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SpaceGhostPurrp - Mysterious Phonk: The Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp

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Artist: SpaceGhostPurrp

Album: Mysterious Phonk: The Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp

Label: 4AD

Review date: Jun. 11, 2012

Every indie label gets the rapper it deserves. XL, trend-humping home of Vampire Weekend and Adele, signed Tyler, the Creator at the height of the Odd Future frenzy (It might be over, but we’ll always have "Earl."). Glassnote Records, a label that perpetually seems like they almost know what they’re doing, took on Childish Gambino, who means well but only appeals to people who don’t actually listen to rap music. Now 4AD, the former gothic rock label now home to Joker, Zomby, Ariel Pink and a gaggle of other totally non-rappers, is releasing Mysterious Phonk, the debut album by peach-fuzzed Floridian SpaceGhostPurrp, whose best-known song is titled "Svck V Dvck For 2011." (The song is much, much better than its title, trust me.) SpaceGhost fits right in with the rest of the 4AD roster -- he cultivates the same air of mystery as  Zomby, and like Grimes, is labeled "hypnagogic" by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Hell, he even jibes with the label’s gothier roots -- SGP is as death-obsessed as Bauhaus, and his crew the Raider Clan (which only consists of him -- it’s really complicated) draws its imagery primarily by chopping and screwing the dark aesthetics of the Oakland Raiders, who are definitely the most goth professional sports team.

Mysterious Phonk is 4AD’s first intentional rap album -- it also released Joker’s The Vision, an album full of beats that couldn’t really be rapped over, featuring a bunch of rappers anyway -- and labelhead Simon Halliday snagged SpaceGhost at the right moment. SGP’s progression as a rapper/producer is frankly astonishing. Gone are the overt references to early Three 6 Mafia on his barnstorming mixtape Blvcklvnd 66.6 (which now seems less of a stylistic choice and more a security blanket), replaced by spacious and spacey productions, full of cavernous loops, ominous screams and alien gurgles. His rapping, once a chintzy, dollar-store knockoff of guys like Uncle Luke and DJ Paul, has evolved significantly. He’s still spewing fight chants -- one of the classic Southern rapping styles along with "smooth" and "really fast" -- but he’s come into his own, approaching even the most aggressive of raps with something that resembles a nimble touch, an almost impotent strain of paranoia running through the vocals. It’s a style almost diametrically opposed to the bluster of frequent collaborator A$AP Rocky, whose strangeness is tempered by how downright professional and radio-ready his actual songs feel. 

The pitch of Purrp’s music, meanwhile, registers just a shade lighter than black, in many ways analogous to a high school student carving a pentagram into a desk during his high school math class, not knowing quite what it means but doing it anyway to seem menacing. This music is willfully amateurish and all the more menacing for it, like a 5 year old’s drawing of someone getting stabbed. Or to bring it full circle, like 4AD’s A&R since Halliday took over. It’s scattered, without a singular vision, and successful nonetheless.

By Drew Millard

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