It’s hard to predict what’s gonna come next from the mind of MC Lars. One minute he’s spitting silly rhymes at 1000 miles an hour, the next he’s philosophizing on the state of the US economy with such elegance that you’d think Paul Krugman had taken up hip-hop. It’s an interesting dynamic, being brought up on rap music and educated at Stanford. The first time I heard Lars was on a track by K Flay, who met him while studying in Palo Alto. His verse on “Paper Planes & Spitballs” made me a fan for life (yes I’m a sucker for anyone who can work in Simpson’s references-especially obscure ones).
Lars has had a great career so far. This year alone he’s put out two new releases and re-released a record from 2007. The most recent, Lars Attacks!, has been running through the gears of my iPod’s hard drive like Forrest Gump. I’ve heard the whole thing a bunch of times over the last week, and I think I’m ready to put down some thoughts and give him the Golden Seal of Approval-which means I recommend picking up this release, as well as any future release he puts out.
From beginning to end, Lars Attacks! is undeniably enjoyable. The beats are well-constructed, and the lyrics are at times verbose but never to the detriment of the song. Lars exists in a world where taking risks isn’t looked at as a negative, a quality major label rappers lack. It’s because of these risks that he’s able to speak his mind without worrying about consequences.
The best example of this is the song “History’s Greatest Assholes.” If you follow me on Twitter, you may have caught me raving about the song a few days ago. It’s hilarious, but done in a smart way. He’s not just picking people at random and calling them assholes. He’s going throughout history and giving specific reasons why they’re assholes. He spends about 90 percent of the song speaking about the past, but toward the end he delivers this stanza about our current situation:
It’s an inside job trading junk bonds and derivatives
Systematic risk, Wall Street greed is quite indicative
20 billion in the bank, but y’all kept on spending
Killing our economy with subprime lending
He also names George W Bush the number one asshole, and you’ll get no argument from me on that one.
The song that follows is a sweet love song, which normally ends up destroying a rap record. If I’m not mistaken the background for this is taken from LFO’s “Summer Girls.” Or maybe I’m remembering that song incorrectly. Regardless, “Summer Camp Love (Is So In Tents)” is one of those songs that seems like a lark at first, but you keep coming back to it. There’s a great message about the persistent power of love in there. Also, it paints a great nostalgic vision of those moments when love first blossoms. The best part of the song comes in the second act, after the two kids that fell for eachother have grown up a bit:
All grown up and I’m thinking maybe,
Time can do beautiful things to a lady
Skinny-dipping in the lake she starts to blush
I reach for her hand and I feel the rush
I hold her close and pretty soon
We’re falling in love under a Tahoe moon
I’m like, “I think I missed you,” she’s like
“I missed you too,” this is what time and patience can do.
After that comes “Venemous Box Jellyfish,” which I don’t think is all that great compared to the songs surrounding it. Listen anyway, because it’s a break you need to get from “Summer Camp Love” to the next amazing song, “Judas Priest.” There are more than a few religious references on the album, but this is the most obvious. It’s an interesting take on the story of Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus. But did he?? The song takes the theory that Judas was actually the apostle that Jesus chose to trust with fulfilling a very important part of His plan.
For all the fun and silliness of some of the songs, I think “Judas Priest” may be the best and most interesting on the record. I haven’t heard a rapper take on subject matter like this outside of DC Talk, and Lars does it pretty well. The music is a mix of synths and some backing from John Carpenter’s Halloween, and it feels almost like a numetal kind of rap-rock. There’s a lot of screaming and anguish in this track. Completely different from anything else out there right now, I definitely recommend at least checking this song out.
Skipping ahead a bit in the interest of brevity, I want to touch on the song that closes the record, “Annabel Lee RIP.” Based on the title you probably deduced that it’s a take on Edgar Allan Poe’s romantic poem. This song is, probably, the absolute best reimagining of Poe’s work since The Simpson’s take on “The Raven.” It mixes the original text of the poem with some original lyrics from MC Lars and music by Lars and K Flay. There are some real genius segues between the two, like this one:
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love see
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven coveted her and me.
She was gone by dawn should have known all along
That we were never meant to be
Sadly, I gave her my heart, she gave me her flower
Like Romeo and Juliet humping in the tower
Some may consider the additional words irreverent, but I think they remain true to the feel of the poem, though they are a bit more salacious than Poe would have been.
Lars Attacks! is comprised of fifteen tracks, and I’d say 6 of those are great. 2 of them are kind of duds for me, and the other 7 are really good. There’s appearances by KRS-One (which may be worth the purchase price alone), Sage Francis, Mac Lethal, and Weerd Science. MC Lars is constantly paying tribute to those that came before him, and giving proper respect to those he considers peers in the rap game. His beats are fresh, his lyrics are better than almost anyone’s, and he takes himself just seriously enough to take things to the edge, but never go over.
Any young rappers out there who are thinking of really trying to make it without selling out early and often needs to take a listen to this record.