A few weeks ago, a few of us in the music-nerd treehouse had some laughs pissing on this thing. Between you and me, I enjoyed that article, because I enjoy shout radio and thug rap, and I’d never considered the parallels. But dude fucked up when he called it all “gangsta.”
Because, you see, “gangsta” is something specific. Gangsta is where sun-kissed leisure meets violent cynicism. Gangsta is the lackadaisical cruise down Sunset Boulevard that’s punctuated by a carjacking. Gangsta is a yin-yang thing that could theoretically exist outside Los Angeles, California, but usually doesn’t. Gangsta (arguably) rose on N.W.A’s Efliforzaggin, peaked with the early-‘90s work of Dr. Dre and DJ Quik, and crapped out somewhere on Disc Two of All Eyez On Me. Gangsta has naught to do with the quintessentially Brooklyn bluster of Jay-Z and Biggie, the paranoid bubblegum pop of 50 Cent, or the aspie rambling of Li’l Wayne. Gangsta is gangsta.
LA home-taper Dam-Funk is beaucoup gangsta, and his bubbly synth-soul masterpiece Toeachizown is the first real gangsta shit to come out in a minute.
Toeachizown sprawls further than Sign O the Times. Seamless it ain’t. Five half-hour LPs broke down into two hour-plus shiny discs and, oddly enough, two distinct halves. Disc One is much more playful and experimental. Disc Two is mostly instrumental and all business. But, if for no other reason, Toeachizown is a must-hear for all the lush terrain it visits and fertilizes. If you’ve an interest in the rubbery bounce of Zapp, the synthesized sexual obsession of early Prince, the re-evaluation of the G-Funk Era happening every morning and afternoon on the Los Angeles freeways thanks to the way-ahead-of-the-curve KDAY-FM, or LA’s nascent “bedroom funk” scene epitomized by Nite Jewel, or LA’s throwback-soul movement figureheaded by still-working-on-it crooner Mayer Hawthorne… Toeachizown is the first, uh, “project” with the grapes to even try to condense it all, and go one or two further. (The simultaneous spazz-out, cool-down and post-competent falsetto-off of “Searchin’ in Funk’s Future” is a thing unto itself, and a thing to behold.) Dam-Funk is your LA tour guide and a bag of weed-scented chips.
Like Menace II Society on wax, Toeachizown is an instant Los Angeles classic. It’s warm, cold, therapeutically friendly and scathingly sinister. And, no matter how much it fronts to the contrary, it’s deeply human. Which is still gangsta.