The Impossebulls

Special Edition

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Despite the political mood of the era, the early 2000s didn't offer much rap with political overtones, let alone rap with a revolutionary edge. The golden-age politics of Public Enemy, X-Clan, Paris, and KRS-One had since long passed, supplanted first by a wave of gat-toting, chronic-smoking gangstas in the mid-'90s, then by a wave of bling-blinging, club-banging number-one stunnas in the early 2000s. For this reason, the Impossebulls stand out in their era. Unlike their MTV-sanctioned, major-label contemporaries, this virtual collective of mixed-race Midwestern rappers are countercultural in the sense that they protest practically everything imaginable about popular rap. The lyrics may be thoughtful and subversive here on Special Edition, yet the song titles reveal the agenda, plainly and simply: The Impossebulls take aim at the industry itself, proudly declaring "We Don't Need You"; they oppose the rappers co-opted by the industry, sarcastically asking "Who Wants to Act Like a Millionaire?"; they mock the pop crossover rap audience, jokingly declaring "This Is a Pop Song"; and they lobby for mentor Chuck D's liberal attitude toward the industry, enterprisingly preaching "Cut Out the Middle Man." The message here is all-important, and it's not just what these guys say but how they say it. The fact that they're a virtual group -- that is, collaborating via the Internet, exchanging MP3 recordings that producer C-Doc mixes and redistributes -- evidences that indeed it's possible to "cut out the middle man" and that indeed they "don't need" the industry. The Impossebulls are thus nearly as revolutionary as they claim to be. They're only nearly as revolutionary as they claim, however, because they can't quite deliver music on a par with their major-label contemporaries. Sure, their lyrics are incredibly thoughtful and their earnestness is even more commendable, but there's more to rap than rhetoric, namely music. Despite some impressive beats by C-Doc and a show-stealing performance by DJ President Ike, the production quality sounds a bit anemic and the hooks are often passable; plus, there's a noticeable lack of group chemistry here, understandably. There's a lot to get excited about on Special Edition, particularly the revolutionary spirit; however, the heavy emphasis on ideology makes this album much more rhetorical than musical, for better or worse. Either way, it's all the more reason why the Impossebulls seem so refreshingly anomalous among their politically vacuous, often seemingly cloned contemporaries. This is an audacious debut, and one that deserves to be heard.

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