w/Numbers, Stars as Eyes
Wed Dec 11, Baltic Room, 9 pm, $7.
If you want to compare Cex's flow to another rapper's, he most resembles the pre-Bel Air Fresh Prince. And when you're a 20-year-old white kid who boasts a cadence nearly identical to the one in "Parents Just Don't Understand," it takes balls to call yourself "the white Eminem."
But that's why Cex (AKA Rjyan Kidwell) is really kind of brilliant. An insanely geeky rapper/laptop programmer from Baltimore, Cex has a knack for writing raps. Not only does he bust out sharp wit over cut-up, IDM-fatty samples and dance-happy beats, he's also great at mocking other musicians. His 2001 record on Tigerbeat6 was called Oops, I Did It Again!; the cover of his latest, Tall, Dark, & Handcuffed, riffs on the cover art on RJD2's Dead Ringer, with Cex clubbed and tossed haphazardly into a pile of leaves in the middle of a playground. He's an entertainer who's self-actualized into hyperbole, boasting a tattoo of his own logo. But again, he's not really making fun of himself; he just embodies his own extreme--a total fucking badass in a world of massive dorkiness. Cex is the Ferris Bueller of lo-fi, white-kid computer rap; the nerds, the geeks, and the freaks all worship him, in part because he raps about stuff like being a 20-year-old virgin and working at the one-hour photo store.
Like all good rappers, Cex will battle anyone--especially when they're trying to challenge his dedication to music. "I make a lot of jokes, and I'm a positive, funny, energetic guy," Cex explains. "But a lot of times you get people going, 'Oh, jokes? Fuck that guy, that guy's not serious.' But to me, there's not much of a joke about $300 worth of gold in my mouth. I find it ironic and funny when somebody wants to step up to me, and I can show them the tattoo, the teeth, you know, and be like, 'I don't really understand what the joke is.' I'm putting my all into this. I'm putting more into it than a lot of people who just wanna give me the backhand."
This much is true--Cex has already released five records in four years. His career began when, still in high school, he embarked on his first tour in his parents' station wagon with his peer, label daddy, and fellow laptopian, Kid606. Currently, he's on the road with Tigerbeat6's "Paws Across America" tour. "I think the only bands that tour nearly as much as Tigerbeat6 artists are, like, shitty crust-punk bands," Cex notes. "The type of bands that play Knights of Columbus halls. We definitely have this punk work ethic. All of us have been in the position of playing a sold-out, 1,000-person show, and within the month or week, we go and play a basement for 20 people."
However, Cex doesn't make any bones about his love and respect for the mainstream, or his aspirations to move as many people as possible--and the talent it takes to do so. "I'm just not good enough to bang out a radio hit," he says. "I hear a lot of unsuccessful musicians talk like, 'I can bang out a Nelly track, but that's stupid. I'm doing this really complicated thing; that's why only 12 people bought my last record.' That is the biggest bullshit in the world to me.
"I love pop music because it's so fucking deceptive," he continues. "I used to be really into wrestling, like WWF. The thing that I loved about [the sport] is that all these smart people look at it and go, 'Oh those idiots, they don't know it's fake.' But when you go to a wrestling match, you are dealing with thousands of people who are laughing their asses off. And there's not one person in there who believes wrestling is real; it is this awesome inside joke. It's an entertaining, over-the-top, energetic, exciting spectacle that gets down to the raw bones of entertainment and showmanship.
"Meanwhile, some dude is at some laptop electronic show, where showmanship has been banished and it's just not cool to crack a smile; it's not cool to do anything but cross your arms and give your critical dissertation on the performance you've just seen. Fuck all that. Wrestling knows what it's about!"
So, it seems, does Cex.