Hunter S. Thompson—or maybe it was Daryl Dawkins—once avowed that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. And there’s something to be said for marginalists who can take it to the bank: That new Jurassic 5 album on Interscope swings like a Super Bowl Gap commercial. But lately the most striking cult-rappers are double-plus paint-chip-eating glow-in-the-dark boo-boo weird. In Oxnard, California’s Lootpack, producer-rapper Madlib seems like such an inveterate crate-wonk you suspect he kisses his double copies of David Axelrod’s Earth Rot good night. But on The Unseen, calling himself ‘‘Quasimoto,’’ he’s looser and screwier, an early-morning-stoned imp ruminating about poison apples and butterfly Snapple through a pitch-shifter that pushes his rhymes into a register evoking Parliamentary aquaboogie, Prince circa ‘‘If I Was Your Girlfriend,’’ Gene Ween, Rammellzee, and whip-its.
No mere bush-league Kool Keith cultivating personas in lieu of personality nor some ‘‘complex’’ rapper getting all up in his own navel, Quasimoto gets considerable mileage off some real cushy loops, and the unarguable fact that any line sounds doper when the MC is on helium. But he’s also sneakily profound, slipping in moments of phosphorescent poetry under cover of jokeness. ‘‘Good Morning Sunshine’’ concerns Aunt Emma, who ‘‘drowned in that boat on Labor Day,’’ and the Reverend who said she had it coming; ‘‘C’mon Feet,’’ all Morse-code keys and skateboard-wheel rattles, is the Last Poets lost on the way to a hustlers’ convention, stranded in the ’hood on Haunted Hill. Quas generally sounds either nervous and stunned or like he’s telling lies (over and above the fictional unleashed-id part he’s playing) just to see how we react—which presumably makes this ‘‘experimental’’ hip-hop. Plus he even adopts wisecracking alien sitcom puppet ALF as his personal demon/totem animal—just like Jerry Stahl!