8 out of 10
Detroit-based rapper embraces 90’s cool, spouts irreverent rhymes on vinyl-only release
|by Jericho Cerrona
August 3, 2011
Not very much is really known about underground rapper Beverly Fre$h other than he’s a member of art collective/recording label Superiorbelly and is known for wearing elaborately constructed costumes while performing bizarre onstage antics. Based solely on the deliriously entertaining vinyl-only release BED, however, the Detroit-based performer proves that he’s more than just a novelty with an album chock full of stellar rhymes, retro beats, and off-kilter arrangements.
BED recalls everything from the subversive playfulness of Del Tha Funky Homo Sapien to the underground production of Jedi Mind Tricks, but Beverly Fre$h isn’t really interested in paying homage to his influences. While it’s true that both his lyrical style and the production choices call to mind 1990’s-era hip-hop, this isn’t some winking pastiche. Instead, Fre$h’s sense of humor, peculiar turns of phrase, inclusion of well-placed samples, as well as a few exceptional guest rappers raises the album a cut above much of what currently passes for fashionable hip-hop these days. Sure, many will be thrown off by Fre$h’s look, (think a nerdy white guy with over-sized hipster glasses sporting various frayed vests littered with kitschy buttons), but this is not an instance of style over substance.
The best thing about BED is that its simply infectious fun. Songs like the bouncy “Animal Skin”(complete with a snapping snare and scattered background synthesizers) and the swirling dual rapping on “You Don’t Know” showcase an artist fully in command of his sonic universe. Meanwhile, “Tapedeck” adds layers of menace with deranged laughter and spacey digital noises floating round in the mix behind Fre$h’s head-bopping flow, while the sped-up rhyming and spastic cowbells on “What The Fuck” (featuring NatureBoy Jim Kelly, formally of New Kingdom) is simply thrilling.
The LP was produced and recorded by fellow Detroit artist Dial81 in Fre$h’s grandparent’s basement, but there is a professional sheen throughout that goes against the idea that homemade basement tapes have to sound like lo-fi affairs. Beverly Fre$h never pushes for overly produced beats or glossy flourishes, and yet the record is nonetheless quite accessible. In this way, he is able to straddle the line between the underground and mainstream quite well, with plenty of catchy hooks and vulgar rhymes for the mainstream kids, as well as a slew of unusual production choices to endear him to the art crowd.
Though the majority of the album works brilliantly, there are a few scattered instances—such as the irrelevant a cappella rap on the brief “My Baby Likes The Gas” and the goofy closer “O When The Dogs Bark,” that feel a bit too inconsequential for their own good. Still, this is all part of Fre$h’s offbeat charm, and while such moments aren’t entirely successful, they don’t feel out of place given the overall tone of the recording.
BED is one of the better hip-hop releases to come along in quite some time, combining the aggressive swagger of retro-sounding rap with more experimental and modern touches that give the entire record a thoroughly unique sound. One can almost envision it being played both inside a crowded house party as wells as at a Banksy art exhibit; it just has that kind of range and broadness of appeal. Hopefully, this lively and entertaining LP will lift Beverly Fre$h out of the musical basement, and give his music more widespread exposure.
“Half A Haircut” by Beverly Fre$h
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