Occasionally, when I rummage through a tattered box emblazoned Sleeveless, pre-owned, 50p and skim my fingers over the ranks of rigid discs, standing to attention, I wonder if this will be the time that I find something inspiring. Will I finally stumble across a miscellaneous gem? A straight shot of underground talent? A rightful voice saying something of value in an otherwise frivolous time?
My fingers halt their marionettes jig across the CDs, and pull one out: Phillys Most Wanted Get Down or Lay Down. This is the one.
A little background research informs me that Phillys Most Wanted were an ill-fated American hip-hop duo which experienced a vague glimmer of fame in the waning days of 2001. This is all that is made available to me (without adopting the persona of a P.I. and hereby living my life in voice over, anyway), but just enough for me to know that Ive found something beautiful. So, straight to it: Get Down or Lay Down, the pairs debut release, gets down at an impressive eighteen tracks totalling over an hour. Impeccable track-listing enables us to kick off with Radikal and the opening intones:
Yo, Im the nigga who ya wanna be
And damned if the brotha aint right:
The first few tracks (the second of which harbours the traditional rap double negative: Yall Cant Never Hurt Us) inform that Boo Bonic and Mr Man live a life flush with cocaine fuelled evenings, endless queues of willing women and the capacity to outsmart those wielding firearms. Incidentally, those wielding firearms is seemingly everybody.
Far from an aficionado of all things rap/hip-hop, Ive never quite understood the almost antagonistic defensiveness found in the lyrics. Whole albums devoted to denouncing those with the power of critical analysis as haters and pissing contests wherein we hear about just how promiscuous dem pesky rappers can be. The music itself is difficult to comment on, owing to the uniform run of tracks which do very little to differentiate themselves from one another. If youd be so kind as to direct yourselves to the following track blueprint:
Aforementioned Track Blueprint
Lyrics spat forth in a passive aggressive manner, steeped in exposition about tha streets.
Redundant reassurance that we are listening to the artist in question, e.g. Unh, takin over, get down or lay down, Most Wanted
Gratuitous use of yeah.
Three four minutes of light percussion, incessant swearing and some violent threats.
I guess theres a reason that Get Down or Lay Down found a second half-life among the citys disowned urchin CDs. In the interest of hedging my bets, Id like to grant the album particular plaudits for its style and content. It could well be a very clever and still (after over a decade in existence) poignant parody of modern day rap.