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G.I. Joe Killaz - G.I. Joe Killaz

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Artist: G.I. Joe Killaz

Album: G.I. Joe Killaz

Label: Cobra

Review date: Feb. 23, 2003

Cobra Never Wins

In today’s world of performance art (naked paraplegic orgy painting, and no, I’m not kidding), the line between worthwhile and worthless is a fuzzy one indeed. One man’s garbage is another man’s coffee table, and whatnot. The concept album is often the musical version of that fuzzy line, dividing the get-it’s from the get-it-not’s like bread-butterers shouting over the wall at each other.

Luckily, there is very little room for confusion about the relative worth of this album. G.I. Joe Killaz is a project that combines a very funny concept (a rap group of The Baroness, Destro and Cobra Commander from the G.I. Joe cartoon series), mediocre “minimal techno” beats (courtesy of Tomas Jirku of Alien8 Recordings), and boring and/or awful rapping. The result, as you might expect, ranges between laugh-out-loud (laughing at you) funny and outright nonsense, with most of the songs falling into the latter category.

On songs like “Packin’ Hot Heat,” the Cobra concept plays out like a parody of thug-rap, with lazer-guns replacing glocks, and phrases like “‘flauged out” (one of the best neologisms I’ve come across in quite some time) in place of the bling-bling. This works well enough for about one song, but after the third or fourth time, the lazer-gun thing gets pretty old. Other tracks take the concept a bit farther – “Money to Burn” (by far the best song on the album), and “Eau de Cobra” actually tell entire stories that sound as though they could have come straight out of the cartoon. I was unable to verify this, but my suspicion is that these really are episodes of the cartoon put into song form. “Arashikage Ninjas” goes another route, telling the history of Snake Eyes, one of the cooler characters from the series.

These are the flashes of (conceptual) brilliance that make the reality of the album so disappointing. The fact of the matter is that Destro and The Baroness are much better fans of the G.I. Joe series than they are vocalists. The Baroness is a better singer than either of them are rappers, and she often sounds out of key and rather unsure what to do with her voice. The rhymes are simple to the point of being offensive, and most of the hooks are laughably bad (“we’re here for our own reasons / but we’re gonna work together / red snake crest ’cross our chests / means Cobra forever / and we’re never ever gonna / look the other way / ‘cause thoughts of world domination / fill our heads every day”). Sadly, the vocals ruin what little might be enjoyable of Jirku’s beats.

The most disappointing part of G.I. Joe Killaz is that for one fleeting moment in the first song, The Baroness hints at an even more interesting concept: “activist or terrorist / I hooked up with Cobra...” One might think that an album written entirely from the perspective of Cobra operatives would examine more thoroughly the motivation behind the individuals and organization, at least to the point of calling into question the old G.I. Joe = good, Cobra = bad dichotomy, particularly given the current state of American military policy. Yet such is not the case; other than that one moment, the issue is never raised.

I suppose the real question raised by this album is exactly how far can a concept carry a musical project? If we take this album as a measuring stick, the answer would have to be not very far at all.

By Daniel Thomas-Glass

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