While they might have been trend setters back in the 80s, 4AD has mostly been riding off their established reputation in recent years. It was nice of them to expand beyond indie rock when they signed dubstep artists Joker and Zomby a couple of years ago, and I assumed after watching neither of those artists deliver anything of note (especially, the former – who sort of bombed it) they would just reverted back to indie rock. Nope – they’re branching out further – and I’m extremely impressed about how fast they swooped down and shot this guy an email after he gained notoriety when he both guest-featured and produced a track on A$AP Rocky’s cloud rap-spearing LiveLoveA$AP just the year previous. I mean, I guess the rapper-label combination isn’t that far out if you consider cloud rap as hip-hop’s equivalent of dream pop, which was 4AD’s pride and joy for many years (ie. Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil).
That being said, I’d call this a bit of a wasted opportunity. The first effort from the first ever – ever! –rapper signing onto an independent label (even one as oxymoronically major as 4AD) is both decidedly half-assed (most of this has been culled from previous mixtapes, just with some polishing with newfound money) and impregnable (no singles of any kind, vowels in the song titles replaced with consonants to give it some Greek feel or other). Moreover, SpaceGhostPurrp just isn’t entertaining enough on the microphone to be able to carry a 60-minute album without a single guest feature. Taking after southern contemporaries (think: Big K.R.I.T. or Clipse), SpaceGhostPurrp decides that a single line can be repeated until it qualifies as a chorus – but while some of them do manage to work, a lot of the repetition within songs verge into realms of utter obnoxiousness. His rapping leaves a lot to be desired; on “Elevate,” he says, “My sequel is something similar to an eagle / Flyer than most, in the sky, Evel Knievel,” and I’m left thinking “Really? You couldn’t rearrange it into something less awkward-reading like, ‘My sequel is something similar to an eagle / In the sky, I’m flyer than most, like Evel Knievel?’” Elsewhere, on 7-minute “No Evidence” (fair warning, at least half of which is devoted to repeated hooks), he disregards cohesiveness to make rhymes, “How you fucking live like a rebel / Power over basic minds, you just a pebble / Treble” – what? – or disregards flow for the same purpose, “Win…now I shall begin / Start a raging storm with the Phonk from within” – yeesh. Oh, and his subject matter (he’s currently fucking your girl and he’ll stab you in your eye with his lit joint if you try do anything about it) seems like he hasn’t heard a single rap song released in the naughties.
Negativity aside, there’s still a good half of these tracks worth keeping. “Mystikal Maze” (or, “Myztikvl Myzxx,” if you prefer SpaceGhostPurrp’s stylizations) uses a wonderful beat comprised of what sounds like a drum loop from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s “Enola Gay” with a backdrop of screams that are meant to “represent hell’s grounds” (though I could do without the outro, where SpaceGhostPurrp repeats “It’s all about power” for what feels like forever – true hell right there). On the other hand, “Bringing Tha Phonk”’s hook manages to work because of the way it’s layered into a sizable crescendo, and you’ll find yourself repeating the words with SpaceGhostPurrp (“I’m keep bringing the phonk (Phonk!) / Nigga, I’ma keep bringing the phonk (Phonk!) / And you niggas can’t stop me” – deep stuff. The added female moans are actually a nice touch because they’re not as overpowering as other hip-hop artists who choose to make the unnecessary sex tracks (Big K.R.I.T. was guilty of this earlier that year). Unfortunately, “Suck a Dick 2012” – the imaginarily named sequel to “Suck a Dick for 2011” uses the same pornographic sounds. It’s not a bad song, it’s just a shame it had to follow so closely to “Bringing Tha Phonk.” Similarly, “Osiris of the East” and “Get Yah Head Bust” are powered by the same trick and placed too close to each other for comfort. Elsewhere, “Grind On Me” features a moving keyboard line and SpaceGhostPurrp vaguely harmonizing on top of it for the repeated hook; “Don’t Give a Damn” rides on a piano that sounds like it’s being played from a locked room in the house and “Raider Prayer” – which could stand to shave a minute or two – features an actual melody in the hook!
It’s hard not to imagine what Mysterious Phonk: The Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp would have been had he gone through the effort of actually writing some choruses if he’s going to have them at all, ironing out the verses from his mixtapes or called up a few friends to help out (even if he’s not talking to A$AP anymore, he could still have called on anyone in his Raider Klan, despite being as if not more unimpressionable on the microphone as he is).