Monday, November 13, 2017

Why Pray For Me When You Can Fix Me A Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich--Intro

The only musical genres I've zero time for: reggae and ska. Reggae is a dull, repetitive style of sound best enjoyed--arguably only enjoyed--by the well-stoned. Ska is the white version of reggae, which should say it all.

Anything else, I've at least a few minutes to spare: rock, pop, metal, classical, bluegrass, country recorded before 1986, hip-hop. The idea of reviewing my top 10 hip-hop albums tempted me. I figured it would be a nice change of pace and face for the blog.

The idea of not being so goddamn predictable held even stronger allure.

I still wanted to talk hip-hop…but not a top 10 faves, or a discography review of an MC or group. One evening, I found myself on a "crappy rap album covers" kick. There is no shortage of putrid selections, or websites willing to compile lists. I was amused to note how many of them came courtesy of one company.

Pen 'n' Pixel is a graphics design firm based in Houston, TX. Started by brothers Aaron and Shawn Brock, P 'n' P were responsible for some of the gaudiest images to ever (dis)grace a CD case. They provided scenes of faux-opulence and hyper-violence for rappers both struggling and thriving, eventually becoming the in-house designers for Master P's legendary No Limit Records.

Much like the music they helped promote, the works of Pen 'n' Pixel gave hip-hop purists the heebie-jeebies, what with its abundance of bitches, booze, blunts, bling and blickies. I'm intrigued by the intent of such ludicrous lavishness. How many of the rappers were laughing along? If not done in the spirit of parody or satire, were the three-dimensional embraces of materialism meant as a "fuck you too!" or a "you can do it, too!"?

Over eleven years, Pen 'n' Pixel produced in excess of 19,000 covers. Contrast that with the 18,000-plus comic strips Charles Schulz drew up in fifty years. Unlike Peanuts, I haven't laid eyes upon every single thing out of the P 'n' P camp. I have seen hundreds of their works, though, which I feel qualifies me to select ten standouts. Not just subpar, not just absurd, but intriguingly so. Further, I resolved to actually review each of the ten records, track by track.

(I like grape jelly best.)

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