There aren’t many musical pursuits harder than making hip-hop. You have to write rhymes, you have to memorize them, you have to find or make beats. You have to deliver your rhymes in dingy clubs with crap sound and sell yourself to the pickiest audiences in the world–the people who added a new definition to the dictionary for the word “hate.”
CaseTheJoint is an MC who, in spite of all that, jumps in with both feet on Stalking To Myself. To his credit, this CD doesn’t sound anything like what’s currently going on in commercial hip-hop. The lion’s share of the tracks, produced by Imperfekt, are anchored by Jagged drum machine beats layered with jazz samples. This is a throwback style, pioneered by Guru and Digable Planets in the early 90s, but Imperfekt manages to find something new to do with the style, making musically surprising assemblages from several unrelated samples. Blake B (on “Let It Be”) and Goodwill (on “Outta Here”) get cheekily illegal by biting on the Beatles & Wings, which will get Case sued if he ever really blows up, but hey even that’s good publicity.
Case’s got a voice that has an earthy hint of gravel to it, and he sounds authentically hip-hop without trying to sound black. You can tell he’s heard a lot of Del the Funky Homosapien and picked up some of his talent for diction and relaxed, conversational rhythm. That’s something that can’t be faked and his writing, at its best, is manically surreal, as on “Word Weaponry,” where he says he “If mum’s the word, silent flowers unite/I might gag Lady Gaga with Bagpipes tonight.” “Cliché Statement” strings together a remarkable string of clichés, out of which pops silly bits like “I got a funny feeling my days are numbered like Tuesday.”
There’s room for improvement. There’s not much bottom end to the beats and, while the rhymes are never bad, the merely okay lines aren’t up to the standard set by the best lines. Hip-hop is a cruel master that way. But the fun Case and his crew had putting this CD together is evident and I look forward to hearing where they go from here.