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.