Mad Coke E.P.
hen Real World producers Bunim/Murray initially bluffed that they wouldn’t be filming in Philadelphia, Young, Involved Philadelphia protested in synergistic solidarity, having no idea how they would benefit V.I.P., the city’s notorious, and notoriously gay, rap act. You see, Y.I.P. is convinced of the pro-growth folklore that abounds in American media, and apparently the notion that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. And while that doctrine obtains in some rare instances, the Real World’s resultant suburbanite, and ultimately unflattering portrayal of Philadelphia as a bifurcated ghetto rife with crime, prostitution and squalor, while simultaneously being a fabulous haven for homos, sends a confusing invitation to all those “family-voting” tourists for whom tolerance is such a touchy issue.
And who other than Van Halen’s lawyers eyed V.I.P.’s artwork queerly, those dire straights feeling that V.I.P.’s gushing golden showers might somehow obfuscate their image. So apart from joining Le Tigre onstage in New York or fighting Scissor Sisters backstage at home, V.I.P. hold a copyright for mayhem, and from the moment Mad Coke blows, you’d think Daft Punk were playing at my house. Could their website be grounds for a Metallica lawsuit? These disco infiltrators suffer legal trials and tribulations but their EP maps Philadelphia’s sexual geography, each track a gender-bending enticement. After all, V.I.P. wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for phone sex—you see, that’s how they got their start.
However unlike brothers in arms in The Soft Pink Truth (or obscure shock rappers Yeastie Girlz), V.I.P. have yet to fully realize their novelty as its own aesthetic. Like an amateur ménage gone wrong, Mad Coke fails to live up to its orgiastic promise. Their beats bounce off the walls in the live setting, but here they’ve suffered a bad transfer, resulting in a tinny production comparable to a well-worn mixtape, recorded off the radio. To be sure, V.I.P. have tremendous potential, every song recounting lost weekends, the stuff of serialized sex narratives from the Casual Encounters section of Craigslist. Even with the sub-Bloodhound Gang beats, Bear, Jonny, and Peter recall their experiences as cinema verité porno, replete with sexually transmitted diseases, scat play and sugar daddy-wanted ads. Let’s say that our Senator Sticky Ricky would consider this an indecent proposal, but what about his image for the new cover art?
“Mad Coke” introduces us to V.I.P. like a feverish session in the bathroom at Hollertronix. Despite his humble beginnings as a simple coalminer’s daughter, Jonny lives up to his reputation as the group’s Beyonce, cooing into the microphone—he was recently overheard at the local bank chatting up a police officer on the bank guard’s cellphone, describing his ensemble as his “snow bunny costume,” and even though he’s clean now, one wonders what he knows about semiotics. “V.I.P. Anthem” has its moments, but it’s not until the thudding bass of “Posin’” that V.I.P. deliver the goods, an antidote to the quaint gay functionalism that pervades media depictions of gays, exemplifying the group’s strengths from Peter’s speed-rapping, Jonny’s flirtations, and Bear’s detached, distorted vocals. These guys aren’t homemakers but homewreckers, and their frothy sexuality and work blend together, telling sex-for-drugs stories, neighborhood by neighborhood, precisely the sort of thing The Real World uncovered, even if it was an open secret that Jon Bon Jovi, restauranteur Stephen Starr, and Mayor Street couldn’t hide.
While Mad Coke contributes in no small way to V.I.P.’s notoriety, and their forthcoming full length Tightly Wrapped will undoubtedly continue in that vein, it’s a perplexing presentation of an act that relies so heavily on remarkable performances. Granted, what one hears most often in mainstream hip-hop production is the sound of big label budgets and unlimited studio time, but it’s still a disheartening, tepid listen that fails to convey the tantalizing sexual charisma that defines them as performers. Nevertheless, when Bear returns from London, there will be new opportunities to showcase their skills on the mic. Gentlemen do prefer blondes after all.
Reviewed by: J T. Ramsay
Reviewed on: 2005-02-09