Q: If you make an album that parodies obnoxious Top 40 crunk rap but keep the sound exactly the same, what percentage of that album will still suck?
A: If the Lonely Island’s debut Incredibad is any indication, it’s about half and half. Saturday Night Live star Andy Samberg and writers Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone have been satirizing popular culture for years with Internet videos like "The ’Bu” and "Awesometown," but on Incredibad, the guys hit a wall: How do you make bad rap more ridiculous? “Who Said We’re Wack?” takes on diss tracks while “I’m on a Boat” mocks tunes about extravagance. The jokes never go beyond those titles, though, and thus never go too deep. E-40 helps the trio out on “Santana DVX,” a song about drankin’, and it helps that the song actually has a narrative with multiple jokes to throw at the listener.
While the opening tracks feel underwritten, the album picks up as it progresses into SNL material. Granted, they also give the album a slight “you’ve heard the best, here’s the rest” feel, but at least it’s something. “Lazy Sunday” (with Chris Parnell) and “Natalie’s Rap” (with Natalie Portman and Parnell) both went over well on TV, and they still stand out on Incredibad. Same goes for “Ras Trent” and “Dick in a Box,” which show a comedic depth lacking on “I’m on a Boat.” “Ras Trent” runs a gamut of Jamaican references from the obvious (“a DVD of 'Cool Runnings'!”) to the obscure (Chaka Demus’ “Murder She Wrote” and Gregory Isaacs’ “Night Nurse” both get shout-outs).
The record closes out with some lesser tunes (“Natalie’s Rap”'s hilarious violent diatribe aside). “Punch You in the Jeans” and “Space Olympics” are more title-driven sketches that fail to conjure up the mirth, while “Incredibad” is the Lonely Island origin story no one ever wanted to hear (spoiler alert: They triple-teamed a robot/alien...thingy). But while the CD is a great 20-minute comedy album burdened with another crappy 20-minute comedy album, the accompanying DVD is much more consistent. Some of the better SNL Digital Shorts show up, like “Jizz in My Pants” and “Lazy Sunday.” A couple of the Island’s online videos are available as well. “Just 2 Guyz” and “We Like Sportz” work an awkward dork-rap angle, while “Bing Bong Brothers” takes Ying Yang Twins’ “Wait (The Whisper Song)” to its most absurdist extreme (sample lyric: “I like your boobies in your shirt / Please let me show you my penis”).
In a sense, Incredibad lives up to its title; it’s tasteless and, well, bad in a lot of places, but it’ll occasionally get a chuckle. And hey, releasing “Lazy Sunday,” which aired on SNL in 2005, on a 2009 album isn't too late, right?