What makes a band black? Candiria’s only black member is rapping-growling frontman Carley Coma, but they’ve steadily been a metal other for the past decade, distancing themselves from their peer group by mathing up the time signatures jazz-style, and covering hip-hop songs like “Bring the Pain.” And while rapping over pneumatic guitars was rendered rote five years back, doing it well still intrigues. But that’s just one of Candiria’s tricks; schizophrenia has always been the group’s strength, and What Doesn’t Kill You . . . suffers for being less spastic—more melodies (“Remove Yourself,” “Down”) make for a more predictable listen. The odd elegant detail reveals their worthier instincts, though—the subtle dub rhythm midway through “The Nameless King,” the brief, spacious drums at the outset of “Blood.” And of course, “9mm Solution,” with a track that’s Mobb Deep as played by Radiohead, and Coma spitting with bluster—”Don’t be mad that I used to get more head than your neck”—and darkness: “I was eating from the garbage, suicide in my head.” Apart from the vicious absentee-father screed “Vacant,” it’s the angriest moment on the album, swapping in a new medium to say what the other sometimes cannot.
So what makes a black band, then? Once the Sugarhill house troupe gave way to the drum machine and the sampler, it was damn near extincted, so it’s hard to say just what the Wylde Bunch are a throwback to. On their excellent, unlikely debut, the South Central 14-piece—including four rappers, a brass section, and a woman who splits her time between the two—owe more to Trouble Funk and the Time than, say, the Roots, who wish they were this loose, or even to stated role models Earth Wind & Fire. Sure, Mo White drops guest seduction on “Kat Daddy,” but the Pac allusion on “I Don’t Gyve a Damn” and the Waitresses nod on “Gyrls Lyke” mean more—these are kids (and at least one dad) reared on hip-hop, but open enough to brag about going down and wise enough to realize that the last day of school is that much sweeter if you stick out the whole year. Proving the point, “Byg Shot” is a morality tale by and for the hip-hop generation, using sharp rhymes, marching-band cadences, and a Billy Joel chorus to rebuke a player with an inflated head. There’s a life beyond pimpin’, son, but don’t worry: Some of the credits transfer.