They dont even like the old Kanye.
They don't even like the old Kanye. Photo: Sam Gehrke Paint: Natalie Fletcher

Epic Beard Men, “You Can't Tell Me Shit” (Strange Famous)

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Epic Beard Men's logo pays tribute to EPMD's, and it's not just idle idol worship. EBM (veteran indie hip-hoppers Sage Francis and B. Dolan) hark back to the genre's golden era of the one MC/one DJ format, when groups such as Eric B. & Rakim, Gang Starr, and Das EFX ruled the world with honed-in-the-lab lyrical skills and keen ears for the funkiest breaks.

Epic Beard Men's new debut album, This Was Supposed to Be Fun, sounds as if it could've been released by independent powerhouses Def Jux, Mush, Project Blowed, or early Rhymesayers. No mumbles or lazy-jawed clichés here; Sage Francis proves his ability for witty wordplay and acute social observations hasn't waned since his '00s heyday—and you can decipher every clearly enunciated, thoughtful word. Dolan is an ideal foil. These Providence, Rhode Island bros might be the Smothers Brothers of 21st-century rap. (Ask your parents.)

Beyond the lyrical dexterity, the production's tough and rich, full of head-nodding beats and smartly arrayed samples and orchestrations that embrace rock, funk, and jazz. EBM are middle-aged white dudes doing their exceptionally unfashionable thing, but they do it well, and This Was Supposed to Be Fun will resonate with people more into Chuck D and MF Doom than Lil Peep and Post Malone.

Musically, "You Can't Tell Me Shit" sputters with a video-game-on-the-fritz propulsion, like some brilliant in-joke-ification of EDM. It's an aptly sardonic backdrop for Francis and Dolan's skewering of very-online tropes and linguistic clichés ("I'm a cis white male who checks himself"; "My response to everything is 'Yas, queen'"; "EDM DJs are a scam"; "Threading is the Auto-Tune of eyebrows"). Each one of these bon mots is followed by an Alex Jones-like "YOU CAN'T TELL ME SHIT!" The hook is "receipts upon receipts upon receipts." If there's a better encapsulation of late 2010s hive-mind pixelation, I've yet to hear it.

Epic Beard Men perform Friday, April 19 at Barboza with Vockah Redu, Ghost Palace, and DJ Zole.