Mike Ladd’s dribble of cream-of-Beat poetry flows better than the majority of hip-hop’s savant garde, having jacked Bollywood long before DJ Quik and beaten Can Ox and “Grindin'” to that toxic, ill Saddam-type shit. He’s even got his own personal mythology, situated somewhere between the Security of the First World and the Children’s Television Workshop.
The Infesticons and the Majesticons are manifestations of undie hip-hop’s collective id: down-to-earth humanists fighting materialism, ambient misogyny, the tightening of the corporate noose. The Infesticons nominally defeated the Majesticons on 2000’s Gun Hill Road, a pig pile of guest rappers and go-nowhere loops, equal parts didacticism and whimsy: the perfect underground hip-hop summation. But you can’t keep a potent cliché down. The Majesticons’ Beauty Party—second installment of a proposed trilogy—is the retort.
Beauty Party dumps what Ladd excels at—C++ encryption, creepy stalker rhythms, Afrofuturenaut ballast—for Neptunes-biting production and received thugisms. “Prom Night Party” is the Vanity 6 reunion single that never was, a collapsible bed of Nintendo beats lampooning the fascination and fear that underpin ménage-à-trois fetishes. “MajestWest Party” is letter-perfect Tupac-in-the-sunshine. “Piranha Party” is your stereotypical club banger with a degree from Bard. And on and on, flitting between indistinguishable playa-raps and missteps into all too obvious irony—like pinching the chorus from the Pet Shop Boys’ “Opportunities” on “Brains Party.”
Ladd’s essential goals are worthy, since hip-hop certainly needs its collective colon cleansed every now and again. But even as he (rather radically) acknowledges the pleasure principle of mainstream hip-hop with his left hand, he baffles with his right’s stridency of concept, the shaken finger of a stern granny. The result is a mishmash of thwarted post-Cartesian ambition, still afraid of the middle of its body.
The Majesticons play Joe’s Pub February 12.