“Y’all know about the seven spiders of hip-hop?” Yep, we’re in weirdo rap territory with Lakutis’s debut mixtape I’m In The Forest. That query comes from the title track, a song full of somewhat naturalistic images and pop culture references bookended by the droning chant, “I’m in the forest/ I’m in the forest/ I’m in the forest/ I’m in the forest.” If the refrain brings to mind Das Racist’s breakthrough moment, “Combination Pizza Hut And Taco Bell,” it’s not too much of an accident: Lakutis is down with Heems and company. He appeared on Sit Down, Man; his seven-track EP is being released for free through the group’s Greedhead imprint. But his skill at delivering a provocative, educated approach to rap is less refined than Das Racist’s—Lakutis doesn’t so much push buttons or spark debate as come across as the idea of a bunch of intended Internet hip-hop memes shoe-horned into rap form.
Lakutis, “I’m In The Forest”
Lakutis is a New York-based rapper of Russian heritage. He shouts out and disses the Bronx High School of Science and “that fuckin’ bartender at that shit on 18th Street” on the intro to his jump-off song, “Lakutis In The House.” (The pronunciation of his rap name makes the hook sound like “the cutest in the house.”) But while that track has a certain uptempo, electronic charm, the mixtape flits uneasily between pop-culture-packed verbose tracks (Jon Voight, Sandra Bernhard, John Candy, Bill Hader, and Saturday Night Live all get namecehceked), and concepts whose natural home is a fleeting life as a Twitter-distributed joke.
“Death Shark” contains the lines, “Proud black people—think Don Cheadle” and “Jewish Eddie Murphy in your barber shop.” Swap out the celebrity names and you might have a mildly amusing afternoon’s Twitter trend. “Ja Rule” is a meandering exercise consisting of Lakutis singing “I’m tired of being lonely,” and it’s neither particularly witty or pleasant to listen to. And “Wifey,” which has an assist by his pals Das Racist, sounds far funnier if you keep with the pronunciation shenanigans and convince yourself that they’re boasting “I’m a white Pharrell” on the hook.
Lakutis, “Lakutis In The House”
It’s a shame, as when Lakutis just puts his head down and raps, he does it pretty decently. He can flow comfortably and sometimes excitedly: The lead single, “Lakutis In the House,” “Swann Gangg” (with D.V.S.), and “I’m Better Than Everybody” (which features Kool A.D.) are most impressive—they may brim with scatterlogical pop culture references, but they’re delivered within the safety of a more standard rap track.
I’m In The Forest might just be a consequence of social-media culture. Quick thoughts and half-baked ideas can seem funny or entertaining in the micro-moments of scanning over a Twitter accout, but that doesn’t mean they translate to a medium even as disposable as a mixtape. It’s hard to make amusing rap music, especially so if you try and work in somewhat knowing references—the excruciating specter of book-smart M.C. Paul Barman and his rap lines in the form of palindromes can still induce chilling shudders. Das Racist just about pull the feat off; it helps that the group is adept at working the press to both bolster and query their image. But as I’m In The Forest unravels, you wish Lakutis would dump the attempts to follow in the path of his label bosses and just, well, rap.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 2, 2011