James Pants's Welcome

Inconsistent exuberance from a flexing youngster

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James Pants
Welcome
Stones Throw
Apparently, Spokane, Washington’s James Pants—the hyperkinetic beatmaker and latest Stones Throw personality experiment—first landed an internship with Peanut Butter Wolf’s L.A. label after approaching Wolf at a rave that Pants attended immediately after his own prom. (He even brought his date.) It’s fitting, then, that Welcome plays like that special night’s hotel-room follow-up: Pants whips out his bag o’ tricks (and ill-advisedly tries a few more he’s only read about) in an enthusiastic but awkward attempt at seduction. The result is impressive genre prowess—especially when he invites Austin unknown Deon Davis (a/k/a Element 7d) to contribute some post-rap boogie on “Crystal Lite,” or rips off Wham’s “Everything She Wants” on “I Choose You”—but Pants might still be flexing prematurely. Indeed, after a strong first act culminating with the electric Slip ’N Slide of “Cosmic Rapp,” Welcome hits a long stretch of deadly sameness. From the Bronx-flavored tribal-wave “We’re Through” to the interstitial rainbow abstractions of “Prayers of the People,” Pants’s experimentation succumbs to bland self-indulgence and cheesy sound effects (a bomb’s whistle-and-boom, a lawnmower starting, etc.). The big beat of “Finger on the Knife” wakes up the proceedings in time for a brisk outro run (not coincidentally bringing Deon Davis back into the fold—the two have an undeniable chemistry) that finds its focus within a certain bombastic keys-and-breaks swagger. Pants plays every instrument on Welcome, and his giddiness pays off with wide-grin surprises, as in the unexpected wah-wah hops of “Good Things.” But Stones Throw’s business model lately has rightly focused more on the roster’s unique personas —Guilty Simpson’s slacker-rap myth-building has been handled thus far with elegant savvy—and Pants needs to find himself quickly. Prom night is long gone.
 
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