According to an email he sent me, he’s sired two sons, appeared in friend and collaborator Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind and recorded a new album called Thought Balloon Mushroom Cloud, which will be released on November 24th and will initially be available exclusively at mcpaulbarman.com .
For those uninitiated with MCPB, one might ask who exactly is this guy? By all definitions, the guy basically fits the definition for my “Overlooked in the Aughts” feature. One EP that received wide critical acclaim (even in the pages of Rolling Stone and their top 50 albums of the year) and one album that received a little critical acclaim. All in the first few years in the decade. Aside from that, Barman’s basically an obscure name among the hip-hop initiated. Because, of all pop music genres, hip-hop might have the highest turnover ratio in terms of cultural omnipresence.
Barman really caught my ear/eye back in high school. The specific song I cannot recall, but I eventually gobbled up everything from the six tracks on It’s Very Stimulating to his full-length Paullelujah! to the scraps of the fairly amateurish Post-Graduate Work 7″. For a geeky, awkward high schooler like myself, Barman’s off-the-wall lyricism was a re-introduction to the world of hip-hop I had previously beloved, but had tossed to the side for a few years for reasons that are hard to explain in retrospect.
The fact that a guy like Paul Barman, who’s very essence would appear to scream whack could make these fairly intelligent and catchy songs was something I always looked towards as being representative of the creative potentials. And back then I couldn’t even dig into the many layers Barman really contains. I was too entranced in lines like “homework is tell major lies/or plagiarize encyclopedias” (“Senioritis”) or “and his big brothers are frat guys/whose IQs lose/to their fitted baseball hat size” (“MTV Get Off The Air, Part 2”) to realize some of the other sides of Barman. Like the fact that some squirmy white dude who sometimes trips over his own cadences made irony in music sound grand years before it would catch on with hipsters. Barman’s unbelievably sexually explicit lyrics were often as much a commentary of ill-advised gangsta-rap, with its focus on cred, women and drugs, not only because he was performing these songs in jest, but because his lyrics ran circles around almost any mediocre gangsta-rap on the mainstream radio airwaves. And to get the thumbs up from Prince Paul, the man behind one of the most important albums in hip-hop history (De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising), and have him produce the songs. It made for a collection of songs that had fresh beats and dope rhymes that name check John Cage and discuss palindromes in a hilarious manner.
And Barman’s back. And from the looks of it, this could be a great album. The hip-hop cred involved in the album just leaks off the Barman-produced press release. ?uestlove. DOOM. Prince Paul. Del The Funky Homosapien. C-Rayz Walz. Umm… Michel Gondry? Well, that last one ain’t much of a rapper, but he sure has quite a creative noggin. One track – “The Moon” is up on Barman’s MySpace. And it is something else. To hear Barman follow Del is just surreal… and it works.
So, looks like this Thanksgiving I’ll be thankful for the return of a great hero of my inner high schooler. And how often do any of us have the chance to be thankful for something like that?
MC Paul Barman – “The Joy of Your World”: