If you would like your release to be reviewed by Tim Kabara, donate it to your local thrift store.
Let me set the scene. It is the middle/late 2000s. We are in the boardroom of Hip Kiddy Incorporated of Piermont, New York. The group gathered has been given a mission.
From the boss: “Hip Kiddy Inc. needs another hit album, baby! Halloween’s coming, gang! Money’s on the table. What ya got?”
Suddenly, the lightbulb goes off for one of the HKI executives… he stands, smiling, pleased.
“Five words, fellas. Kids Rap’n the Halloween Hits!”
Applause for the executive as cigars are lit.
And so, one of the most spectacularly inept albums I have ever uncounted in a thrift store was born (at least in my imagination).
Where to begin? It is the cover song choices? Screamin’ Jay Hawkin’s “I Put a Spell on You” gang-sung by a bunch of children is… unforgettable, at times borderline atonal. The kids were trying, bless their hearts, but this is a cover that should not be. The odds were against them from the start.
Is it the very loose interpretation of the theme of “Halloween songs”? As a former DJ, I am aware you have a handful of sure-fire bangers for the peak of your spooky dance party. None are included here. “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Haa!” is a novelty song about mental illness that has not aged well. “Stayin’ Alive” is, I guess, a goal of the Final Girl in a horror film (the version contained is, of course, a sanitized cover of a “rap remix”, improperly attributed in the liner notes). And some folks certainly find Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch horrifying, but including “Good Vibrations” as the second song in the collection is a throwing up of the hands, quitting before you start.
Still, you have to admire the chutzpah of putting such a thing together. My question now is what to do with such an artifact. Stake through its heart? Silver bullet?
I will do whatever it takes.
There is an inherent self-consciousness to gamer culture, an awareness of the nerdery of it, a fear of the #cringe factor that is always lurking nearby. This makes for an interesting pairing with Classical music culture, which is all about being better than everyone else.
Two great tastes that taste great together? Kind of? There is no doubt as to the chops of Tina Guo. Her handing of abridged “Skyrim” and “Final Fantasy VII” theme arrangements are masterful and technically adept. But I find these covers most engaging and endearing when Tina draws from the limited audio options of the lo-fi early days. When that double kick drum slaps into action on the arrangement of “Super Mario Brothers” themes? Time to open up that pit!
I hope for peace one day between the great Gamer and Classical nerd nations. Will this mash-up be remembered as the first peace offering between the two? The beginning of a new era? Time will tell.
(scan of cover attached)
The checkout person at the thrift store asks automatically, reflexively.
“Did you check these CDs?”
“Yes. Yes, I did.”
To not do so is folly.
Hip hop is the hardest to find in any serviceable condition in the bins and racks I haunt. Often, the CD is missing from the case. If intact, the surface of the back of the CD has often been scratched beyond saving. This is all assuming you have the correct album in the correct case.
I do not wish to assume that the lifestyle of most hip hops fans is a wild and free one, but the evidence has mounted over the years that many are or were livin’ la vida loca, subjecting their music collection to various forms of demolition derby. Not everyone is tidy, no everyone is precious with their media. I accept and understand this.
So imagine my surprise and delight when I found, in pristine condition, a copy of a Wu-tang Clan beat instrumental mix CD among the usual wreckage. It covers the classic/fundamental beats and tracks while still including instrumentals of interest but new to my ears from the extended wu-niverse.
My assumption? Fan bought it, realizes it is all instrumentals, becomes sad, and files it.
Many thanks to that disappointed Wu-tang fan.