Sunday, 9 January 2011
East of Edan
Here I was all ready to act the highfaluting "oh, his 12"-only songs were so much better than anything on his albums, dah-ling" guy with a post about how Edan was only ever really worthwhile as a singles artist (hardly a besmirching remark since it'd put him in the company of Tweedy Bird Loc, Black Moon, and pre-2006 Ludacris) because you could only find his tracks which weren't hampered by standard white-rapper voice/delivery issues and the whole golden-era pastiche cul-de-sac he'd cornered himself into on them, when I sabotaged myself by skimming through his Primitive Plus debut (bought and, indeed, kept because Rapperfection was the one Edan album track I dug) for the first time in around 8 years and found the likes of '83 Wildin', One Man Arsenal, the original Emcees Smoke Crack, and You Suck! all goin' hard in the 2011 in a way they never did back when I copped it in 2002. Damn.
Still, I maintain the viewpoint that Edan's finest songs were on the Emcees Smoke Crack remix 12", that the Sprain Your Tape Deck EP contained his most entertaining experiments, and that his only effective '88 reappropriation was a rare 7" given away via a website, so let's not allow anything as trivial as my factual reconsiderations about 5 songs from Primitive Plus to act as portcullis to the castle of a pre-planned post which'll now have to be subtitled as ‘5 great Edan moments from his singles’ rather than ‘why Edan's singles were better than his albums’. These are in chronological order and if there is a notable absence here then it's his Jesse B. Weaver Jr tribute Schoolly D Knew The Time, which was a much more successful eulogy for an eighties rap hero than Nas's klutzy Unauthorized Biography of Rakim because, unlike that well-intentioned but ultimately dull testimonial by Jones, it captures some of the spirit of the rapper it's saluting and it also works as a banger that you'll actually listen to more than twice.
Edan - Beautiful Food (2002)
(From the Sprain Your Tapedeck EP)
So, there are 3 key experimental songs on Sprain Your Tapedeck : Run Your Shit, which we'll get to in a minute; the irritatingly zany Let's Be Friends, which Edan probably intended to sound like Biscuits And Eggs by Ultramagnetic but is more reminiscent of I Feel You Dawg by Filipino Frank; and Beautiful Food, which is little more than Edan rapping a list of scran he finds delectable, but he reels off the names of his favourite snacks with such relish that it ends up as an unlikely catwalk between Rae & Ghost in the kitchen and Young Dro's constant food references plus Mm..Food-era DOOM in the food-rap sub-genre we can trace back to starting with the Fat Boys, and which was continued with Lil B's cooking craze in last year. Okay, I'll concede that this joint might be as acquired a taste as the brown rice citrus salad sandwiches Edan bigs up in it, but, at the very least, you have to admit that it's better than that Lupe Fiasco song where he pretended to be a hamburger, right?
Edan - Run That Shit (2002)
(From the Sprain Your Tapedeck EP)
I recently saw someone describe Tyler The Creator as "like a black teenage Edan" and beyond the initial LOLz the comparison drew, I can sorta see what its author meant since Edan was a bugged-out rapper/producer auteur with a D.I.Y ethic like Tyler is. But if we're going to liken Edan to the current breed of young, independent oddball rappers then let's throw Lil B's name into the hat too since Edan had a knack for surreally replicating the styles of other rappers like B does. So, where B eccentrically channels AZ on Age Of Information or both Juvenile and Magnolia Shorty on The Summer, Edan reimagined himself as Kool Keith on Ultra '88 (Respect Due), or, in this instance, plays the Beantown homer by recreating a mythical mid 90s Scientifik cut (that piano sample is pure Buckwild) from the perspective of a kleptomaniac stick-up kid in his own absurd image, where our narrator is so gassed off the idea of never paying for anything that he ends up jacking people for their pet dogs, little brothers, and fried pieces of chicken.
Edan - Emcees Smoke Crack remix (2002)
(From the Emcees Smoke Crack remix 12")
And then it finally happened : Emcees Smoke Crack remix was the song was where all the elements seemed to align for Edan's steez and the problems I've encountered with him beforehand and afterwards - the awkwardness and earnestness all peckerwood rappers suffer from to some degree, the intentional retroism, the misfortune of too many of his records sounding like rap songs made by a white hip hop nerd rather than actual rap songs - all evapourated to be replaced with an obnoxiousness that's as close any other cracker has come to advancing on what the Beasties accomplished on Paul's Boutique, and, production-wise he finally built on the promise of Rapperfection and the interview which initially piqued my interest in him where he opined that his music was a modern take on New Rap Language without feeling as contrived as his later Beauty And The Beat album with all the psychedelic rock samples and moogs did. As mentioned previously, the true litmus test for songs by pilgrim rappers here at The Martorialist is if you can't imagine anyone else over the beat, and that's why this is Edan's one boda fide masterpiece. The B. side of this 12" wasn't half bad either.
Edan - I'll Come Running Back To You (2002)
(From the Emcees Smoke Crack remix 12")
I'll Come Running Back To You isn't quite as brilliant as it's A. side because I can imagine someone else over this beat since it's what I'd hoped Black Sheep's Non-Fiction album would've sounded like, but it's still pretty darn neat and I guess Edan's true strength may have been in inventing fictitious futures which never came to pass for golden-era rappers. After this 12" Edan bookended 2002 with his excellent Fast Rap mix cd, but, alas, it also proved to be a false dawn as his Beauty And The Beat album 3 years later in 2005 was a return to shockingly earnest levels of delivery and its new production style left me unable to understand what all the fuss was about. The only other song of his which came close to replicating the 4 songs in this post for me was another single-only track in 2005, this time an obscure 7" that was limited to 500 copies.
Edan - Funky Rhyming (2005)
(From the Funky Rhyming 7")
See, I can forgive Funky Rhyming for falling into the period-piece pastiche trap of Edan's earlier work because he raps on it with that same Emcees Smoke Crack remix/I'll Be Coming Back To You chutzpah previous records of his like Drop Some Smooth Lyrics were deficient in, and tenet # 43 of rap-law 101 dictates that every east coast rapper who debuted before 2005 must rhyme over Funky Drummer, Champ and U.F.O at some point during their career so Edan acted sensibly here by ploughing through them all on one song. His addressing of internet hataz on this is just about acceptable since the 7" was a HipHopSite exclusive, and history has taught us that it's far preferable option for rappers to respond to their online detractors in a song given away on a rap website than it is for them to get Immortal Technique-ed in the real world after being constantly embarrassed by a trannie-fellating Filipino teenager when posting on a rap message board.
As if to reinforce just how disappointing I found Edan's post-2002 career, even my copy of his Sound Of The Funky Drummer mix cd from 2004 went haywire after track 3 and then refused to play any further. I'm not shelling out for another copy and I've never been able to find a working download to it, but I'm interested to hear his actual 4 songs on there in the vain hope that they're more Funky Rhyming than Funky Voltron.