What do a Brown University education, a Catskills-worked-blue sensibility, and a knack for linguistic aerobics get you these days? If you're MC Paul Barman (real name: er... Paul Barman), it gets you an unlikely career as a sort of Woody Allen/Lenny Bruce/Eminem hydra who lyrically captures pop culture icons in more compromising positions than the National Enquirer. Barman made his mark on 2000's Prince Paul-produced It's Very Stimulating EP, and while his flow proved an acquired taste (imagine Biggie's voice, then picture the exact opposite), the album won him a cult following. The formula: a combination of high- vs. lowbrow subject matter (regarding a sexual mishap: "My pissed off jimbrowski turned three colors like Krzysztof Kieslowski") and a sense of comedic angst that made Slug sound like Ludacris.
This persona is fleshed out more fully on Paulellujah!, Barman's first full-length, which features him expanding his repertoire of intelligent juvenilia to embrace sociopolitical issues. "Bleeding Brain Grow" features angry invective directed toward righties "who refuse to disarm a nuke/And keep printing 'Marmaduke.'" He also slips in what is easily the most tasteless Holocaust-related lyric since the Sex Pistols' "Belsen Was a Gas" ("Gramps made a damn nice lampshade"--gevalt!). The MF Doom-produced jazz-fusion-style "Anarchist Bookstore" mocks nouveaux-riches Web developers, claims "Barnes & Noble'll harm the global," and derides the "political correctness" straw man with a dismissive "P.C. is as meaningless as the president's apology for slavery." But the get-a-pièce de résistance is "N.O.W.," in which Paul Barman, Sex Machine, cruises for action at a pro-choice rally with gooshy results. (As he puts it, he "frenched the wet whooseywhatsits.") And on "Cock Mobster," his laundry list of famous women to bed--including Kim Gordon, Amy Tan, and Cindy Crawford--exhibits his eclectic tastes as well as his goofy bravado.
But for a white, suburban-New Jersey native, there's still the nagging "cred" issue, and on the pseudo-autobiographical "Old Paul" he looks back through octogenarian eyes to ask why he might lack it. "Is it 'cause I go for the laugh/Because I'm not from the Ave./Because I target the fans that you wish you didn't have?" he asks with a mixture of frustration and modesty that belies a man hounded by haters. While he's not easy to take seriously, that's not the point: Barman is a comedian using rap as a medium, and he excels at straddling the line between the first and latter halves of the term "smart-ass."
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