[Originally published 1991 |
Updated here 1999.06.20
Stars can fall. Maestro Fresh-Wes, Canada's most popular, most adept rap artist, seems to have corrupted his carefully-wrought image of being "different" from American rappers.
When his 1989 début, Symphony in Effect (Attic), spawned the happy-feet singles "Let Your Backbone Slide" and "Drop the Needle," Canadian fans could enjoy an interlude of pride in their homeboy rapper. Symphony in Effect's subtle triumph was its unstinting lyrical identification with Canada. Wes is our hero, not theirs, as his near-total lack of American success will corroborate.
So what to make of the new album The Black Tie Affair? In "The Maestro Zone," Wes spits out the following:
I'm professional, easily detectable.
Spectacles are glued to my testicles.
Moving 'round like a bunch of homosexuals--
I turn fruits into vegetables.
Maybe Wes isn't so different from American rappers after all, who too often rail against racism in one breath and spew out homophobia in the next. But verbal gaybashing from the mild-mannered, bow-tied Maestro, who performed in an award-winning AIDS-awareness video? The same guy who produced the first campy rap video ("Conductin' Thangs"), complete with a '60s girl-group simulacrum? Say it ain't so, Wes.
And that, in effect, is what he says. The lyrics are "just metaphor. That's not anything necessarily to do with homosexuals. It's just a title. Everything is metaphor, using comparisons and stuff – nothing to do with any lifestyle or anything like that."
Hmmm. But couldn't you have used a metaphor that isn't so easily misconstrued? "Well, I wouldn't encourage any violence of no sort or whatever. It's like, it's a comparison, you know what I mean? You won't catch me downtown beating up anybody or encouraging beating up anybody or lifestyles or whatever."
Wes is apologetic ("If I'd heard that before in that way, I wouldn't have done it at all. I wouldn't have said it"), but there's only so much slack we can cut him. The success of The Black Tie Affair – 50,000 copies sold in four days – means a lot of fans will hear the superficially hateful lyrics of "The Maestro Zone" without Wes's disclaimer. It's hard to imagine how Wes could be dumb enough to think those lyrics would be harmless.
Queers interested in non-homophobic rap should listen to Brand Nubian, K.M.D., 3rd Bass, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, De La Soul, Main Source, and Canadians like Dream Warriors, Kish, and Michie Mee. You'll probably find something else to offend you in those artists' work, but you don't have to get queerbashed to follow the rhythm and the rhyme.
There just ain't enough love in the world, I know, but you can ease the pain with Sexplosion, the groovy new album by My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult (Wax Trax/Cargo). The fun begins with the artwork, featuring all the Johnny Weissmuller/Betty Page cheese- and beefcake photos you can eat. (Whoa! Careful with that seltzer bottle!)
The disco delights of Sexplosion are indebted to James Bond theme songs and the age of Hairspray. For this kind of "alternative" dance music – a genre more closely associated with nihilism than cruising the boulevard with the top down – Sexplosion is charmingly overblown, tacky and lovable, mixing pleasure and pain till you can't tell which is which. If Front 242 is beast, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult is beauty, eh?
Dollars wisely spent.