Album Review: The Ghetto is Tryna Kill Me, by the White Mandingos
When I talked to Darryl Jenifer of the Bad Brains last fall, he mentioned a rap project that he was involved in. That project, the White Mandingos, dropped its first record this week, and all I can say is: “fuuuuck,” sort of like Jeff Spicoli hitting his Vans shoe against his skull in Fast Times at Ridgemont High back when the Brains were just getting started.
The lineup is weird enough. The band consists of Jenifer on bass, music journalist and founder of Ego Trip Sacha Jenkins on guitar, and veteran indie MC Murs providing most of the vocals. But it is the music that is really interesting.
For the most part, the only time the words “rap” and “rock” have been used together in the last couple decades without inducing nausea was when Anthrax and Public Enemy teamed up. But the White Mandingos actually manage to do service to punk and hip hop. In the title track, they describe what they’re doing as “hard-core hip hop, with some punk in it, criss-cross bebop, put some Monk in it.”
And the thing is, that’s pretty accurate–it’s the full-on quotient of Thelonious weirdness that makes this record so good. The punk is actually better than the the last Bad Brains album, which I, unlike a lot of critics, really liked, and the rhymes are quirkier and more interesting than Odd Future or whoever else might be hot these days.
As the name of the band might suggest, it would take a whole room full of Cornell Wests and Tavis Smileys to make a smarter critique of race relations: “They say that rock’s white/ they say I walk white/ they say a lot of shit/ they even say I talk white/ cause I like to say ‘like,’ ‘stoked,’ and ‘dude’/ I was wearing tight jeans before that shit was cool,” Murs rhymes on “Black-N-White.”
The first single, “My First White Girl,” is equally pointed (watch the hilarious video below): “I wanted her to grow up to be my soccer mom/ the white girl that I took to prom/ . . .On Sunday she would make me vegan food/ and lots of other shit I’d probably never be into/ When we traveled I’d be the only black person/ except the gay best friend/ he was part Persian. . . We used to go to fancy dinner with her folks/ it would feel like an episode of Diff’rent Strokes/ She smelled like a dog when her hair was wet/ she said my hair felt like a Chia pet.”
All of this is punctuated by a fuzzy guitar riff that keeps it from being pure comedy. And then they go straight into a blistering cover of Minor Threat’s “Guilty of Being White.”
I suspect this is only a preliminary review, because The Ghetto is Tryna Kill Me is one of those records with jokes, riffs, puns, and knowledge-drops that can take a while to register. There’s some corny stuff, too, and some weaker songs, but on first listen, this shit is fun.