Who boasted that they could rhyme over pots and pans? Rakim? I wouldn’t put it past him, either to make the claim or to deliver on it with aplomb. In any case, listening to ‘Bigass Beard’, one of the prime cuts on this collaboration between veteran Chicago rapper Sharkula and Mukqs (aka Hausu label boss Good Willsmith) one might assume that this madcap duo have taken up that mysterious challenge. A stuttering drum loop peppers vibrating electronics with woolly snare snaps, while glossy synths drip and swirl around fussing hi-hat snickers. Among all this, Sharkula winds his trademark goofball flow, (“I’ve reinvented myself many times/I shine like shoes/But I don’t shine shoes“) his syllables slipping and sliding and somehow finding routes through the crockery pileup.
Beatific, cheeky and downright scatalogical at times, Sharkula’s rhymes fit beautifully into the canon of maximalist MCs, bouncing between Doctor Octagon’s lysergic estrangement and ODB’s boozy abandon. Even at their most fragmented, his verses spiral away from the darkness, ranging far and wide over Willmsith’s crumpled textures, worn synths and snapping trap-inflected beats and showering nuggets of cosmic (comic?) zen science on everyone around. His bars are wide-open, free associative rambles that have the funky looseness of a Richard Pryor routine voiced by an imaginary Gil Scot Heron who’s left the bad stuff behind in favour of high-protein relaxation in the sun.
Willsmith’s Mukqs alias is the perfect safety net for all this, seemingly able to morph into exactly the right combination of texture and form to anticipate his partner’s verbal flurries while also pushing him to even more addled pizzazz. Cuts like ‘Hitchhiking on the Mic Device’ have a mid-tempo amble that’s distinct from the dancefloor-oriented flavours of last year’s ‘Slug Net‘, the travelator snares providing a jittery skeleton for a wide-eyed pileup of spy movie piano lines and Sharkula blather.
‘Screamin’ On Your Bootie’ starts like some addled apologia, Sharkula muttering “I didn’t bring as many raps as I thought I should“, like some newbie who’s been more successful on the open mic than they expected and is now facing the local champ with nary a line of trash talk with which to defend himself. The fact this is merely a strategy becomes immediately obvious as Sharkula invokes Diarrhea Sherlock – an alias for himself, as it turns out – and commences the time-honoured MC practice of bigging himself up, albeit in somewhat surreal style. Willsmith, meanwhile, blurts out a chaotic mishmash of chiptune squiggles, fairground organ chords and synthetic jags. It’s a bumpy ride, alright, but it sure is fun.