Brooklyn's own Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, whose career has been skyrocketing (as much as an underground artist can "skyrocket", anyway) ever since he exploded onto Blogland with little more than a predilection for bitches and brews, is a guy who I've been wanting to write about for a little bit now. And considering that my last two posts have been for two of the most commercial rappers in the industry (and their respective groups), I figured today was as good a time as any to get this out there. Besides, I want to be able to say that I published this post before his major label debut hit iTunes, so there's a little bit more of my motivation for you.
eXquire's rap name may startle the more prudish of you two at first, but, although he's just as confrontational as every other rapper who ever existed, the handle itself is just a reaction to a certain other artist: I remember reading an interview where eXquire explained that Ol' Dirty Bastard's use of a curse word in his own nickname inspired him, and he just took it to the most obvious extreme. That sounds like the dude is simply ripping off other, better acts, but eXquire has proven otherwise throughout his blossoming career, scoring multiple guest spots on tracks featuring the underground's elite off of the strength of his rhymes, which mix humor, violence, and the male species's knack for becoming singularly obsessed with something with the skill of a guy who takes his craft seriously (that same article explained that, for a time, eXquire forced himself to write a rhyme a night, and the only way that you can get better at something is by practicing, right?).
Lost In Translation is a mixtape-slash-album that eXquire released to the Interweb for free back in 2011. The project doesn't cost any money because he borrows several instrumentals from preexisting tracks, but for the most part, he puts them to good use, such as on his breakthrough song "Huzzah!", a orgy of drunkenness that just so happens to take place on top of a Necro instrumental that fits him perfectly (even though the two "collaborators" have never met). "Huzzah!" begat a star-studded remix, "The Last Huzzah", which then led to music critics hailing Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire as the best thing to happen to rap music since the birth of the very first ho. The buzz building around him eventually led to a deal with Universal Records: time will tell whether or not that's going to be a good fit.
1. TRIPLE F
Unlike a certain other rapper who happens to be named after a Muppet's catchphrase of choice, eXquire's version of "Triple F" stands for "fuck 'em, fuck 'em, fuck 'em", immediately adopting an antagonistic stance while the listener is forced into playing defense. I'm thankful that our host skipped out on the rap album intro trope, since "Triple F" is a far more effective way for eXquire to deliver his mission statement. He sounds damn good on here, too, dropping confidently cocky bars over a banging Charli Brown Beatz instrumental that'll get your head nodding and your blood boiling. Nice!
"I got 'em where I want 'em", our host proclaims during the intro, and at the risk of sounding corny as fuck, he's not wrong. Lost In Translation doesn't take long to get to its signature song, a celebration of drinking, bullshitting, and the bullshitting that exists only when there's drinking involved. eXquire doesn't hold back, giving every verse his all, even when that means there are more non-sequiturs than necessary ("Publicist asked, 'What's my gimmick?' / I said, 'Goin' in'", a dope line, shares a track with a random reference to Darkwing Duck, of all things). Necro's beat, swiped from his "Scumbags", sounds fantastic underneath eXquire: even if you're a fan of Necro, you have to admit that our host has made the instrumental his own. (I understand that Necro is a bit upset with the credit "produced by Necro" being used on Lost In Translation when he never actually worked with eXquire, which is a valid complaint, although he isn't mad about his music being used, since eXquire released this album for free.) This shit was just fun to listen to.
3. FIRE MARSHALL BILL
It would be difficult for any artist to follow up a track as powerful (yeah, I fucking said it) as "Huzzah!", so with the ridiculous "Fire Marshall Bill" (a dated reference to an old character Jim Carrey used to play on In Living Color...wait, what do you mean you've never heard of In Living Color? Fuck, how old am I?), eXquire appears to not even be trying, instead using the beat from El-P's "Whores: The Movie" to test four or five different flows instead of writing an actual song. El-Producto's instrumental isn't a bad fit for our host, but the track itself goes absolutely nowhere.
