Now Soon Someday
t’s embarrassingly easy for most hip hop heads to write MCs such as Beans off as lyrical masturbators who get off at the sight of confused faces struggling to piece together the disparate bits of cleverness and innuendo. Many of my friends shrug off these guys with a mere “I ain’t feelin’ him.” I originally took this dismissal as a personal insult to the time and effort these cats put into their music, but now, I realize that it’s probably the best argument you can make for not liking this kind of academic hip hop.
Nothing about this music is “street.” Shit, nothing about Beans is “street” for that matter. He grew up in White Plains, New York (a pretty typical suburb) and was introduced into the rap game through NYC’s poetry scene with his ex-crewmates who would later go on to form the endearingly pretentious-named Anti-pop Consortium. Beans doesn’t rap about his homies, his guns, his bankroll… you know, the list of shitty reasons people use to dismiss most rap in the first place. Yet, his style and approach is derived from the core contradictory elements of all great rap music: self confidence coupled with a raw introspection. But none of this matters if you can’t “feel” him. It’ll take an adventurous set of ears and some headphones. Don’t worry, take a deep breath and relax. You see, Beans makes it easy for you by spitting with what is, perhaps, the most technically gifted flow in hip hop today.
Those of you who remember Beans from Anti-pop have probably formulated an opinion on this type of music already. If you didn’t like Anti-pop, read no further, this shit is not for you. If you think 50 Cent is the greatest MC out there, you’ve gotten lost somehow and should go here, immediately. But if you still have a soft spot in your heart for a squelchy, throbbing electro beat and a MC who never seems to stop to catch his breath, then you’ve come to the right place.
Excuse me if I get my obvious bias out of the way right now. Beans debut, Tomorrow Right Now, was the most slept on album of 2003. Released just months after Anti-pop’s premature breakup (the rest of the group blames it all on Beans), annoyed fans weren’t ready to embrace a quick dash for solo stardom and faulted the album for the absence of High Priest and Sayyid. Shame, because Tomorrow Right Now revealed a fiercely independent artist escaping the trappings of his former crew to seek ascetic salvation through intense introspection, and consequently creating a much better album. Standout tracks like “Toast” and “Walking By Night” fully exhibited his vertiginous flow and uniquely bleak philosophical observations (i.e. “If the dead is the conscience speaking out from the grave, then, instead, do we bury the dead alive?”). And for the first time, he concocted all the beats, which illustrated his, perhaps, fetishistic affinity for dirty synth heroes like Suicide and Autechre, even slipping in three, more IDMish instrumentals. All of which added up to a very odd hip hop album, and since it was released on Warp, it was pretty much ignored by most of the underground hip hop community.
Now in the mostly apathetic face of the underground, Beans has released a new mini-album that, in title, again hints at his vision of the ongoing progression of hip hop. Now Soon Someday finds Beans moving in a more upbeat direction. Not necessarily happy, but definitely more self-congratulatory and less prone to lyrical abstraction. The graphic, but not explicit sexual innuendo of his debut (i.e. “Like fellatio, I blow your speakers”) that suggested a repressed perversion underneath the surface has been replaced with an explicit (but still quirky) macho sexuality (“Baby batter splatter on wax/Glistens like semen spreading my unborns on her back”).
His narratives are more concise and listenable, and on “Crevice”, just downright vividly engrossing. Where Tomorrow Right Now’s “Merle” presented a haunting tribute to his mother and her influence in his life, “Crevice” lays it all out in cathartic diary form. The listener now feels like he/she is eavesdropping on some pretty personal shit, especially when Beans speaks about how his stepfather “put his feet on pops throne, his mom he wants to bone, her daughter maybe next if he could get past her brother.” The production compliments the dark narrative perfectly, with the bass sounding like it’s bubbling up from under the drunken beat. Beans has obviously been fine tuning his beatsmithery since his debut, and the improvements show.
“Structure Tone” opens the album in typical Beans fashion, with a salvo of ridiculously fast rhyme schemes and cryptic metaphors (“Your disposal at my dismissal, tingled by tinsel, no lead in a pencil”) to throbbing, bouncy bass that feels like it’s in your skull nodding your head up and down for you. It’s all great, but then Beans goes and gets weird after the first and only verse and screws with the beat, turning it into a creepy industrial track. I’ve come to expect this kind of stuff from Beans: building expectations only to cripple them in the end. It’s part of his charm. But then “Win or Lose, You Lose” comes pounding out of your speakers and his flow pummels you, changing cadences with the ease of a jazz skatman, and all is forgiven.
When I saw what this guy could do live last Halloween, I was surprised by the breadth of different people who were “feelin’” him. There were the obligatory indie kids, the b-boys, the Gen-X latte crowd and the club kids (they’re not “ravers” anymore, right?). They all hung on that same sick flow… some by dancing and some by staring with their mouths agape. After a couple numbers, an elderly Russian man approached Beans out of nowhere at the front of the stage. He allowed him on stage, and in broken English, which could only be described as cute, he said, “I’m vrom Vrussia, and I just vanted to say I like zis, I like it!” Even if you can’t understand a damn word he says, Beans has a way of making you feel him.
Reviewed by: Gabe Gloden
Reviewed on: 2004-01-22