March 17, 2014
by Charles Gaillard
One of my favorite moments on Coke Boys 5, the latest collaborative project from KOOL A.D. and Kassa Overall, comes on their “U.O.E.N.O.” remix. “Feel like all the Michaels/Take your pick, Jackson, Jordan, Tyson,” KOOL A.D. raps (quoting, of course, Jay-Z’s famous line from Watch The Throne) before adding, almost as an afterthought, “…Myers.” Which Michael Myers, the listener might wonder, is he referring to? The goofy satirist behind Austin Powers, or the knife-wielding killer from the Halloween franchise? I think it’s both. Coke Boys 5 a lighthearted project, but the humor goes hand in hand with razor-sharp lyricism.
There’s a heavy element of satire in Coke Boys 5: the tape plays off of a number of hip-hop tropes, turning them against themselves. DJ tags pepper the tracks with absurd frequency; contradictory exhortations of “D-D-D-DJ Khaled,” “Trap-a-holics,” “Maybach music,” and “Damn, son, where’d you find this?” are chopped up and pitted against one another, reduced (or elevated?) to compositional elements, before being dismissed with a laugh as a verse begins. More endearing is the offhandedness with which KOOL A.D. boasts of being “the best rapper in the world,” his casual delivery either subverting or underscoring (I’m not sure which) the grandiosity of his claim.
I’m less familiar with Kassa Overall than I am with KOOL A.D. (I know the former only through his collaborations with the latter) but both deliver strong performances on Coke Boys 5. I can’t get enough of KOOL A.D.’s style: he has a chilled-out, freewheeling, hyphy-tinged flow that slides in and out of regular speech (sometimes it’s hard to tell when pre-verse banter ends and the real verse begins). But the hyper-associativity and lyrical astuteness present on KOOL A.D.’s solo efforts is here in full force. Listening to the beginning of his verse on “Started from the Bottom” is like watching a car auto-shift into high gear: he starts off slow (“Flying around in an airplane, drinking a drink in an airplane/Watching TV in an airplane/Taking a nap in an airplane…”) but zooms off as soon as he gets traction, and pretty soon he’s leaving us with passages like “Playing a game of Tetris/It’s effortless, every clever little effervescent treasure that I bless you with.” For his part, Kassa’s sedate delivery tempers KOOL A.D.’s elastic energy with more conventional, but nonetheless proficient, rhyming.
If you couldn’t tell, I find Kassa to be the less impressive of the two; his verses are the one of the weaker points of the tape. And the overuse of DJ tags can be jarring. But the lively irreverence and creativity on display here make Coke Boys 5 well worth the listen.
You can download the mixtape for free at the KOOL & KASS bandcamp; check out their “U.O.E.N.O” remix below.