Sensational: Loaded with Power

Loaded with Power

"IT'S ALL ABOUT the Benjamins" has replaced "Money Makes the World Go Round" as the favorite ditty of foppish, adenoidal hip-hop clowns. But both philosophies seem to have driven the music deeper into a Cristal-flooded artistic sinkhole. Likewise, the avant-gardists and beatniks once bemusedly tolerated by their major-label patrons have been forced to scurry for other forms of pocket change, whether that involves Wall Street, auto repair or--horror among horrors!--smaller, independent labels.

What has this done to the artist? It has made him even weirder, if not as weird as the money-making, Grammy-busting Ol' Dirty Bastard. Underground hip hop has grown increasingly neurotic and it shows, yet this only increases our listening pleasure. Occasionally a true artist hits pay dirt. Kool Keith invented himself as Dr. Octagon and made love to the alien. Prince Paul recorded an album of Sigmund Freud parodies, rape phantasies, and imitations of repressed homosexual guidos for the minuscule WordSound label; the CD, Psychoanalysis (What is It?), was picked up by Tommy Boy, but don't expect to hear it excerpted on Jock Jams anytime soon.

Paul's labelmate, Sensational, was briefly a Jungle Brother and stuck around long enough to work on their much misunderstood masterpiece, J Beez wit de Remedy, a record so brilliantly incoherent it lost them their record deal. If Loaded with Power is any indication, he bears much of the responsibility. Loaded is the lo-fi record of the year--the Palace Brothers of hip hop. The rhythm tracks are barely present except for slurred bass and a ticking drum sample. On "I Like Crispies" Sensational hums the G-Funk synth line in his best Kukla, Fran, and Ollie imitation. And Sensational often sounds as if he's swallowing the microphone, along with several other controlled substances. Most of the lyrics are brags, but they're delivered in the most melancholic tone possible.

In short, Loaded With Power seems to arrange itself out of the ether, which is what happens when your genre doesn't allow you enough food for thought. And it proves that if you want to eat, you have to dig up the roots--underground.

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