et's face it—metal and hip-hop make terrible bedfellows. Sure, they share similarities, like testosterone, cliquishness, "rebelliousness," and homophobia to the point of homoeroticism. Anthrax's remake of Public Enemy's "Bring the Noise" was pretty fresh, too. Overall, though, hookups between metal and hip-hop have fathered ugly, ugly children—nu-metal, Kid Rock, Vanilla Ice's Hard to Swallow, the Judgment Night soundtrack. Almost inevitably, metal/hip-hop fusions end up sounding like variations on "Fight for Your Right (To Party)."
Enter Ron Braunstein. As a teenager in the late '80s, he played in New York death metal band Injustice, alongside his brother Bill. Injustice opened for notables like Obituary and Napalm Death, and recorded two demos before splitting up. The Braunstein brothers then became hip-hop MC's—Ron adopted the name Necro (nee Necrophiliac, from the Slayer song), while his brother became Ill Bill. Metal references fill the discographies of both rappers (as well as associated acts Non Phixion and Jedi Mind Tricks), though until recently, their beats remained grounded in hip-hop. On 2004's The Pre-Fix for Death, however, Necro not only hired Ed Repka, the godfather of '80s thrash album artwork, but also members of Hatebreed, Slipknot, Brutal Truth, Obituary, and Voivod to add metallic crunch.
Still, Necro has yet to meld his metal and hip-hop sides effectively. On Death Rap, he furiously namedrops underground metal; "Evil Rules" is essentially a laundry list of bands arranged into rhymes. His guest list is impressive—Brian Fair of Shadows Fall, Mike Smith of Suffocation, Steve DiGiorgio of Death/Testament/Sadus, Mark Morton of Lamb of God, Scott Ian of Anthrax, Dave Ellefson of Megadeth, Adam Jackson of Twelve Tribes, Ray Alder of Fates Warning, Harley Flanagan of the Cro-Mags, and Mark Riddick (Arsis, Cephalic Carnage, Dying Fetus) for artwork.
However, he wastes their talents almost completely. "Keeping It Real" has nauseating, Nickelback-esque sung hooks. "Evil Rules" limps through rejected Obituary riffs and impales itself on an amazingly stupid chorus: "Death rap / Extreme violence and brutal murder / Cut your head off with a machete / Evil rules." That Alder sang this tripe is a complete insult to his work in Fates Warning. Only "Suffocated to Death by God's Shadow" breaks free of its lunkheaded nu-metal riff for a clever blastbeat section.
Necro's aggressive flow is suited for such uptempo grooves; unfortunately, he has virtually nothing to say. Most of the album adds up to, "I am harder than you and will kill you"—but in extremely graphic terms (Necro's 2005 album The Sexorcist was an unbelievably vulgar paean to porn that made Lil Jon sound like Hanson). Some typical lines: "The skills of my intellect / Allow me to kill you in a sec / Fill you up with Percoset / Power drill you in the neck." Some more: "You get smothered in anal / Kill you like the brother of Abel / I'll make your mother my table / Then shove electrical cable in her intestinal navel." Even R. Kelly would blanch.
Thus, Necro is the Cannibal Corpse of hip-hop. Both have lurid imagery, lyrics with no socially redeeming value, and hordes of white male fans. But to an extent, Cannibal Corpse get a pass. Their lyrics are so ridiculous that they can't be construed as anything other than fantasy, and their death growls aren't intelligible, anyway. In contrast, Necro's flow is clear and in-your-face. His lyrics have so much "I" that it's difficult to call them role-playing. Necro's a sick bastard, and that's how he makes his living.
Which is fine—this is art, and this is America—but his persona overshadows his production, which has vastly improved since his early primitive loops. Death Rap is devoid of club bangers (the only sex on it is antisocially violent), but the beats (all Necro's own) are clean and punchy. The chopped strings of "Mutilate the Beat" could pass for prime Eric B., while the moody pianos of "Some Get Back (Revenge)" and "As Deadly As Can Be" recall the horrorcore of Gravediggaz, Necro's spiritual antecedents. The spacey, Kraftwerk-esque synths of "Technician of Execution" wouldn't be out of place on Def Jux. There's no need to seek out the instrumentals, but underneath Death Rap's gore, misogyny, white rage, and ham-handed metal lies some actual quality hip-hop.
Top 5 Howlers from Death Rap
5. "Let's get it percolatin' like the Church of Satan."
4. "A Malcolm McLaren rebel / You're on the low baron level / With a piece of shit on your head like Aaron Neville."
3. "Blast you with the Metallica / Rip ya head to shreds like Gallagher's sledge hammer / You're dead like space shuttle Challenger."
2. "Necromantic / Pop you like a Zantac / Leave you dead like Ahmet from Atlantic."
1. "Stabbing and stabbing and stabbing and stabbing and stabbing and stabbing and stabbing and stabbing and stabbing and stabbing and stabbing and stabbing and stab you to death!"