4. CHICKEN SPOT ROCK (FEAT. DALLAS THA KID)
eXquire hops back over to the entertaining side of the fence with this goof, which repurposes El-P's beat from Cannibal Ox's "Vein" for a song about...well, about how delicious fried chicken is when paired with liquor. This shit is just funny and perfect for people who don't take their hip hop all that seriously, especially since there's some actual skillful rhyming on here, and our host even realizes his silly this entire endeavor is, since he sings on the hook in a fashion that made me laugh out loud. The first guest of the evening, Dallas Tha Kid, contributes the second half of the song, and he comes across as the Huggy Bear to eXquire's drunken J-Zone, which marks "Chicken Spot Rock" as an automatic win in my book. This shit was nice.
5. COCKMEAT SANDWICH / PISSIN' BETWEEN TRAIN CARS
For absolutely no reason, eXquire combines two songs onto one audio track. The first, "Cockmeat Sandwich", is an amusing lark that ultimately doesn't hold up over the course of time (the sound bite from Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay probably doesn't help, since that flick really isn't that funny), although I am intrigued at what was so terrible that our host felt the need to censor himself (by backmasking his lyrics), considering that this was an underground release with no standards and practices-approval required. Anyway, none of that matters anyway, since "Pissin' Between Train Cars" will be the reason you stick around. eXquire attacks two verses with the fervor and passion of an artist still trying to prove himself on the freestyle circuit, and he exudes so much confidence that his newly-acquired record deal with Universal will seem like a foregone conclusion. The use of El-P's previously-released production works so well on here (during the second half especially) that you probably won't give a shit that this overlong track ends with a skit where our host receives a blowjob (just in case you forgot this was supposed to be a rap album).
6. WEIGHT OF WATER
Hardly the type of song one would expect after being subjected to a skit where a blowjob was recorded in the studio. eXquire goes somber and straight-faced on "Weight Of Water", with his often-clever rhymes (and a thinly-veiled dis aimed at Tyler Perry) clashing with the boring-as-shit Constrobuz instrumental, which never quite gels with the overall feel of Lost In Translation. At least the dude is committed to this rap shit: it's obvious from his rhymes that eXquire takes his writing seriously. Which was nice.
7. I SHOULD BE SLEEPIN'
The production from Charli Brown Beatz is completely different from that of "Triple F", but, as simple a loop as it is, the music does fit the subject matter fairly well, as our host waxes poetically about his childhood and always wanting to stay up late (to grab a midnight snack, to watch TV and play video games, and to generally make sure he wasn't missing anything), which I can relate to, as can most of you, I'm guessing. He does so in a profanity-free matter, so had his rap name not been Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, you might have heard him perform this shit on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Our host's eye for detail is sharp, and he works with what he has to deliver a track that the listener's grandmother wouldn't object terribly to. At least until the beat goes haywire toward the end, but that isn't much of a distraction, either.
8. MALTESE FALCON PT. 1 AND PT. 2
You don't realize it at first, but this song (which is, again, two tracks in one) is eXquire's riff on Jeru The Damaja's "You Can't Stop The Prophet", albeit with much lower stakes. It kicks off as a seemingly random, pop culture-fueled storytelling rap, and none of it makes a lick of sense until it finally clicks. The second half works especially well, as it eschews Jake One's relaxed setup in favor of a fucking banging full-throttle BoweryBeats instrumental.
9. MICHAEL DUDIKOFF
A quick one-verse wonder over a sinister BoweryBeats instrumental that, in case you were wondering, yes, manages to fit the American Ninja star named in the title into the song, and what's better, our host does it in a way that almost makes sense. Although it really wouldn't have mattered if he had chosen to ignore the actor who also appeared in Tom Hanks's Bachelor Party although you didn't realize that was him at the time (no, seriously, look it up): this shit was so good that it just zips by, cool-ass title and all, almost as quickly as Dudikoff's actual career. Too soon?
10. HIP HOP NETWORKING 101 (SKIT)
Kind of amusing, but you won't sit through it more than the once.
11. LOU FERIGNO'S MAD
Although eXquire classifies "Lou Ferigno's Mad" as a freestyle, it's easily the most annoying track on Lost In Translation thus far, thanks to the "hook", which consists of our host's uncredited besties simply shouting "Go!" repeatedly while eXquire occasionally chimes in with, "N---a, I don't guve a fuck!". Clearly he didn't give many fucks about this song sounding any good, either. What a waste of a glorious song title.
No thank you.
