - Brainiac Review

Years down the road, Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire's penultimate track 'The Last Huzzah!' will go down as a one-off touchstone of who's who in Hip-Hop's shaky underground. There were four features associated with the cut: El-P, Danny Brown, Das Racist, and Despot. In 2011, they were all on relative footing. Now, El-P helms festivals across the world with Killer Mike as Run The Jewels, Danny Brown finally reached his artistic plateau after making project after project, Despot continues to bemuse his cult-like followers, and Das Racist no longer exists. None of them fizzled out after 'The Last Huzzah!,' either blowing up, continuing to represent the underground, or imploding. That is, of course, ignoring Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire who never regained the traction that star-studded posse cut garnered him. By 2013, when Kismet dropped, interest was fading. By 2015, one EP and two mixtapes couldn't reestablish that spark. It's 2017 now and there is no scene in the underground for eXquire to call home. Can Brainiac, a six-track EP, and the promise of Black Jesus, announced at the conclusion of 'Manboy,' resuscitate the fading career of a Brooklyn prospect? Likely not. The times have changed, the styles have too. Almost no level of quality can counter that.

The confirmation of that mournful fact glaring after 'Manboy,' the bold and assertive lead single, and 'Lost In The Sauce,' Brainiac's emphatic opening, failed to gain any traction. In years past, with more eyes pinned on the stable underground, that wouldn't have been the case. Crushing introspection that doesn't shy from topics of suicide, failure, family ties being broken, and financial troubles gush out of 'Manboy's' four, verse-only minutes. A sparse, street-ready Boom Bap beat used as the grizzled backbone. The mature growth everyone lauded Tyler, The Creator for on his recent Flower Boy is paralleled here, as the years where drunken prostitutes and tatted asses decorating eXquire's album covers long gone. The newfound manhood is also present on Brainiac's opener 'Lost In The Sauce,' which finds eXquire rapping about a flurry of updates surrounding his life, all sewn together by glum horns and brisk hi-hats calling to life Jazz Rap's past. The strong introduction also acts as an explanation of the EP's title, using a tongue-in-cheek conversation between eXquire and his brain as the basis. Corny but comical, the discussion succinctly discloses the thematic nature of Brainiac. The resulting songs an indication of that.

eXquire, in an honest state of mind, illustrates his setbacks by either reliving them, or continuing to do so. Through a case of cause and effect, each song's overall quality correlates to the topic at hand. When eXquire intellectualizes his issues, he flourishes. When he becomes preoccupied, he doesn't. The latter can best be seen on 'Strawberry Waterfalls,' a track that impedes the momentum set before it by slowing things down and forcing eXquire to sing about love and sex. The result is about as bad as you'd expect. Then there's 'A Pigeon Ain't S**t But A Ghetto Dove,' which vexes success around the concept of inner-city terminology by investing in it so much the misogyny becomes irritable. Here, the problems arise not from the language at hand, but from the promise that eXquire moved beyond his chauvinistic ways. The remaining tracks, '40'z @ The Met Gala' and 'Bebop & Rocksteady,' fair better, as the former tackles the polarizing nature of hood rats being shown the spotlight, while the latter combats hostile territory with antagonistic one-liners. Intended as a short snippet of what's to come, Brainiac succeeds. The problems are that, much like how 90's Boom Bap and Gangsta Rap failed to transition to the new age, Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire's bad habits, musically and otherwise, did too.

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