The Permanent Record

Three DJs Give You Something You Can Really Pop Your Collar To

The rapping, by a host of MCs including Main Flow, Zion I, Black Thought, and Souls of Mischief, is hard and serious, contrasting well with the rest of the music, but still too constrained by indie rap's basic emotional hush. The DJs travel the world while the MCs protect their own turf. The rapper here who breaks out of this most effectively is Talib Kweli, because he's the most easygoing and conversational while communicating the most arrogance and anger. I'm intrigued that in his lyrics he's attacking a fan of his, whose microattitudes and microdifferentiations Kweli gets precisely ("White boy with a backpack I overheard talking about how Black Star's wack and how their tracks was flat . . . Said I'm in his top five of MCs he'd love to see perform live; he said KRS was the best"); and it's really funny when Kweli retorts, "You're not a purist, you're pure SHIT." But Kweli himself falls into the same sappy moralism as the backpacker: "You don't preserve the culture, you disturb it," like that's supposed to be bad. (What's so great about the concept of "culture" anyway, given that in hip-hop the word is always used to hurt and exclude someone?) Backpackers are an easy target, and menace linked to morality makes me feel queasy—but then, making me queasy isn't necessarily bad, either, especially if there's an aesthetic payoff. Here the spoken threat—"Is hip-hop worth dying for?" i.e., if you want to battle, we'll give you a battle—plays against gentle blips, pretty flamencodelic guitar runs, a round bass, and, on the menace side, sharp, hard guitar chords.

I can envisage Triple Threat continuing to explore these creative tensions: between vocals and music, between cutting and grooving, between various DJ roles. In the skit where the guy tells the DJ to go all scratch and cut, the DJ counters that it's a club and there are lots of females here who want to party. I think Triple Threat feel both ways: They want to rock the party but also want to rock people outof their party; want to rock the groove but also want to rock us out of our groove.

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