Various Artists

The Humid Sounds of Media Darling Records

(Media Darling)

Various Artists, The Humid Sounds of Media Darling Records (Media Darling Records)

“Better than most crap,” declares the package of this CD once you take out the disc itself, a not-so-subtle dig at the predictability of the local hip-hop scene. This upstart local label impresses with their packaging—you’d never guess this came from the same town responsible for, say, Master P’s garish covers. But then, that’s the point of this alternative-rap clearinghouse: “Standing on a pedestal peddling thoughts / no one bought / ’cause the packaging itself just wasn’t platinum enough,” spit the Lucky Stiffs at breakneck speed on “Passin’ The Torch.” Or, seconds later, as they declare their goal: “To stand in front of a crowd and scream out loud / that we’re young, dead broke, and proud / What now?” This is not your baby daddy’s hip-hop.

Despite the long list of artists responsible for these 21 tracks, the core of this no-contract collective lies in a few key figures: Bionik Brown, DamNathan, Ruin, Know One, Clayton Awful, and Quickie Mart chief among them. This shouldn’t even need to be said, but most of those names belong to white folks, which will no doubt lead to charges that the label isn’t ghetto enough to be real hip-hop, especially in the Dirty South.

Wigga chic? Hardly. Fact is, most of these rappers have a flow that runs circles around most New Orleans artists in speed, rhyme, and insight, and while the production occasionally touches upon rock (i.e., the psych-acid sample in God Awful’s “Freedom Commercial”), most of the sounds here contain the twisted, almost cinematic drama of alt-rap icons like Dr. Octagon (Caligula’s “Defcon 4″ and Space God’s “Ooze Remix”). There’s also a nod or two to electronica, most notably on Bionik Brown’s “All of My Life (Waitin’)” and Ruin’s “Gravitron.” And if you need funk credentials, be aware that Galactic’s former frontman Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet gives his vocal blessing to the Advocate’s complex, jittery gangsta rumination, “The Game.” Be prepared to put your prejudices aside either way, because Media Darling has created and taken over a genre of Crescent City hip-hop all at once. Raising the bar? This IS the bar.

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