The Crawling Ear column: MC Chris – Double Trouble Death Dealer

James gets into a digital muddle with MC Chris's new album, MC Chris Is Dead. (He's not dead, by the way.)

Riddle me this: if the digital age is supposed to be making our lives easier, why am I currently pulling my hair out over the two different editions of MC Chris Is Dead that figuratively lay before me? On the version just released to iTunes, there are ten tracks. The hard copy, however, offers sixteen. Which is the real, full, official version of this album? Is the digital version abbreviated, or are the six extra on the actual CD “bonus” cuts? Which one do I shoot on a rooftop at the end of this stupid television movie I appear to be living in that I have officially dubbed MC Chris: Double Trouble Death Dealer?

In the words of Harry S. Truman, whatever. This is a review of the iTunes version of MC Chris Is Dead. I apologize in advance if this sucker is the fake shemp. If that turns out to be the case, I’ll order a copy of the third dimension version from Chris himself or some Internet retailer and rewrite this whole damn thing. I’m telling you now, though, I saw no documentation anywhere suggesting either edition was more complete or true than the other (and I swear I read all of MC Chris’s Myspace bulletins).

Every rapper worth his or her weight in bling has at some point forecast their premature death and the emotional aftershocks it may cause. White dork rhyme-spitter MC Chris is no different, titling his fifth album MC Chris Is Dead and opening the proceedings with a solemn verbal painting of a world without him. It seems like a legitimate (and pretty good) stab for the audience beyond the “Adult Swim” masses who carried the diminutive rapper to his cult music throne. Then Chris drops references to the Power Rangers and “Dig Dug” and you realize this guy could never fully exist in a world that doesn’t waste all its free time on video games and seizure-inducing foreign cartoons.

The rest of MC Chris Is Dead is far more typical of the man who gave voice to “Sealab 2021’s” horny and annoying Hesh character. Delightful dweebiness abounds on tracks like “Reese” (a bumpin’ tribute to the candy of the same name) and “Pizza Butt” (which calls out all the chumps who scarf down too many slices of pie). “Hoodie Ninja” maps out every suburban kid’s ultimate fantasy – dressing up like a ninja and exacting revenge on a cruel gym teacher (Lord knows I’ve thought about it in the past). The beats backing the MC’s goofy rhymes here sound slightly slicker than on previous outings. They’re dense but not terribly busy, providing the perfect danceable juxtaposition to Chris’s various tales of nerdery.

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Naturally, there is a sensitive side to MC Chris’s angry, comic-devouring persona, one we’ve seen on display before in such neo-classics as “Cookie Dough” and “Carebear.” Chris offers up two more for jams for the ladies on this latest joint, the sweet “Nrrrd Grrrl” and the equally sweet “Falynn.” “I’m a rap superstar with a mic in my hand/but I can’t talk to girls unless the girl is a fan,” Chris complains on the latter. Oh, the pain of being a geek, lacking even the slightest shred of confidence with the opposite sex. Chris understands that feeling all too well, despite not being that bad looking of a guy in real life (I saw him live a couple years ago – you’d never know just by looking at him that he built a career on a rap song about Boba Fett).

MC Chris Is Dead ends on an inspirational note that sounds like it was torn right out of the climax of a cinematic 1980s young adult adventure. I speak of “Never Give Up,” three minutes of positive, bouncy, synth-based preaching that manages to squeeze in references to fellatio and Chappaquiddick. I’m sure that will keep it from being played at any high school graduation ceremonies this year, although I wouldn’t be surprised if more than one hip Psychology teacher works this uplifting tune into their lesson plans next year. I’m looking squarely at you, Mr. Blodarsky.

On the whole, MC Chris Is Dead is slightly more mature than previous efforts, but there’s no question that as his sound evolves Chris is keeping his feet firmly planted in the sandbox of Geekdom. If you put a gun to my temple and said, “Rate this album on a humorous and imaginary grading scale,” I’d give it four All Your Base Ares out of five. Then I’d probably pee myself.

James will be back with another Crawling Ear next week; read his last colum here.