Why do I always have to be the party pooper?!
After all, there are so few Jewish rappers in the business; it’s difficult for me to give a negative review to Ephrhyme’s (pronounced E-prime) latest solo album, Dopestylevsky, K Records‘ first hip-hop album in over a decade.
Yet, here I sit, flummoxed, trying to find a nice way of writing that, well, the Olympia, WA-bred MC comes across less like Matisyahu (the latter of which may be as close to catching lightning in a bottle as we’ll ever get, when it comes to Jewish rappers), and more like “Weird Al” Yankovic doing his infamous—and hilarious—“Amish Paradise.”
I’m sorry, and this might sound somewhat racist, but barring the likes of Eminem and Matisyahu, most white people just can’t pull off a decent patois. It’s that simple. Ephryme is just one of those people who can’t, try as he might. He just sounds silly and loses all credibility. Throughout most of the album, his voice just made me chuckle and picture Mr. “UHF,” with his wispy faux beard and modest Amish attire.
The album’s lyrics are sound, some pitch-perfect, and that’s what makes this such a disappointment.
Some people just weren’t meant to rap.
It’s such a thin line, the difference between performing a rap song versus singing a song.
Look at Bob Dylan: The guy has never been able to sing a song to save his life. In fact, his voice sounds worse than ever; like a lizard that took a swig of Johnny Walker and was then, subsequently, run over by a Dodge Charger. The sounds he now calls “singing” sounds more like a thick, tobacco-tarred dirge.
The point being, though, is that in Dylan’s case (at least, in his prime), he knew his strengths. He also injected his songs with enough, well, Dylan (read: soul…I think), that the passion regularly overpowered the weaknesses of his off-key vocals.
Plus, the dude had enough charisma to spare. And that can go a long way.
Whereas, with a rap song—especially if you’re a white Jew!—either you got it…or ya don’t…and no amount of wizardly wordplay can save your lillie-white ass. Sorry. As Bruce Hornsby once sang, that’s just the way it is. Some things will never change.
Now, this is not to say that there aren’t some decent diamonds in the rough on Dopestylevsky. In fact, the second half of the disc, while not exactly great, has some pretty decent tracks.
There’s just one problem: For the most part, Ephrhyme is hardly, if at all, heard on these, which goes to show that maybe the guy can lay down a track better than he can get one out. Take track 6, “Smoke Break,” for instance. It’s all synthesized sound and hard-charging fury—and it’s also probably the album’s biggest highlight. One would hope that it’s merely coincidence that it’s purely instrumental, with no “Weird Al” voice to be heard, but that might be reaching.
Track 8, “Notes from the Underground,” isn’t so bad either. Of course, once again, the song, featuring Xperience and Glimpse, two artists who seem to know their way around a rap song better than MC “Dopestylevsky” himself. The song is fast-flowing, gritty, and, yes, credible. Hmmm…sounds like rap to me!
Finally, the following track, “Lose Your Cool,” features A.K.A., and it features some really beautiful crystalline, clubby, synth waves and vocals. It’s nothing earth-shaking, but it’s easy on the ears.
That is, until our favorite “Weird Al” wannabe starts vocalizing.
Damn, this rapper just ain’t kosher! He’s just (a) dope!
Oy vey, yo!