Food for Animals: Scavengers
Upper Class Recordings
Ever been in a white riot? In the winter of '91, I saw Public Enemy in Chicago, on the cusp of the first Gulf War, on a night so arctic the parking meters were all tongue-out frozen solid. Amid a furnace of cavernous bass and static, Flavor Flav--black America's Fox News at the time--managed to convince a chanting coliseum chock full of middle-class whites that Farrakhan, Farrakhan actually meant fuck them hos. Then 5,000 perturbanites spilled onto the sidewalks of Lawrence Avenue to find a handful of cold, tired cops trying to disperse some low-key antiwar petitioners. Adrenaline, alcohol, and down-filled jackets proved a fairly even match against flak vests for most of the next hour. But then, I wouldn't know, because my friends grabbed me from the melee and spirited me back north to the suburbs. Who fights which power, now? Terminator X was as silent as a fortune cookie.
It's getting cold again in Chicago, and Washington, D.C.'s Food for Animals--as contrived as PE and almost as brilliant--are bringing the thaw to ideas that everyone might have thought were ready-made nostalgia in '91: switched-on war and doomed vote-rocking anthems like anger is an energy and party for your right to fight and the missiles are flying. But like PE, these two pale hip-hop baccalaureates from Maryland succeed in capturing some of the confusion of our current epoch with crushing pop-noise narratives and some equally piquant politics; they're like the Bomb Squad subbing Einstuerzende Neubauten records for Slayer tracks or Atari Teenage Riot albums for, uh, backward whistling teakettles. When MC Vulture Voltaire jumps into his--I dunno, Ford Taurus?--to roll with campus impunity for a passing moment in "Brand New," is it an ironic dis on black D.C. rappers, an indictment of racist Capitol police, or just a Limp Bizkit-scale face-plant? Probably all of the above, a satirical finger pointed at the elephant chilling in the middle of hip hop's transracial (and cross-class) living room.
Food for Animals have a lot of fun with the elephants that are in everyone's living rooms these days. The Silver Spring trunk-of-funk on "Elephants" becomes the ground-tramping thunder of humping Republicans, brought to the outer beltway's doorstep with the chest-pumping urgency of a blackmail letter. Then they're back to work, sleepless bastards, as moonlighting garbage men in the Federal District, foraging dumpsters for shredded documents that DJ Ricky Rabbit can scan into his laptop. (That's where he hides field recordings of dented trash cans ricocheting off monuments.) What do they want, already? They lay their party platform plain on the title track, "Scavengers": "Please, I cut just like a February freeze/Bring a summer jam down to its knees/I'm just a scavenger, futuristic Whitman/You're just a ton of bricks chillin' on some quicksand/Kill yourself/...If nothin' matters my flow is nothin'/Although my CD-R's are better than your CDs are." Kinda pointless to call party foul on folks who are so existential to begin with.
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