Review Summary: An eclectic, humurous, dark, endearing, and hazed companion piece to the SXSW film of the same name that still stands on its own two feet as a cohesive work of art. And it's free!!!
Funeral Kings was recently shown at this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, and is the debut full-length feature film from the McManus Bros. However, the epynomous soundtrack itself is not the first outing from hip hop artist, Jinx, whose underground creditentials features a wide palette of talents. He's performed with Wiz Khalifa, Yelawolf, Allen Stone, Jamal Ali, the Nappy Roots, Q-Tip, E-40, and Tech N9ne. His three previous releases earned him a spot in the local Spokane newspaper, with an article headlined, "I Am Better Than You", as illustrated by his Uncle Same-esque posing with Kanye West flair. What's most interesting of all about this rapper- and what inspires him- is that you most likely don't know of him.
Funeral Kings- The Mixtape is a true-to-form showcasing of this artist's talents. Jinx possesses a keen eye for lyrical foreplay that compensates for what much of today's hip hop bragadaccio leaves to be desired. It's evident from the instant you hear the opening verse of "French Kiss The Sky"; "I really wish you would tell me I ain't sick/ These haters hatin' so much/ I really thought my name was 'He Ain't ***'". This tongue-in-cheek form of comedy is injected throughout the rest of the album on tracks like "Ganja", "Third Base", and "Toy Gun". His sense of rhythm emulates the instrumentals to a harmonic beat, as if his own vocals were part of the band. Jinx's rhymes ride the beats without playing it too safe, providing a nice balance between what may be the seen as the mathematic delivery of 80's hip hop and the offbeat form of MF Doom. My personal favorite verse opens up "Toy Gun": "Semi-automatic/ Ak-47 flow/ I let you niggas have it/ Since I feel so giving/ Promise even you can get it/ And you can get it for the low/ Music is my weapon that I am not concealing/ So Massachussetts repping/Do this for my city though/ Doo doo's what I've stepped in/ Kickin' *** phenomenal". As with much of this mixtape, Jinx's flow, lyrics, and sense of humor meld together to form something so rich in entertainment. Certain lines will leave you chuckling, like when he explains his evil plan to become a famous rapper just so he can "meet and *** Hannah Montana". The purpose behind these lines" Who knows, but they're hilarious.
The production on this record is bar none with regard to its polished compositions. The Lion's Share, whose previous credits include "Soper and Bette's X-Mas" with Bette Midler, "Back To Love" with Anthony Hamilton, and "W.A.R." by Pharoahe Monch, crafted the instrumentals and vocal effects on Funeral Kings. Every track on Funeral Kings carries a "propulsive" beat, sometimes to the tune of rock, 8-bit electronic sounds, and even doomy piano keys that are supplanted by strings on the pentultimate track, "The 'Rents". Aside from obvious synth compositions, the vast majority of the music performed on Funeral Kings is done with live instrumentation that amplifies the beauty of these tracks.
Funeral Kings also features an ensemble cast of underground artists. Jake the Snake, G-Eyez, Ernie Halter, Ane, Bobby Illah, Ane, and Mike Gainous each make appearances on this album. I knew of none of these guys before now, but I'd definitely recommend them all to any fan of hip hop. Tracks like "Check It", "Punk", and "Trying To Change" feature their best contributions. I think that of all of them, Jake the Snake takes the cake. If my ears don't lie, he's featured on all three of those songs, and every time he delivers the goods lyrically. His contributions are definitely a bright spot on the album.
Every song succeeds in presenting its listeners with lush-sounding compositions that provoke a wider variety of character traits from free-spiritedness, to arrogance, and even to heartwrenching pulsations around the album's closing. It could be assumed that even fans of modern rock music can appreciate the sounds on Funeral Kings, even if they detested hip hop as a genre.It wouldn't do Funeral Kings justice as a record to exclusively consign it exclusively to the confines of hip hop. Jinx does follow the same sort of tropes associated with that style of music, but he displays more of an open approach to the sounds and aural influences on this record than most. He has committed hip hop blasphemy with "Forrest Gump", a purebred rock n' roll tune that wouldn't be out of place at a CBGB concert. It's a testament to the forward-thinking ways of modern music, and slightly embarassing that a rock song from a hip hop album does rock music better than many rock bands today. "The Name Game" nearly rips the riff from Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead" of Superfly fame to remarkable effect. It sounds downright dirty, rotten, and fitting for a song that would most likely be played in a strip club.
Thematically, Funeral Kings is based on the film it's featured in. Anybody who has been an adolescent male can relate to this record, with its consisten references to inexperience with sex, psychedelics, and violence. It sounds at first as if its concept travels on the beaten path of rap, but like its cinematic counterpart, it's got some heart in the the center of its hedonistic shell. Jinx's fixations with "Ganja" open the album up, leading to the more sexual songs, to the more violent and strife-filled tracks like "Punk" and "Check It", which transition to the personal songs like "Massachusetts" and "Wild Is The Wind". Overall, these tracks collide so cohesively, you'll be hard-pressed to skip a track. Doing so would rob you of the transformation that occurs from the first floaty beat of the opening number to the tear-inducing whine of the violins toward the end that signify the climax of Funeral King's coming-of-age tale. The story that is told throughout this album is a satisfying one meant to repulse, entertain, and enlighten the listener.
There is one flaw about this album that bothers me, and it's the chorus. On the majority of the tracks present here, the choruses can be hit-and-miss with their vocal appeal. On a song like "Don't Tell Nobody", singer Ernie Halter can obviously hold a note, and it reveals Jinx's obvious vocal imperfections. This is probably worst on "Wild Is The Wind", an otherwise dark and somber track that is hampered by its awkward melodic delivery. However, on "Punk", the frank delivery of each verse of chorus provides something of a catchy melody, hyping the gung ho mood of its beat. Since the entirety of Funeral Kings is built on a verse-chorus-verse structure, it becomes a bit much. Kudos to him for attempting to broaden his horizons musically (I get the feeling it was his intention to do so with this record), but it didn't help much to do so this time around.
With Funeral Kings- The Mixtape, Jinx will have his naysayers eating crow. Despite being something of a side project, this record bleeds with ambition, genius, and indie cred that the few who know can top, and that those who don't will never know they can't. Who knows what may come in Jinx's future of musical ventures" Is Funeral Kings his magnum opus" I hope this is not the case, because if this isn't his best, then there's a whole storm of greatness to come. This album isn't perfect, but there aren't very many where I can say that I don't skip a track. Yes. That. Damn. Good.
- Punk (It's Goin' Down)
- Toy Gun
- Forrest Gump
- The 'Rents
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