By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
" 'Cause I got high, 'cause I got high, 'cause I got hi-igh, ya-da-da-da-dada!" If you haven't yet heard the yodeled refrain of Afroman's comic paean to the perils of puffing, the rock you live under must live under a rock. The song rolls with the final credits of Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Backmy condolences to anyone who suffered that chunk-blower long enough to hear itbut "Because I Got High" was in the air long before the movie opened. As "wacky" as anything any top-40 morning zoo crew will ever come up with, the sing-along is climbing Billboard's rock, r&b, and pop charts. And now that MTV's apprehension about airing its spliff-laden video has been eased with a few edits, Afroman will likely be kicking Little-T and One Track Mike's ass all over America's dorm rooms in no time. "Because I Got High" is, as many an Afro'd man used to say back in the day, "the joint" at the moment. But it's already been tagged this year's "summer" song (read novelty; read Afro-who? by Christmas), and Universal Records, by plastering "Because I Got High" across the top of Afroman's clearly rushed debut, The Good Times, has cruelly articulated his one-hitter status. Still, anyone feeling sorry for ol' Fro can take comfort in the following, mostly fabricated, scenario.
Afroman, as his name kinda hints, is a hero. His archvillain, Universal, is an evil empire bent on conquering the world with an army of bling-blinging Southern and Midwestern rappers. First, Cash Money from New Orleans, then Nelly and Co. from St. Louis. Just last year, though clueless about how to low-ride his vato-ass into mainstream radio, Universal drafted South Park Mexican out of Houston. ("Will they stop at nothing?!") Afroman, originally a Los Angeles native, relocated to quiet Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to subvert Universal's wicked scheme: sign anything that moves units. He sparked a local buzz with some of his homegrown material, and as expected, Universal minions appeared in a cloud of red smoke to claim him as one of their own.
At first listen, The Good Timesplays as amateurishly as you might expect considering its hurried, conscienceless origins. Without the benefit of even a Mannie Fresh, a Timbaland, or any musically adept sidekick, Afroman is left to support his clownish, old-school rapping and warped doo-wop with a basic arsenal of guitar, drum machine, and pilfered influences. ("Hey, Afroman, Too $hort's on the phone! He wants his shtick back.") Specifically, "Crazy Rap," with its rudimentary bass, handclaps, and punchline-heavy tales of worldwide sexual conquest, is just $hort's "Cocktales," international-style: "I met this lady from Japan/Never made love to an African," he boasts. "I fucked her once, I fucked her twice/I ate that pussy like shrimp-fried rice." And so on. Afroman follows "Crazy Rap" with the equally crass "She Won't Let Me . . . " and the hazily blasphemous "Hush," thus affecting a convincing smokescreen of utter immaturity.
The rest of The Good Timesrevolves around Afroman slinging yay and inhaling his profits, but he laces his crop with something few of his high-living rap peers care for: clear-cut consequence. Universal publicists calling "Because I Got High" a "cautionary" tale reek of bullshit until Afroman goes penniless because of his ganja addiction in "Tumbleweed." And then sweats his drinking problem in "Let's All Get Drunk": "I hope I don't wreck when my vision gets blurry, sober up looking at an all-white jury." "Palmdale," the collection's grimmest offering, is a semi-autobiographical anti-drug, stay-in-school anthem where Afroman sits in a lonely jail cell and laments getting an "F-plus in basic math." The 10 tracks on The Good Times aren't much of a 12-step programhe never suggests just saying "no"but he seems to care enough about the kids to countermand his record label's capitalist, materialist directives. Now, doesn't that make you feel good? Or, at least, better about loving that stupid song?