When I first removed Coolzey’s EP Soixante-Neuf (69 en Francais) from its little cardboard sleeve and scanned his bio, I thought to myself – “Great. Another self-deprecating, old-school-fellating white rapper showboating his sloppy wit all over my iTunes.” But, upon giving Coolzey a chance, I found it hard to be such a hater. Soixante-Neuf, the middle release in Coolzey’s three-EP series, exposes some ungainly form, but has its heart in the right place.
Coolzey is a 30-year old guy from Iowa who grew up on a farm. He spent his formative years bumping and idolizing heavyweights like Big Daddy Kane and Lord Finesse. He has spent a lot of time playing a lot of instruments for a lot of little bands that you’ve probably never heard of. He was also a member of the notorious Sucka MCs who were once signed to Ace Fu, but fell apart after the debauchery of life on the road earned them an unsavory reputation. He claims to make music because it’s what he loves to do and expects nothing more from it. That’s hard to hate, if you ask me.
The aptly named “Intro” rides in on a flurry of scratches and piano loops; Coolzey does his best Edan impression. “Funk 69” is next and it’s almost funny how much of an MF Doom cop it is. Remember that website that put two Nickleback singles next to each other and played them simultaneously to demonstrate that they were pretty much the same song? Well, I would love to do the same thing with “Funk 69” and Doom-as-Viktor Vaughn’s cut “G.M.C.” It’s truly uncanny, from the muddled underwater beats to the seven-count/rest-on-eight rhymes. “Bloody Apron” is an homage to horror films, but sometimes it sounds like Diet Cage – lacking cohesion and not always creepy enough.
“ABC” is a track I can actually get behind; it’s white, nerdy, and not trying to be much more. Hardcore gangsta beats frame a gag on the genre as Coolzey spits viciously about the mundane – drinking chocolate shakes, being a dishwasher, and breaking his muthafuckin’ glasses. “Artworld” develops a futuristic scenario in which people can only buy art in a Walmart-like super-center. It’s an incisive dig on American Idol culture, but the flow isn’t always articulate enough to make you want to pay attention.
Rappers can be good when they put words and syllables together in inventive ways or if they have a thought-provoking vision or message to convey. It takes a truly great one to be able to do both. Coolzey has some interesting things to say, but he sticks to saying them through the lens of past masters. As a result, a track like “Artworld,” could have been a classic and affecting hip hop fable a la El-P’s “Stepfather Factory,” but ends up sounding like an angsty poetry project. He also has highly unconventional phrasing; personally, it drove me up a wall, with breaths in the most awkward of places. Thankfully though, Coolzey never takes himself too seriously and therefore never ventures into the as-bad-as-it-gets corny backpacker arena populated by so many super-indie rappers. Someone teach him some breath control, take away his record collection, and let’s see what he comes up with.