A while back, it was brought to my attention that HHID didn't feature nearly enough entries from the Definitive Jux catalog. Odds are pretty good that the Party Fun Action Committee's Let's Get Serious was not what you thought I would use to buck the trend.
Party Fun Action Committee is a duo made up of Blockhead and Jer, two underground producers (Blockhead is actually pretty well-known for his work with fellow Def Jukie Aesop Rock) whose favored response to the current state of hip hop is that of not-so-gentle mockery. My understanding, culled from Googling the project for about twenty-three seconds, is that this pairing is what remains of a much larger crew who used to produce a public access show which featured them generally fucking around, so at least there is some sort of precedent here.
The duo's lone project to date, Let's Get Serious, is a concept album built around the characters of Stephen Richardson and Lars Haighmael, two A&Rs sorting through a box of demo tapes intended for the rap division of their anonymous record label, all of which, of course, feature songs performed by our two hosts. This essentially gives them free reign to make fun of as many bullshit rap cliches as possible, and to be fair, they do knock a bunch of them out fairly quickly. Nothing on Let's Get Serious is intended to be heard with a straight face, which becomes more obvious as the story progresses, as the focus shifts away from crappy rap music in favor of...well, you should probably just listen along while we discuss.
Go ahead and push 'play' now.
1. LET'S GET SERIOUS INTRO
Well, every concept album has to set the stage somehow.
2. MENTAL STORM (PERFORMED BY THE MYSTICAL KNIGHTS OF THE VIZUAL ROUNDTABLE)
The first “song” on Let's Get Serious is a goof on underground rappers who cram as many syllables into a single bar as they can in a failed attempt to substitute scientific terms for actual lyrical substance. (Although there are tons of rappers out there that fit that description, for some reason the one person that jumped into my mind was Scaramanga Shallah, also known as Sir Menelik, a former ally of Kool Keith. Weird, that.) Blockhead and Jer take on the guise of two artists each, forming the quartet named above, whose numbers include a guy with a ridiculously noticeable lisp for no discernible reason aside from the fact that it's kind of funny the first time around. The commentary at the end is also amusing, if a bit maddening, as it's a little bit too easy to imagine actual record execs getting excited about “the conscious guy” and proclaiming that a song, which features a rapper claiming that he's seen “the molecular structure of a squirrel”, mind you, has “lyrics for days”. The song sucks, but it's supposed to, which makes it successful enough. Does your head hurt yet?
3. WHATCHU KNOW NOW (PERFORMED BY KORNHOLE)
I want to write that “Whatchu Know Now” is an accurate depiction of how reprehensible most rock-slash-rap groups (such as Limp Bizkit or, more obviously I suppose, Korn) sounded during their heyday in the late 1990s/early part of the millennium, but this track is, by itself, so fucking annoying that it's actually worse than what it's trying to parody. You may feel that it deserves a pass based on those merits, but this was a truly awful track that, hopefully, everyone who still listens to Party Fun Action Committee today skips right past. The breakdown at the end was also pretty obnoxious. I get it: it's all by design, I know. But have you ever considered the idea that Blockhead and Jer did too good a job on here? The callback to the radio edit of Cypress Hill's “Insane In The Brain” at the end was unexpected, though.
4. BE MY LADY INTRO
“If you're on the street, you meet people in the street, you rap on the street.” That's as good a definition for a radio-friendly rapper with an alleged “street edge” as any.
5. BE MY LADY (PERFORMED BY FLOHAMED ALI & JA MELLOW)
An obvious riff on Ja Rule and his tendency to write love raps with all of the subtlety of a frat boy with a box of condoms and a bottle of lube hitting on a sorority girl. While it is sort of goofy to hear a dude rhyme about his tits and his clit (is this the first time this year I've used the word “clit” on my blog? Because if so, I'm kind of shocked I waited this long), “Be My Lady” actually takes the route of making Jeffrey Atkins sound tolerable. This may be due to the fact that these guys make Ja sound more like the Cookie Monster than even Jeffrey could ever pull off. Which is quite a feat, if you think about it.
