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Jay Wakowitz, Esq. represents the diamond-and-cocaine-encrusted rap group The Majesticons, “Lords of the Ching-Ching.” In real life, he’s known as Bronx-based MC and producer Mike Ladd, the man behind Beauty Party, the second triumphant episode in the ongoing battle between the Majesticons and their arch-nemeses the Infesticons. Beauty Party is a complete success, parodying the misplaced values of mainstream hip-hop and R&B, while reveling in the guilty pleasures of club-bumpin’ bangers, booty, Burberry and blow.
It all started millenia ago, when two kingdoms ruled the land. The Majesticons focused on outward appearances and judged others based on style. The Infesticons were not interested in material wealth, and concerned themselves instead with knowledge and substance. Then in 1980’s New York, Ignor, descendent of a Majesticon, created robots with the “secret knowledge of flydom.” Now the robots are out to “jiggify the five boroughs.” The epic struggle that ensues will determine the future of hip-hop and, indeed, black aesthetics in general.
After suffering defeat in the battle of Gun Hill Road, the saga’s first album, the Majesticons have launched their counteroffensive with Beauty Party.
The beats are digital icing—finely groomed and processed gems that remind listeners that, despite its faults, radio hip-hop has consistently pushed sonic boundaries. “Platinum BlaQue Party” employs shaker, hi-hat and triangle samples straight from a Missy Elliott chart-topper, along with a creamy-wet, futuristic synth. The lyrics imitate radio-hop’s vapid babble but exaggerate it even further, laying bare its superficiality. “I got so much access to excess,” they croon, “words cannot describe my success.” Yet Ladd has so much fun in the process that “Platinum BlaQue,” like much of the album, becomes a strange mixture of condemnation and homage.
One of the album’s great achievements is that it portrays an invisible, ongoing transition in mainstream hip-hop: from ghetto-fabulous rebellion to upper crust complacency. On “Fader Party” the Majesticons play defiant street rappers as they “count the funds / count my guns / count my sons / count my clout / count you out.” But by the time “Platinum BlaQue” arrives, they’ve begun to assimilate: “New Republic on the table with the New York Times / Used to read The Nation ’til I changed my mind / Used to study Marx; now I study wine.” Then come “Volvo Party” and “Suburb Party.”
Beauty Party’s haunting epilogue makes the Majesticons’ new strategy explicit: “Join forces with the aristocratic Trusticons to spread the virus of party and bullshit with superior sophistication.” This alliance will snip the last thread that connects them with hip-hop’s protest roots. Now, “instead of guns, they use lawyers and disco-balls.”
While Ladd clearly loves the art and comedy of mainstream black music, his point is striking: that the Majesticons of the real world are in danger of assimilating into the ruling class, against which hip-hop has traditionally struggled. It is this tension between celebration and censure that rings true to fans of the music, and makes Beauty Party at once a joy and a challenge.
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