13. NUTHIN' EVEN MATTERS (REGRETS)
This is obviously the part of Lost In Translation that sucks hippopotamus taint: most rap albums have a similar section, lasting for a varying number of tracks. The hook sounds like it should be a parody of shitty R&B choruses, except that eXquire seems to not be in on what is most certainly a joke, right? No, not a joke? Shit. Our host's rhymes follow suit, their self-seriousness betraying the listener at every turn (his bizarre rant regarding The Adventures Of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius notwithstanding), and the beat, while not terrible, sounds far too poppy for a guy with a misspelled version of a popular curse word as a part of his stage name. Groan.
14. YEAHRIGHT!.COM (SKIT)
Please refer to my notes from the previous skit for my thoughts.
15. GALACTUS REDUX
An aural mess, although a lot of the problem lies with producer Esoteric's beat (swiped from his own "Galactus Trilogy", hence this track's title), which is so hit-and-miss that it may as well be an episode of The Cleveland Show, and eXquire can only barely function over it. For what it's worth, our host sounds okay enough, but there's really been nothing to recommend on Lost In Translation since "Michael Dudikoff". This trend really needs to end soon. Now would be nice.
And welcome back. The premise of this song is pretty goddamn absurd, but eXquire somehow sells the Weird Science aspect of it all with a combination of rational thought and ridiculous justification, and everything works, for the most part. Yes, it's juvenile, but have you heard the rest of Lost In Translation? The first half of "Build-A-Bitch" is fueled by El-P's beat from Cannibal Ox's "Pigeon", which sets the moody tone, while the back end, produced by eXquire himself, comes across as a melancholy Drake parody, thanks to the minimal musical backing and our host's sudden realization that this concept doesn't even make any sense. Not bad.
17. NO TIME (FEAT. GOLDIE GLO)
Lost In Translation ends its broadcast day with a powerful El-P beat that would sound like a declaration of rap dominance even if eXquire didn't end up contributing verses (and a Lil' Kim and Puff Daddy-inspired hook, of all things). Our host's hypeman (and cousin) Goldie Glo even sounds alright, although eXquire is most certainly the main attraction, closing things out masterfully. A great way to end the evening.
Lost In Translation concludes with what is labeled as a bonus track.
18. THE LAST HUZZAH (FEAT. DESPOT, DAS RACIST, DANNY BROWN, & EL-P)
This epic remix to an already fantastic track kicks off with a joke swiped from Chappelle's Show (itself inspired by The Warriors and Puff Daddy's intro to Craig Mack's equal-in-scope remix to "Flava In Ya Ear") before Necro's now-familiar beat even begins. This time around, eXquire allows his new friends to run wild over the instrumental, and said friends just so happen to be a group of guys who pop up on seemingly every indie rap project these days: Despot, the rapping parts of Das Racist (Kool A.D. and Himanshu), the ubiquitous Danny Brown, and El-P himself, finally making an actual real-life appearance on Lost In Translation (as opposed to having all of his beats
stolen borrowed). Despot bats first, leading into a typically ridiculous Kool A.D. contribution that manages to both sound silly and dis Immortal Technique. Heems fills his verse with too many ad-libs, most of which are intrusive (although the one that follows the dual-reference to both an older Das Racist track and a famous Raekwon line from the Wu-Tang Clan's "C.R.E.A.M." made me laugh). Motown's Danny Brown continues his critically-acclaimed goodwill tour, while El-Producto sounds slightly relieved that he only has to rap. But, as it should be, eXquire is the true draw, ending the massive song with a long-ass verse that will have you wanting to hear more.
THE LAST WORD: Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire's Lost In Translation hits a brick wall around the third quarter, but the rest of the project would be worth it even if he wasn't just giving it away for free. eXquire's music is much more accessible than his rap name would indicate, and as he hones his craft in front of your ears, you will be forced to admit that the dude has actual talent. I'm a fan of pup culture references, so the fact that there are too many of those on Lost In Translation doesn't bother me as much as it may annoy you two, but you should look past that hiccup (and the aforementioned third quarter of the album, which really bogs the entire production down) and focus on the highs, of which there are many. Lost In Translation isn't a perfect debut, but there's no such thing anyway: all I'm looking for these days is an album (or a mixtape, which this technically is, I suppose) that will entertain me, and eXquire entertains me. Simple as that. Besides, this shit is free: what the hell do you have to lose?