SoCalled Ghettoblaster

[JDub; 2007]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: hip-hop Klezmer, Yiddish, found sound
Others: {Caddyshack II}-era Jackie Mason, MC Paul Barman, McEnroe, RJD2

Jewish emcee/producer SoCalled teeters atop the Carlos Mencia-memorial wall separating subversive self-deprecation and hackneyed parody. Though the two sides can sometimes commingle, they're usually mutually exclusive in hip-hop, where schlocky skits and rappers' ids run amok have long been the downfall of many a would-be opus. But for SoCalled, humor isn't as much a defense mechanism against the racial/ethnic biases of hip-hop as it is part of a process of self-definition. Sure, dude's a little too cheeky at times, but it's just one aspect of an artist and album that're both charmingly inventive and maddeningly eclectic.

SoCalled thrives at mashing together Klezmer harmonies and samples with souped-up hip-hop rhythms. The maddening “Rece Cice” bursts with accordions and horns across skittish drum patterns, while “Heart Attack Pattern” begins with a piano standard before launching into a familiar lament about not gettin' any. After Ghettoblaster hits these notes a couple of times, however, the gimmick starts to wear thin. It certainly doesn't help that SoCalled's elementary wordplay (Masturbate, don't fornicate/ Salivate, never satiate) takes center stage on some of the album's best bits of sonic pastiche (“(These Are The) Good Old Days”). There's a real crate-digger's sensibility throughout, though, and you're not likely to hear anything like Ghettoblaster all year.

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