Miss Fairchild – S/T

I’ve been reviewing for Delusions of Adequacy for nearly five years now, and this is, no shit, the first hip-hop release to ever arrive in my mailbox. Hard to believe? Well, yes and no. DOA has never purported to be an every-genre authority, and certainly hip-hop falls out of most of our writers’ realm of expertise. On the other hand, rap music – and not just underground hip-hop – has made such confident strides into the consciousness of the independent rock community in the last three years that it’s hardly surprising that this record, the first offering from rap duo Miss Fairchild, is the sort of thing we might review now.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t get my hands on this five years ago. I would’ve ripped it to shreds. I would’ve said that the lyrics weren’t meaningful enough (whatever the fuck that means), that the songwriting wasn’t strong enough, and that the album as a whole wasn’t emotional enough, or that the album didn’t connect on an emotional level. A couple of Ghostface albums, a deep look into the Definitive Jux catalog, and a half-decade later, however, I can look at this album with the sort of experience – if not authority or expertise – needed to write a coherent review. I can also tell you about 17 brand new reasons why I can’t stand this record.

Since 17 is a big number, and even I’m kind of tired of making and reading lists right now, let’s start with the most egregious abuse of hip-hop posturing since The Diplomats record: “Dream of U.” Some background first: Miss Fairchild is the brainchild of Wrall Skillz and P. Nice, a couple of New England goofballs with a thirst for 70s soul and G-Funk beats. They are, above all else, a technically competent duo. They never sound like a couple of indie-rock Pavement fans impersonating hip-hop (which, given their appearance, was a distinct possibility). The beats are legitimate funk-driven soundscapes, and the choruses, sung in a wistful, remembering old-school falsetto, never sound half-assed.

But back to “Dream of U,” the single most un-enjoyable song I’ve heard in months. The unintentionally (I think … either way, I don’t care) funny boy-band chorus opens the song, shrilly announcing a sort of shamelessness heretofore unseen in underground hip-hop. “I was lying in my bed / trying to climb back in my head / for a half an hour / I would take back what I said / all those things I’d do instead / If I had the power” are lyrics that ring with no more weight on record than they do in print. Wrall Skillz delivers a couple of unmemorable verses, even for him, and the production, instead of copping to West Coast beatmasters of the early 90s, is a soft bed of guitar and listless drums. Of the remaining nine songs on the album, only “Hot Sauce” approaches the sheer unacceptability of “Dream of U.” The silly funk beat almost carries the song, but a chorus that basks in the repetition of the song’s title (“Rollin’ in the hot sauce mama”) drags the song into a sonic hell.

The album actually opens rather promisingly with “Foreign Lands.” Wrall Skillz dreams evocatively of being in a much bigger band, and P. Nice cribs a beat from some old Cypress Hill record. The copycatting is even more apparent on “Call the Shots,” which rips the “California Love” melody almost note-for-note, but a hop-scotch bassline and an understated verse from Wrall save the song from utter banality.

The rest of the album is a mostly forgettable mix of funk basslines and stilted verse. It’s admittedly refreshing to see underground hip-hop that’s not railing against “the system” – too many underground MCs fall into a trap of angry, hookless ranting. Underground hip-hop could surely use more MCs with senses of humor and a penchant for party tracks. Miss Fairchild, however, is not the place to go for this. I’ve been debating in my head for the last week just what percent of this album is parody, coming up, alternately, with almost every number between 0 and 100. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter: this isn’t a funny album, whether it’s meant to be or not. Miss Fairchild has a couple of solid musicians, but their execution is so far off the mark that I’m having trouble finding words. There’s no doubting the strides hip-hop has made into the indie community, but no concessions should be made for failed experiments.