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Gold Chains - Straight From Your Radio

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Artist: Gold Chains

Album: Straight From Your Radio

Label: Tigerbeat6

Review date: Aug. 22, 2002

The Next Best Thing

If his first release was a kind of platinum invitation, Gold Chains’s (a.k.a. Topher Lafata) new EP Straight From Your Radio is a glimpse of the party. Whereas the debut album takes the trouble to introduce its author, locate him geographically, and advertise his status in modest Hip-Hop measure, the second finds him elbow deep in consenting cootchie and mountains of coke. And in these troubled times, its nice to see a guy doing so well for himself.

Bookended by an encrypted countdown (“seven…one…four…four…one…eight”), Straight From Your Radio lacks the bombastic entrance and exit of its 2001 predecessor. True, the robotic female is only allowed 45 seconds of doing her daily numbers before Gold Chains releases his lions, but the overall effect of the launch is disorienting.

No matter, for the second track “I Treat Your Cootchie like a Maze” is the aerobic masterpiece of the album. Save for the most polished dancer – who, under its spell, might be moved to rhythmic seizure – the “Maze” conjures a spastic demon whose only outlet is furious jumping jacks, or worse, a fisty rendition of the running-man. It is also the most diverse track, as it digresses into an inexplicably smart Adult Contemporary/Reggae chorus (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) “Butterfly wings kiss your body tonight,” which, for the proprietor of the bullied cootchie, must be an alarming caress.

The album is punctuated by its own promiscuity: a harem in five tracks whose Madam is the steely counting voice of the first and last bars. From the casual muse of the second track to the gilded disco diva of “Let’s Make It”, to the mysterious “Human Pony Girl”, Gold Chains seems as distracted by his divergent interests as he is exhausted by his excesses.

The fifth track “Human Pony Girl," is a clever song with an especially clever name whose overall sound is warped and unstable. While, thankfully, it retains an aspect the mounting kiosk noises that came courtesy of Stereolab on the triumphal last track of Gold Chains “Human Pony Girl” begins and ends without much ceremony. It’s as if everything after “Let’s Make It” is dragging with post-coital lethargy or the hangover of a derailed high-roller. On “Mountains of Coke”, the fourth track, Chains becomes a sluggish thug, barely cognizant of the step-aerobics class presumably being conducted on his laptop. As usual, it’s brilliantly nuanced, but the slow and low rap is too heavy, rendering the track homely from a distance.

Even if Straight From Your Radio isn’t as tight as his first release, Gold Chains remains a big and exotic personality. For starters, his ambiguously plural moniker invites an impressive surprise, something like the opposite of that what a listener experiences when he or she discovers that Lambchop is not one, but 30 persons. This, I suppose, is obvious from the sounds of him: both Gold Chains and Straight From… wear the mark of a singular, albeit eclectic, personality. And personality is all you need to succeed in hip-hop, or anywhere else for that matter.

We welcome the ostentation of an MC the same way that we like a volatile chef or a petite and hygienic bellhop. Whereas in a traditional lecture, the speaker would provide his or her credentials in a printed program or by the gushing, anecdotal introduction of a colleague, the MC must integrate his justification into the performance itself, a tradition that, much like the often superfluous invocation of the academic speaker, risks embarrassment for everyone involved. And even if the MC successfully evades the obstacles of his initiation, he subsequently faces a more serious problem: longevity. If the primary task of the MC is self-promotion, then how long can he go before he runs out of material? For Gold Chains, the problem of sustained enigma is at least partially obscured by an extraordinary sense of texture and humor.

By Hillary Mintz

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