Because human beatboxes are anomalies in the same genus as spoon-and-wineglass players, I guess it’s not surprising that the first solo album by a “vocal percussionist” arrived 16 years after Doug E. got fresh on the beatbox and the Fat Boys dumbfounded America with their bizarre postmodern doo-wop. Rahzel, a member of the Roots, is that group’s saving grace, playing a goofy Chris Elliot to their erudite T.S. Eliot with vocal cord spazz-outs that have become his trademark. (Speaking of intellectual property, Rahzel can sleep easy at night thanks to the judge who ruled in favor of the Fat Boys in a copyright infringement case, seriously stating, “A jury could find that the ‘Hugga Hugga’ and ‘Brrr’ sounds, used as lyrics in the copyrighted work, are sufficiently creative to warrant copyright protection.”)
Unfortunately, Rahzel’s wacked-out weirdness doesn’t bubble up as much as it should and, instead, he darts and weaves between the silly and serious—with the serious winning out too often. The album’s title track embodies this tension, with its straight-from-’88 cheeseball chorus that butts heads with his check-out-my-skills demeanor that is, in turn, subverted by that-dude-from –Police Academy–style sound effects.
When he isn’t engaged in larynx gymnastics, Rahzel’s haaarrrd, expressionless delivery is devoid of the whimsy and lightness that his party-rocking predecessors possessed, from Jimmy Spicer on through Slick Rick (whose cameo on “Night Riders” is a highlight of the album). Make the Music 2000 is fun, but not festive enough, insuring that Rahzel won’t transcend hip-hop by making it universal, as he soberly claims in his video bio. Frankly, I’m of fended that he didn’t pay tribute to fellow beatbox-in-arms Darren Robinson, the Fat Boys’ hefty huffer who went into cardiac arrest in 1996 after entertaining his friends by “Hugga Hugga”–ing his heart out.