Very few media outlets take the time and effort necessary to review Independent project…DJBooth.net just so happens to be one of those outlets. I can’t say enough about what they do over there, but they have quickly asserted themselves as one of the most respectable hip-hop blogs on the internets.
I didn’t realize it until I finished my first pass through Jarren Benton’s new, fantastically titled album, Huffing Glue With Hasslehoff, but music hasn’t been fun in a long time. I’ve hated music, I’ve loved music, I’ve heard music that makes me want to make (another) baby and I’ve heard music that makes me want to fight a bouncer, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I just purely enjoyed music. So right out the box, I have to thank Benton and Hasslehoff’s co-creators, Atlanta creative construction crew SMKA. Huffing Glue With Hasslehoff is pretty good times. (Note to kids: That was figurative. Don’t huff glue, and if you do, don’t do it with alcoholic ex-TV lifeguards.)
Let me be clear, Huffing Glue isn’t good times in the “birthday cake and piñatas” sense, more like in the “getting hammered and throwing a television off your roof“ sense. (Kids, see note above about things you shouldn’t do.) From beginning to finish, Benton and SMKA have created a destructively creative work that punches holes in the rap clichés that hold us all hostage. Lord knows rap could use some punching.
If I compared Benton’s rhymes to an early Eminen’s, would everyone freak out? Or am I only allowed to compare other white rappers to Eminem? Whatever, I’m doing it. As dope as Benton is, he doesn’t have nearly the range Em does, or at least I haven’t heard it yet, but his willingness to say absolutely anything, to somehow make the darkest bars imaginable also sound hilarious, immediately reminds me of a pre-fame Slim Shady. Think I’ve completely lost it? Go listen to Ima Murder and Em’s Wake Up Show freestyle back to back. I’ll leave the comparisons there before all the rap traditionalists have an aneurysm, but even putting all that aside, it’s safe to say that there are very few emcees out there, if any, delivering the kind of spasmodically hard verses we get on tracks like Get a Load of Me and F*ck That Sh*t. “I’m paintin you portraits / they feedin you horse sh*t / they vision’s distorted / leave em dead in they Porches.” Yep, that about sums it up.
Side note: Regular readers know I’ve been on a multi-year campaign to end skits. Every rapper thinks they’re funny, none of them are. Meet the exception to the rule. Both the DJ skit, which not so subtly mocks DJs who won’t shut up (cough Flex cough Khaled cough), and their version of the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World commercial (shout out to Fruit Roll Ups), are legitimately hilarious. But I want to make this clear; rappers, this is not permission for you to bust out some skits on your next album. Don’t do it. Trust me.
Since Huffing Glue is truly a collaborative album it’s only right I take a moment to turn the spotlight on SMKA’s production work. With the exception of Justin Bieber, which finds Kato crafting a Lex Luger-ish banger, if Lex Luger chopped samples about the Biebster, the entirety of the album owes its boardwork to 808s Blake and Justin Padron. Like their previous release The Stargazing Soundtrack, the men of SMKA continue to develop a style that’s simultaneously in orbit and street level. As far as I’m concerned A Spacesuit & Parachute could have ended with the perfect Back to the Future clip, making the lightly blinking and ambient distorted beat that follows is icing on the proverbial cake. I could say the same thing about the aforementioned Get a Load of Me, which lifts a booming bass line with sharp keys hits, and the speaker blowing F*ck That Sh*t. From the first note you always know when you’re listening to a SMKA beat, and that usually means good times are on the way.
This isn’t an album that will change your life, except to the extent that the more musically sheltered among us will find their horizon significantly expanded. This isn’t an album that will inspire you, except to the extent that it may inspire some to something more like themselves. Instead, Huffing Glue With Hasslehoff is simply one of the more enjoyably albums I’ve come across in a minute, and apparently making enjoyable music is harder than it should be. Or maybe Jarren Benton and SMKA are just better at it than everyone else. Yeah, that might just be it.