6. I SHOULDA KNOWN (PERFORMED BY A.B.C.D.E.F. GEE)
A two-verse effort clowning on sex-obsessed R&B artists (such as, oh, let's just say R. Kelly, although if you need a more recent example, I'm sure Trey Songz could fit the bill) who try to add a harder edge to their sung-rapped lines. The instrumental is generically smooth, or smoothly generic, I haven't decided yet, and the lyrics are all ridiculous, although the twist ending in the second verse far surpasses the one presented in the first (the like about autographing an issue of Highlights actually made me laugh out loud, which made me look really fucking stupid in front of my wife, so thanks a lot, assholes). So it's clear that Blockhead and Jer know what they're talking about with these “songs”. But not a single one thus far has transcended the concept to become something you would want to listen to by choice.
7. WORD UP? INTRO
I love how borderline racist these skits are. I don't fault Blockhead and Jer, though: they're just playing roles. But you know conversations such as the one present here happen all. The . Fucking. Time.
8. WORD UP? (PERFORMED BY ANDREW Q. & THE FREE JAZZ CRUSADERS)
It isn't very hard to make fun of spoken word poetry, a hip hop sub-genre that you two already know I don't care much for. So it seems like the boys took the easy way out with “Word Up?”, spouting gobbledygook to a backdrop made up of random sound effects. Skip.
9. BEER (PERFORMED BY THE BROTHERS OF THE ALPHA PI KAPPA FRATERNITY)
This frat-boy track doesn't really make fun of anything specific: in fact, it's fairly narrow-minded, choosing to target just how ridiculous and gay all of the hazing during Rush Week can be. But both Blockhead and Jer rhyme with distinct Boston accents and slang, so some critics have looked at “Beer” as a potshot at rappers such as Esoteric, who wasn't exactly friendly with the Definitive Jux family at the time. I choose to see this, however, as a goof on artists such as Asher Roth, who wasn't even a blip on the radar until a few years after Let's Get Serious dropped. Which can only mean one thing: these guys can see the future. I wonder if they can give me an end date for HHID. Huh. That's a lot sooner than I was thinking. Didn't see that coming.
10. CHAPSTICK INTRO
Focuses more on blue corn tortilla chips than the task at hand, and for that, I salute you.
11. CHAPSTICK (PERFORMED BY SWEET PICKLES & MC NOEL WEISSMAN)
Blockhead and Jer must sure hate MC Paul Barman, because they studied his flow and nail this parody track, from the goofy rhymes all the way down to the whimsical backdrop that accompanies Barman's best songs. The commentary at the end, which actually takes up more time than the song itself, is also still amusing today, especially with the line about how these two “pay homage to the old [school of] rap...you know, by rhyming”. Hi-larious!
12. I AM... (PERFORMED BY DAS JINGLEHORSE)
That group name is pretty funny. In a move that proves to me that the Party Fun Action Committee recorded Let's Get Serious especially for me, “I Am...” is actually a mockery not of rap music, but of the New Wave club shit that I love and champion to this day, specifically Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode. How this demo ended up in the pile is questionable within the context of this album's concept, but the song is funny, and as a bonus, the instrumental, with some additional flourishes, could actually be sold to an electro act today for a damn near guaranteed hit. So they should probably get on that.
13. PETER PAN INTRO
14. PETER PAN (PERFORMED BY THE CAPTAIN GOWNS)
With “I Am...” and now “Peter Pan”, it's beyond obvious that Blockhead and Jer grew bored with their rap parodies and decided to record whatever the fuck popped into their heads, such as this bizarre acapella performance that isn't mocking anything specific, except maybe just piss-poor music. This shit was awful, even for these guys. Move on, quickly.
15. BACK IN THE DAIS (PERFORMED BY TONY SIMON & JEREMY GIBSON)
The guys clown on the tendency of rappers to record songs celebrating their past, back when their lives were simpler and they didn't have as many responsibilities as they do now. (SPOLIER ALERT!) The joke of this track is that the shit Blockhead and Jer (who apparently went by their real names on here) used to do for fun was really fucked up. I'll give these guys credit: they aren't afraid of crossing several lines in order to get you to laugh nervously. The beat also captures the flavor of this type of track perfectly.
