Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire feels like an unburdening, artistically and personally.
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire will say whatever he wants. In “The eXplanation,” he argues for his adopted middle name as a symbol of agency. He delights in the use of the word “fuck,” treating it like a word that still offends people the way it did in the Tipper Gore days, and when asked by a concerned listener to make music kids can listen to, his response is swift and satisfying: “Fuck your kids.” He knows R. Kelly’s a monster, but he doesn’t know why he can’t listen to “Ignition” when he still has to stand for the anthem. This is the kind of guy who’d punch Richard Spencer but wouldn’t complain if Joe Rogan had him on. His ideas aren’t always sound, but he holds onto them tightly.
The Brooklyn rapper, born Hugh Allison, came up in the blog-rap era and was briefly signed to Interscope to no success. He’s on his own label now, and he not only embraces his freedom but has made an entire, self-titled album about it. He revels in final-cut privilege, ending the album with an eight-minute, avant-garde “short film” and a four-minute mission statement just because he can—and, no doubt, because Interscope wouldn’t have let him. Paranoia about social media surveillance aside, this is an album that could’ve feasibly been made in 2011, and its grimy No-Fi New York beats stem from the template of his breakout track “Huzzah!” The way he sings, like a perverted old man in the shower, hearkens back to the days when the idea of a singing rapper was kind of funny.
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire feels like an unburdening, artistically and personally. Per his mission statement, it’s about the “self,” hence the self-titling. On “RumbleFish,” he raps candidly about growing up in the projects, identifying with fellow NYC smartass Spider-Man, and learning a man his mother dated went on to murder his next girlfriend—then apologizing to his mother for putting this detail in the song. This flash of empathy doesn’t extend to the whole album, and the message of “I Love Hoes” is contradicted on “Nothing’s What It Seems: Short Film,” where he laments falling in love with a “fuckin’ hoe!” The song blows up his girl problems to mythic proportions, and the subject matter doesn’t justify the dramatic presentation, though perhaps the dramatic presentation is more the point.
The album falters when he strays from himself as a subject. The state-of-the-union address “Nosediive” makes some good points, especially about surveillance, but its 1984-lite language we’ve heard in a million similar rap songs. By the time he gets to talking about flying saucers, we’re left with the aftertaste of another paranoid conspiracy-theorist rap song rather than the desire to put our phones down and stop being sheep. On “Silence,” he hints his next album might be about how nothing’s real and the world’s really a simulation. I doubt an album like that would be in my rotation, but who am I to discourage eXquire from making it? I wouldn’t want to get in the way of that kind of conviction.