Brooklyn-based emcee Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire sounds like if Killa Sin or some other high-grade Wu-Tang Clan b-teamer were signed to Rawkus Records, favored experimental beats mixed with boom bap, and were more loquacious about both the good and bad aspects of his life, and also in this example he drinks more. This was made clearly evident on his 2011 debut, Lost In Translation, which was packed to the gills with vague threats, hilarious boasts, pop culture allusions, and exposition.
Although Lost In Translation missed about as often as it hit (although I still enjoyed it), it features several indisputably excellent tracks, including what will probably become known as his theme song, “Huzzah!”, a celebration of alcoholic excess and shit-talking that even managed to drop a reference to fucking Darkwing Duck, of all things. eXquire comes across as a dude who not only grew up in my favorite era of hip hop (the 1990s, in case you two hadn't quite figured it all out), he actually likes to rap, which is one of those traits you don't realize you miss from your favorite artists until it suddenly slaps you in the face, Kanye. Lost In Translation showed promise, and it caused me to pay closer attention to the man's output.
Capitalizing off of the critical acclaim stemming from his debut, eXquire released a not-as-Christmas-themed-as-one-would-think mixtape, Merry eX-Mas & Suck My Dick, for free online, a mere four months after Lost In Translation went live. On the project, eXquire follows the same formula as he did on its predecessor, churning out an album with songs that just so happen to repurpose already-released instrumentals, all while furthering his own agenda and building his brand.
Unlike Lost In Translation, though, some of the tracks present on Merry eX-Mas & Suck My Dick are simple freestyles, quickie one-verse wonders that take very little time to record, which means that eXquire didn't spend nearly as much time with this project than he did his debut. How that affects the end result is something that we will discuss right now, after I finish writing this sentence.
1. THE GOLD WATCH
After a brief sound bite from The People Under The Stairs, our host tackles a bleak-as-shit Captain Planit instrumental that also sounds dope as shit. “The Gold Watch” feels very much like a rap album intro, with eXquire's two verses setting the overall tone of the project while reminding the listener of why they've continued on through his discography in the first place (because I strongly doubt that anyone would use an mixtape entitled Merry eX-Mas & Suck My Dick as a gateway drug). Our host's bars are delivered with a mixture of confidence and weariness, as though he's already over this rap shit, which was an interesting choice. Not bad.
2. TWO 22'S B/W TWENTY TWO 2'S
This kind of song is why mixtapes still need to exist today, since an experiment of this type (especially at its run time of over six minutes, which will try the patience of any-fucking-body) would never work as an album. exquire borrows yet another Necro beat (I wonder if the two have held any sort of conversation yet, after the relative success of “Huzzah!” from Lost In Translation) for a two-part composition that pays tribute to the Jay-Z Reasonable Doubt track “22 2's” while putting a standard MFN twist on it: for instance, Necro's beat (which I can't place at the moment) is run at normal speed at first, but eXquire plays it backward during the second half. He also throws a really long dialogue-driven interlude, one where it's nearly impossible to discern what's exactly happening, right in the middle of the track for no fucking reason. The lyrics were alright, but the execution made me want to throw you down a flight of stairs, I'm that annoyed. And then our host sings about hip hop heads not liking him: it's almost as though this song were recorded solely to eliminate the casual listener from the equation.
3. HUZZAH 2 (FEAT. HERON)
Speaking of eliminating the casual listener from the equation, eXquire jumps from Necro to Company Flow's Mr. Len for this sequel to his most well-known song. Len's beat, taken from Company Flow's instrumental “Shadows Drown”, is challenging and inaccessible at first, but once you realize that eXquire (and, to a lesser extent, his invited guest Heron) actually has everything under control, you can see how fucking good this shit is. This is a sequel in name only: aside from a callback to the original at the beginning, “Huzzah 2” (which, apparently, is also known online as “The Song That Never Ends”) isn't as much a celebration of alcoholic excess as it is some regular shit-talking over a psychotic, demented instrumental that actually sounds like how your brain feels after you binge drink. Nice! And also polarizing, I would assume.
4. THE ROCKETEER
Merry eX-Mas & Suck My Dick continues eXquire's quest to join the relatively short list of artists who sound perfectly comfortable over El-P's beats, as this one-verse wonder, taking place over El-Producto's instrumental, is the audio equivalent of our host padding his resume. Too bad it sucks: our host sounds okay at first, but even though he's never overcome by the actual music (which isn't all that great in the first place within this context), he is overcome by his underlying artistic tendencies, as the sung-shouted chorus is really fucking terrible. It would have stopped the momentum dead in its tracks, had the song overall not simply sucked as a whole. A weird choice to run right after “Huzzah 2”.
5. KILLAH TOFU (FEAT. DANNY BROWN)
One of the earliest NickToons, Doug certainly seems like the type of cartoon Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire and his guest Danny Brown could have grown up with, and basing an entire song around an esoteric show reference (“Killer Tofu” is the hit song from Doug's favorite band, The Beets) such as this one is certainly much more clever than making a Ren & Stimpy joke, I guess. Anyway, the CONSTROBUZ beat sucks, but both artists sound decent enough during their verses, although Brown, who can typically rhyme over almost any type of beat, sounds a bit off-center at the very beginning. Moving on...
The BoweryBeats production is lo-fi and all over the place, which fits the overall theme of the track: our host is helpfully explaining to his audience that he is unable to recall huge chunks of his life growing up, but he can remember small patches of events. Okay, maybe that isn't the best concept for a rap song ever or anything. But the instrumental goes a long way toward making this an enjoyable effort: without it, eXquire would have sounded like just another asshole who refuses requests for interviews because he hates having to talk about his personal life.