16. OUTRO / HERE COMES THE ROCK (PERFORMED BY DIPSTICK)
For the outro, the guys run their commentary during a shitty rock track by the band “Dipstick”, flip-flopping between how much it sucks (and boy, does it ever) and how much it rules. And with that, we're done.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It's hard to rate such a jokey project as Party Fun Action Committee's Let's Get Serious, as none of the actual songs are good enough for regular rotation outside of the album's context. However, hip hop as a musical genre is so rife for parody that it's fucking ridiculous that nobody ever went into this much detail with their mockery before. Blockhead and Jer have an obvious love and appreciation for the shit they're trashing, so even though their humor skews juvenile more often than not, you will find something funny on here. Whether you'll want to listen to Let's Get Serious more than once, though, I can't help you determine. You just have to give it a spin.
BUY OR BURN? I have a feeling that the majority of you two will enjoy this, so you should go ahead and pick it up.
BEST TRACKS: None. I realize this seems contradictory, considering what I just wrote above, but this project really cannot be isolated into specific tracks, as none of them stand apart from the rest. Look at Let's Get Serious as an entire package, though, and it works just fine.
AND IF YOU'RE STILL READING THIS: Fans of Party Fun Action Committee will be happy to know that Blockhead recently unleashed a slew of tracks that didn't make the final cut of Let's Get Serious on his personal blog. Let's dive into these one by one.
During this track, the listener keeps waiting for the other creepy-ass shoe to drop, and when it finally does, the result isn't as much funny as it is unsettling: you could take nineteen showers after hearing this track and never feel clean, even though the story ends in what is really the only way it ever could. It makes perfect sense why this track didn't make the album. I do have to say that the instrumental switches into something much doper after the big reveal, though, which was unexpected and nice.
Somehow, goofing on rap-rock groups and Depeche Mode was just fine for Let's Get Serious, but this outright parody of John Mayer wasn't appropriate enough? O-kay. (To be fair, this track was recorded after Let's Get Serious was completed, but that still doesn't sound like a good enough excuse.) Anyway, this shit was terrible, by which I mean that the boys were extremely successful with their mockery: while the song was playing, I wanted to punch John Mayer in the windpipe, which is how I feel whenever I hear one of his actual songs, so kudos to the PFAC for recreating the magic.
Wow, someone really doesn't like the Jurassic 5. This doesn't even really count as a parody: these guys sound like they were out for blood. Even the fact that the track is cut off early sounds like a not-so-subtle dis. Which may be why this didn't make the album. That, and it isn't actually funny.
In a genre as homophobic as hip hop (second only to contemporary country music), there is no fucking way that a song such as “Cream Dreams” would ever see the official light of day, even on a jokey record such as Let's Get Serious. The song is alright enough, but the guys seem to focus a bit too much on the stereotypes they believe four gay guys who want to fuck each other would embody than they do trying to find the jokes. Curiously, the track ends with a bizarre shift into actual lyricism (empty lyricism, but still). This was pulled from the official release because of the anticipated backlash, but I don't really think anybody who actively sought this album out would have even batted an eye at the content.
The last unreleased Party Fun Action Committee effort was their attempt at writing “the most offensive song ever”, and while it isn't all that good, it is offensive as shit...to the female audience, most of whom will never know of this song's existence, since only rap nerds like myself would ever be obsessive and singularly-minded enough to seek it out. The violent ending to this tale (which I won't give away, but Blockhead does so freely during his own commentary on his site) seems downright mean-spirited, something the majority of Let's Get Serious was most definitely not, so its exclusion comes as no real shock. And now I'm done.
THE LAST WORD: The five unreleased tracks all share a common element: they're not really all that great. Let's Get Serious is actually laugh-out-loud funny at times, so the exclusion of these tracks was a pretty brilliant move by Blockhead and Jer. These tracks are for collectors only.