Blanco, The Jacka, Araabmuzik - Misfits (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Blanco, The Jacka, Araabmuzik

Misfits (2013)

Guerrilla Entertainment

Misfits is a bait-and-switch in the purest sense. Because the album is titled Misfits, uses the famous Misfits font and crimson ghost imagery, and because the entire back is directly modeled after the back side of Legacy of Brutality, one would think that this album has something to do with Misfits. Maybe it samples them liberally, like Wugazi. Maybe it relies on references to them like Mixtape about Nothing.

But no. Misfits, aside from stealing the ghostly imagery, has absolutely nothing to do with Misfits. At all. (You could argue that it comments on the fact that Misfits themselves ganked their font and crimson ghost imagery, but I doubt it.)

Still, it's possible that none of the recording artists involved knew that a theft was occurring. It could be that like so many mixtapes, the production company, Guerilla Entertainment, created the cover art without any recording artist input and the recording artists, by the time the mixtape came out, had already forgotten about it. Likewise, it could be that the parties involved are completely unaware of Misfits and just found the imagery itself powerful, and appropriated it without any context at all, similar to the repurposed direction of Hitler in India and… well… this.

Still, as a bait-and-swtich, Misfits is actually not too bad for a product resulting from a sale based in false pretenses.

Throughout the disc, which is packed with guest spots, Bay Area local Blanco uses a high-pitched delivery that has been lowered by way too much weed smoke, at times, making him almost sound like Captain Beefheart. His partner in crime is The Jacka, who has been active in the underground for over a decade. The Jacka's delivery is more measured, neither spiking or dropping in intonation like his companion, but still uses a sort of wheezing vibe reminiscence of B.I.G.'s less bombastic tracks.

Lyrically, both Blanco and The Jacka are nimble at their verses. Bending words around each other, drawing metaphors that can only be deciphered after a pause, and delivering zingers without halting to focus on them at all. Still, while both Blanco and the Jacka are adept, they fall into the trap that so many other bay area emcees have. Blanco and The Jacka are so focused on being clever with their words, binding puns and contrasts against each other, that they often fail to say anything at all.

Most of the rhymes here are gangsta tales. While that genre certainly has fruit left to be picked, here the pair seem concerned with just painting the picture of how top don they are. But, whereas the bizarre lingo and minute specificity used by Wu-Tang suggests that Ghostface or Raekwon really do know what it is to slang, here tales of having a quarter million dollars in the hotel and packing stacks sound more like they were inspired by Scarface.

The beats are provided by an engaged Araabmuzik. Symptomatic of the modern groove, the songs are purely Pro Tools creations, giving them a very steady, mid-paced plastic feel. However, Araabmuzik seems aware of the pitfalls of the modern beatmakers: either they are too bombastic or too messy or just plain boring. Here, Araabmuzik propels every track by thumping drums that reference the famed 808 and provides a backdrop of simple, but driving sounds which really are some of the more interesting hip hop beats this year.

The disc is also packed full of guest spots, with 13 artists having featured spots on the eight tracks here. Noticeably, dancehall up-and-comer Pressure and Bust Pipes, who open and close the disc, steal the show. Pressure brings a fresh dynamism from the disc, running up and down tonal levels, in stark contrast to the rest of the participants who are content to be almost monotone. Likewise, Bust Pipes delivers in a modern take on the Snoop Dogg laggard delivery, suggesting both whimsy and danger. Really, "Bipolar" is one of the best hip hop tracks of the year.

The vast number of contributors gives the piece a flow, featuring a multitude of vocal delivery styles. But one has to wonder, are so many people packed on here because they want to give everyone a shot, or because most of the participants can't carry a whole release themselves? Still, this is one of the most interesting curios of the year.