Remember that guy you graduated with who had the killer resume? The guy with the good grades, the awards and
the volunteer service that pretty much guaranteed he could do whatever he wanted with his future? Hip-hop producer Danger Mouse is that guy. Dude has only been on the public's radar for three years and he's already done enough to make famous multi-taskers like Madlib and RJD2 look flat-out lazy. Hell, another new Danger Mouse project will probably be announced before I even finish this review. Ghetto Pop Life
, an album he crafted with an unknown emcee named Jemini the Gifted One in 2003, was the beginning of it all. Sure, he did some small stuff before Ghetto Pop Life
(like remixing Neutral Milk Hotel, of all bands), but this was where the real madness began. Before mashing up the Beatles and Jay-Z for The Grey Album
bootleg, there was Ghetto Pop Life
. Before replacing Dan the Automator in the Gorillaz lineup and producing the group's Demon Days
album, there was Ghetto Pop Life
. Before recording a concept album about the Cartoon Network with MF Doom, there was Ghetto Pop Life
. And, yes, before taking the world by storm as one-half of Gnarls Barkley, there was Ghetto Pop Life
But this is no mere appetizer. This isn't like that time you became a Tool fan, tracked down Opiate
"just to have it" and then never even listened to it more than once or twice. No, Ghetto Pop Life
is good – real
good – and it shows that Danger Mouse was on fire from the start. Before we discuss the music in detail, though, Jemini deserves a lot of the credit here. I know I've been raving on and on about are costume-wearin', afro-sportin' friend thus far, but it turns out that Jemini is incredible with the microphone. Demon Days
and Gnarls Barkley's St. Elsewhere
might be pop albums, but Jemini's witty rhymes and impressive flow make sure that Ghetto Pop Life
has old school hip-hop running through its veins. "Omega Supreme," for instance, ends with Jemini spitting a freestyle that begs to be rewound and played again and again. And "Medieval," which features members of the Pharcyde, will remind listeners of ... well ... the Pharcyde, specifically Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
Jemini consistently impresses throughout Ghetto Pop Life
, whether he's bragging about his own skills or getting (a tad) more serious and dropping rhymes of a more political nature. Good examples of the latter are "Bush Boys," which is obviously about President George W. Bush and his daddy, and "Here We Go Again," which covers everything from global warming to the war on drugs. Especially jarring is the end of "Bush Boys," which features the sounds of children playing followed by explosions and loud screaming. In other words, critics of political rap should avoid those two tracks altogether.
Now, about Danger Mouse's production ... well, folks, the man delivers. An early highlight is the intro to "Ghetto Pop Life," which features a slow, dramatic choir singing the lyrics, much like the voices on DJ Shadow's "What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 2)." And Once the intro is done, and the actual song "Ghetto Pop Life" kicks in, it's all laid-back drums and keyboards, with Jemini taking over for the choir. Both the intro and the song are fast and full of energy, as are the album's two other highlights, "The Only One" and "Don't Do Drugs." "The Only One," with its sped-up vocal samples and catchy guitars, sounds like it could have fit right it on Jay-Z's The Blueprint
. And "Don't Do Drugs" is a tongue-in-cheek track about drugs that features a Chris Rock samples, lots of horns and lyrics about Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. One last track worth mentioning is the remix to "What U Sittin On?" The original tune, also featured here, is nothing special, but the remix is extra funky and exciting and even features vocals from Cee-Lo. Hip-hop heads that originally bought this album didn't get this remix, or the other two songs at the end of the album, so consider yourself lucky, modern listener! After The Grey Album
earned Danger Mouse some attention, the label released Ghetto Pop Life
again with three bonus tracks tacked on at the end. Discovering an album a few years late has never tasted so sweet.
As for songs that won't
keep you dancing all night and having fun, well, there are only a few real duds. "That Brooklyn ***" features decent production, but Jemini's vocals are too high in the mix and the whole thing just kind of falls apart. And "Yoo-Hoo!" starts out promising, sounding like the most r&b-inspired track Danger Mouse has ever produced, but again the lyrics ruin the party. Much like "Freak These Tales" from Murs' Murs 3:16: the 9th Edition
, the lyrics are too sexual, leaving you just kind of feeling gross instead of laughing.
Overall, though, this is certainly an album worth checking out. Is isn't necessarily better than Demon Days
, The Mouse and the Mask
or St. Elsewhere
, but fans of those albums will be pleased with what they find here. Oh, and this just in came in on the Yahoo! news wire: Danger Mouse to record album with actress Bea Arthur
. Wow, I hope he remixes the Golden Girls theme!