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Turf Talk - West Coast Vaccine (The Cure)

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Artist: Turf Talk

Album: West Coast Vaccine (The Cure)

Label: Sick Wid It

Review date: Aug. 6, 2007

It’s been a long time since any rapper has sounded as hungry as San Francisco’s Turf Talk does on West Coast Vaccine, a sophomore album that bangs like a particularly strong debut. Protégé of his sweepingly influential cousin E-40, Turf spit on The Federation’s “Hyphy” (a self-conscious introduction to the impenetrable slang, esoteric tokenism and heavy, frenetic beats of the Bay Area’s thus-named party-hearty hybrid) and DJ Shadow’s fascinatingly misguided assimilation effort The Outsider. While furthering his career in an increasingly hostile climate, he made a fool of himself on Judge Joe Brown, promising to compensate an indignant female companion with his next record’s proceeds. His raspy, twangy raps are, if rarely as inventive as Forty Water’s, then as confrontational and gloriously defensive as a young Ice Cube, and as adept at explaining himself without getting mawkish. He’s been coming up since 2001, and as long as he keeps coming up, he’ll remain entertaining.

West Coast Vaccine has already drawn scattered critical love, which doubtlessly owes a lot to producer Rick Rock, whose beats sound like high-speed electronic Armageddon in 4/4; that is, they sound amazing the first few times you hear them. But although it's getting predictably slept on in the marketplace, it's a keeper. Turf and Rock share an awareness of hyphy’s potential to sound fuck-all creepy, which makes this one more compelling the eleventh time you hear it, particularly if you can suss out the intricacies behind Turf’s mean-mugging persona.

Turf speaks on success both achieved and impending but never sounds smug; he knows it can be a quick flight, and he still seems ready to self-destruct pending sufficient shock to his overtaxed nervous system. Aside from slinging coke and growing up in hotel rooms ("When love's there you stay / When it's gone you leave / Couldn't get it from my family / Got it from the local G's"), Turf keeps it tough, he explains, because he consciously chose that mask as a youth, and besides, “people think this hyphy movement’s just about dancing.” Assuming there was some initial wisdom in mixing punk with disco, he may be onto something.

E-40 was already crafting bizarre jargon before “hyphy” existed, and Turf likewise keeps his lyrics Bay-specific, if not prohibitively so. He does mock some of the sillier material hallmarks (“I can’t lie / My white tee I only wore one time”), and drops the most absurdly dark cut ever written about MDMA, hyphy’s resilient drug of choice. 40's mellow, eccentric guest spots strike some contrast, but Turf sounds more than ready to outshine him.

It ain’t a classic, padded as it is with skits, filler and superfluous guest stars and unwilling to give Turf’s character a variety of settings and plotlines. But it does provide surprising evidence that hyphy might be a rap subgenre with a breakout star worth following. Which is reason enough to hear it, if you’d like to stop hating just in time.

By Emerson Dameron

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