Play with Toys

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An alternative rap cult favorite, Play with Toys is the mysterious Basehead's shining moment. Originally released by the long-gone Émigré label -- an American 4AD wannabe with a design wing and everything -- the album is Basehead rapper/producer/leader Michael Ivey's snoozy vision of "slacker rap," which is organic, lazy, smart, and head over heels in love with beer for some reason. Hops and barley and their negative effects on the body are the topic of "2000 B.C.," a slow shuffling track with loose guitars, real live drums, and Ivey's echoing mumbles pining the loss of 2000 brain cells. "Ode to My Favorite Beer" opens with the sound of a pop-top, then slides into a strange soundscape that comes very close to the dream pop of A.R. Kane, making another 4AD connection. When Ivey delivers "Clair and Cliff Huxtable never lived around here" on the great "Better Days," he's depressed, not ghetto proud like the hardcore ballers would sound. Filled with these lackadaisical, down-and-out moments, this debut album with a hangover isn't for everyone. It really didn't have much of an influence once alternative rap and indie rap began to flourish, either, but Toys deserves its cult status and sounds like little else in the hip-hop universe.

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