Anti-Pop Consortium
w/ Sofcon, DJ Suspence

Fri April 26,
I-Spy, $10.

It's hard to say what about the Anti-Pop Consortium constitutes "anti-pop." When I spoke with the group's MC Beans about it, he immediately conceded, "Well, we're not anti-popular," thankfully getting that out of the way. But when asked about the political dimensions of such a name, he responded with, "It's just a type of music, not politics."

That deflection struck me as wrong (how can any group called "anti-" anything not be political?), but I followed his direction and talked about the music instead. I tried to present a working definition of "pop" that includes Arrhythmia, the Anti-Pop Consortium's marvelous new album. I brought up how light, funky, and catchy some of the beats are, and Beans deflected the idea with, "Just because it's a catchy beat doesn't mean it's pop." I mentioned the appearance of funny skits on Arrhythmia, a familiar lightheartedness found on many rap albums but one that did not appear on Tragic Epilogue, the group's debut, and he said, "We've always had a lot of inside jokes."

Forgive me, but sometimes the artists themselves are the last people able to articulate the nuances of art. So if I may: New York emcees Beans, High Priest, and M. Sayyid construct intellectual, intricate raps that aspire to abstract poetry. Their raps are "anti-pop" in the sense that they're not about sex, money, dancing, etc., but rather come across as a string of thoughts, sometimes connected to create curious narratives, sometimes just left as abstractions. Their tracks are erratic, spanning from synthed-out noodling (sometimes abrasively so) to straight-up headbanging. They're "anti-pop" in the sense that they don't sound at all like the smooth hiphop/R&B marriage that dominates the radio; nevertheless, most of their songs have a healthy dose of danceable funk.

The thing is, much of Anti-Pop feels like pop--pop, as in music that's both witty and fun. The act can smack of art-project hiphop, but they're talented enough not to take themselves too seriously.