November 20, 2009

Reader Review: Danger Mouse & Jemini - Ghetto Pop Life (September 9, 2003)

(I've been holding on to these Reader Reviews long enough. I plan on dispersing these randomly in between my sporadic updates, so stay tuned, as there are some interesting choices this time around. Today, Kid Chaos (who has his own review blog, Refuse To Come Wack, that you can visit here ) takes on Danger Mouse & Jemini's Ghetto Pop Life. Enjoy!)

Danger Mouse, who unleashed The Grey Album (the mash-up of Jay-Z's The Black Album and The White Album from The Beatles, which was an immediate critic's darling and a favorite on blogs everywhere) to the masses, has been an indie/underground stalwart for a while now, collaborating with fellow mainstream-recognition deprived artists such as The Rapture, Gorillaz, Beck, Sparklehorse, and MF DOOM (save for his one year run as Gnarls Barkley, a collaboration between him and Cee-Lo that has produced pretty much nothing since their super-mega-funky crossover hit "Crazy"). Accordingly, it only makes sense that what ended up being Danger Mouse's debut album, Ghetto Pop Life, should be a collaboration with another artist that has apparently been paying dues for roughly, I don't know...forever?

Rapper Jemini the Gifted One, of zero fame, has apparently been in the game since 1995, when he recorded an EP called Scars and Pain, which that helped him in no way to break out into the public eye. I can't say I really blame the man, though: if you consider how hard it was to break into the rap industry back in the 1990s compared to now, it's no wonder that he'd wait until 2003's Ghetto Pop Life to attempt a comeback.

One last thing I wanted to note: in staying consistent with his name (for which I applaud him), Jemini switches back and forth between a higher pitched voice and a lower pitched voice throughout the album. While this whole concept of being two different rappers is extremely played out by now, it wasn't necessarily so when he first came up with it, so don't furrow your little brow as you read along.


Grammatical errors aside, Danger Mouse & Jemini decide to bypass the mandatory hip hop intro track (at least until the next track) and give us a little taste of what is to come. Although Jemini only drops one verse, it sounds promising, even if his claim that "lyrically, musically, and spiritually this album is all you'll ever need" is a tad bit pretentious (although in somewhat of a good way - more akin to Big Daddy Kane boasting than KRS-One saying he's going to start his own religion of hip hop). Danger Mouse's production is slightly eerie but enticing in how stark the contrast is between the hard hitting drums and the rising and falling strings.

To put it simply, this is just ridiculous and I love it. For all the Chappelle's Show fans out there: does anyone remember the sketch where he writes down ridiculous things to say but makes them sound pious simply by having an opera singer perform them? Apparently Danger Mouse and Jemini had the idea first (maybe not so much, since Chappelle's Show made its debut in January of 2003), as hearing what sounds like a church choir singing that they "have bullets in the clip" and are "giving bitches good dick" is downright hilarious. What makes this even better is the way in which it doesn't overstay its welcome and immaculately fades into...

Danger Mouse crafts an instrumental that is fucking fantastic, incorporating the chorus from the last interlude, and Jemini rips shit accordingly. If you read this far expecting an indie-sounding release (he could mean so many things by that loaded statement), than this song will throw you for a loop. In fact, Jemini is at times blatantly mainstream with his performance, but still manages to tear shit up. I don't think I can tell you how pleasantly surprised I was by this; you're just gonna have to hear it for yourself.

Although this beat is solid (nothing to write home about), Jemini takes its mother out for a nice seafood dinner, sleeps with her, and never calls her again. Included in this package is one of my favorite one-liners of all time: Jemini's claim that his problem is that he "never learned to lie for shit" and sometimes he "gets sperm in [his] eye because [he's] on [his] own dick", which is downright hilarious. The switch to what sounds like a live freestyle over a simple drum loop at the end of this track is also endearing to any hip hop head worth his mettle.

Well, I didn't say this album was perfect. It may just be me, but this beat's repetitiveness has a tendency to get grating very quickly, and Tha Alkaholiks don't do anything to right this sinking ship. (Which is uncharacteristic of them.)

Danger Mouse does his best Kanye West impression (minus the narcissism) (well, then it isn't a Kanye impression, is it?), unleashing the horns and chipmunk soul singing, and Jemini continues to rap about nothing in particular besides the fact that he is better than you at rapping, and yet, somehow, this act has not gotten old yet. In fact, this sounds awesome. Forgive me for pulling out my soapbox, but couldn't hip hop really use some more of this? It's really not that hard an adjustment to make: just start talking about why you're great and other sucka MC's are terrible instead of sounding like one of the spoiled brats on MTV's My Super Sweet 16. I once saw a video on YouTube of (DipSet's) Juelz Santana bragging about a purse he has. (It's called a satchel.) Just thought you should know.

Apparently no one will take my advice ever: J-Zone appears on here to brag about money and girls (which is apparently his specialty, according to Max's previous write-ups) (to be fair, most of the time he does it well, even though he claims to not have either) alongside Jemini, but given the subject matter this isn't all that bad. I will admit that the scratching helps. Now there's something you don't really hear anymore on hip hop albums, isn't it?

I don't know if I can stress enough how awesome Danger Mouse's production on here has been. For anyone whose friends don't believe that indie hip hop can ever succeed in maintaining a balance between production and lyricism, might I suggest this album? This somehow manages to sound both aggressive and mysterious, like a hip hop V for Vendetta.

While the dialogue sample here is completely ridiculous, Jemini tries his take on the female/club song, and this song struggles accordingly. Have I heard worse female/club songs? Yes. Does this hold up when compared to the rest of this album thus far? Nope. However, I am completely averse to rap songs aimed at a female audience, so I'll take this time to acknowledge my bias.

The hook here is fucking inane, and this is the first production on here that fails to impress. Forget waiting till Prince Po comes in: you can just skip this one almost right away.

While Danger Mouse's instrumental is awesomely eclectic, and Jemini's potshot at Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown in the style of Audio Two's “Top Billin'” is hilarious, this song's subject matter, which you can probably guess from the title, was ill-advised. (Especially since one would need to be under the influence of something to actually sit through this track.) Fortunately, the potshot occurs early enough for you to skip the track afterward, without damaging any brain cells.

Now this is the type of song I guarantee everyone was expecting when I referred to Ghetto Pop Life as an indie rap album. Fortunately, Jemini showcases some versatility here. Danger Mouse flips a piece that is, well, medieval-sounding into a beat, and Jemini and The Pharcyde rhyme like they wrote down every connotation that comes to mind when thinking about the Dark Ages and somehow made them a good way.

Not only does this attack on the Bush administration sound dated, it also sounds pretty shitty - kind of like your average Immortal Technique song. And yes, I did just write that. Political underground hip hop fans, suck on it. Next. (Please save your comments for the end of the review, you two.)

Minus the part about the Bush administration, you can pretty much take my last comment and apply it here, except this one features such incredible glimmers of insight as "Sisters want love, brothers want sex/industrial prison complex". Nice one, Plato. Next.

Please remember that I have already stated that I have a deep aversion to the female song. That said, this song sounds misogynistic in addition to boring and unnecessary. And there you have it.

It seems that the last song exists just so that it could blend perfectly into this song. Jemini finally decides to take a step back from the topical stuff he went after the last few songs (thank God), and ends with a single verse that probably would sound much more in place on the first half of this album. This was a pretty decent way to end the album.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Whether it is due to his supposed split hip hop personalities or not, Ghetto Pop Life is a true Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story. The first half is downright incredible, as Jemini converts his satire of mainstream rap into his very own take on it. When he decides to spit about topical subject matter, on the second half, however, the album suffers, and the topics he chooses are ill-advised at best.

BUY OR BURN? As good as the first half of this album is, I can't recommend a buy, as the second half of this album really does fall off that much. The eight tracks and the intro on here that do sound good, however, are phenomenal, and, as such, this deserves your time. Burn this, clear the trash, and listen to Jemini rip shit over some amazing Danger Mouse production.

BEST TRACKS: “Ghetto Pop Life”; “Omega Supreme”; “The Only One”; “The Brooklyn Shit”; “Knuckle Sandwich”

-Kid Chaos

(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Still pissed about that Immortal Technique critique? Leave your comments for Kid Chaos below.)


  1. Nice one man, I had always found this lacking in comparison to other Dangermouse releases.

  2. I liked a good portion of songs off this record but one of my favorite tracks by them is "Ghetto Pop Life pt 2," which didn't make the album for some reason but ended up on the duo's "Twenty Six Inch EP." Chekitout.

  3. zzzzzz...oh is the review over?

  4. Loved "Medieval" personally. That Baroque choir in the background just makes it for me.

    Personally I enjoyed this whole album that much more because of DM's acute ear for beats. Jemini I could take or leave.

  5. I don't usually bother with the reader reviews but I've yet to listen to a project by Danger Mouse that I don't like so I checked this out and I'm surprised to say I'll bump this a good bit, even if Jemini sounds like a shitter and more awkward Mos Def.

  6. yo max can u review charizma and peanut butter wolf (big shots) album,it‘s a best album i heard in a minute but it‘s a shame it didn‘t drop in the 9th‘s so it will get the recognition it deserved,r.i.p. charizma (hiphopjunkie)