Our host doesn't actually start rapping on this breakup song until a minute and a half in: until then, the BoweryBeats Instrumental is accompanied by his increasingly agitating singing (and a Jay-Z vocal sample, lifted from “Public Service Announcement (Interlude)”). Once he sees fit to actually spit, eXquire's rundown of a relationship hits all of the beats without succumbing to any filler, which sometimes means that he uses graphic imagery to quickly get his points across, and also utilizes humor (at one point, eXquire actually says, “'Fucking ridiculous' / RZA voice”, which is hilarious to me). eXquire keeps his thoughts half as short and twice as strong, as GZA/Genius has said in the past, and the result is unexpectedly touching.
8. MAU MAU (FEAT. MAFFEW RAGAZINO)
TCOR's instrumental is pretty good but extremely low-maintenance, at least until it isn't anymore, and when that change suddenly occurs, with absolutely no fucking warning, the listener is presented with an incredibly dope beat. eXquire and his guest, Brownsville's Maffew Ragazino, each contribute a single verse, both of which are entertaining as shit. If I didn't know any better, it almost seems like the beat is aping the type of musical backing Kendrick Lamar excels over, at least until he can't hold it in anymore and unleashes the fury. Ragazino's second to last line, “Who the fuck's underground? Dead people” (italics mine) is a fair opinion, although it is a bit dismissive of an entire classification of artist who toils underneath the radar, but whatever.
9. BIGGIE TRIBUTE (FEAT. DALLAS THE KID)
Our host borrows the “What's Beef?” instrumental from the undisputed king of Brooklyn, the notorious Christopher Wallace, to pay homage and to get his one-verse wonder on. The track isn't as dark as Nashiem Myrick's original beat damn near demands, a fact that eXquire mentions at the tail end, but this serves nicely as an appetizer of sorts. Guest star Dallas The Kid barely registers, only managing to contribute a single bar during the part of the track that seems to directly reference Biggie's “Warning”, but that doesn't really matter right now.
10. RIP PAYSO
Switching to the other end of the hip hop spectrum, eXquire swipes the beat from A$AP Rocky's “Peso” for another quickie. (He pays such little regard to the source material that the music is credited to “one of them A$AP n----z I forgot”.) The verse is too short to leave much of an impact, but it proves that our host is cognizant of current rap trends and is fairly malleable, managing to sound good over most beats out there. Not a bad interlude, but that's all this really is.
11. DEVIL'S PIE (FEAT. GOLDIE GLO)
Kudos for standing behind your sense of humor, eXquire, but this song was fucking impossible to actually sit through.
12. NO REMORSE
Yeah, me neither.
13. NIGHTMARE ON FED STREET (FEAT. TROY AVE)
Guest Troy Ave has flirted with potential stardom, what with a series of recent cameos on high-profile projects in 2013 alone, but he hardly does anything on there. Back in the underground, he plays a much larger role on “Nightmare On Fed Street”, an awfully-titled exercise that contains a truly shitty hook, but at least the two verses (one from each artist) mesh well with the dramatic instrumental. Nothing special in the least bit, but fuck it, rap albums need to have technically-proficient tracks, too, if only to prove that our host is capable of both meeting and exceeding expectations.
14. POWER U PT. 2 (FEAT. DALLAS THE KID)
A goofy idea for an interlude, Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire's take on a Miami bass booty song is inexplicably stretched out to an over four-minute-long track for no discernible reason. It's still moderately funny, and that type of beat implied by my earlier description is always good for a quick energy boost (it's like aural 5 Hour Energy in that way), but it's lacking otherwise, only managing to prove that eXquire and his boy Dallas are both huge fans of pussy. Which, well, yeah.
15. DRUNKEN FREESTYLE WITH TRAX (FEAT. TRAX)
That's a misleading title: although I have no doubt that our host probably was drunk when he recorded this, the final song on Merry eX-Mas & Suck My Dick, “Drunken Freestyle” is actually a (rambling, occasionally incoherent) song complete with a “chorus” made up of approximately nine thousand sound bites all played at once. The Beat-Maker-Beat, um, beat is unusual and probably not the best to listen to when hungover: it's too challenging for even the hardest of hip hop heads to wrap their thoughts around. And the rhyming ceases with more than a minute left to go: what kind of drunken freestyle would just end like that? As such, this wasn't awful, but I'm really fucking glad we're done here.
SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN? It depends. eXquire is an engaging presence behind the microphone, and many of his bars will keep you hooked. However, there isn't anything on Merry eX-Mas & Suck My Dick that approaches the greatness he achieved on Lost In Translation, although “Huzzah 2” comes close on the strength of the beat selection alone. eXquire never really intended for this to be canon, though: it's really more of a thank-you to his fans for supporting his dream, although enough of it is intriguing enough to prove that our host is set for bigger and better things. Which becomes rather obvious when you discover that eXquire actually signed with a major, Universal Republic, a few months after dropping this tape. The bottom line is this: if you liked the first album, you'll find something you'll care for on Merry eX-Mas & Suck My Dick, and if you're afraid that a major label's legal department may prevent future projects of this nature (hell, they forced a name change on the guy, who now goes by the somehow-more-family-friendly Mr. MFN eXquire, which is a step up from their first choice, James), then you should definitely enjoy this while the getting's good. Also, have a happy holiday and shit.