Rap Release of the Week: 100s' 'Ice Cold Perm'


by Brandon Soderberg
100s/ Photo by Dream Collabo
100s/ Photo by Dream Collabo

Nostalgic, cloudy pimp-rap from Berkeley, featuring Main Attrakionz, Shady Blaze, and Chippy Nonstop

Consider Berkeley rapper 100s' Ice Cold Perm an album-length bizarro version of the Coup's "Fuck a Perm," from that Bay Area group's 1993 Kill My Landlord album. It's as if this whole mixtape's a response to Boots Riley's funny, pointed celebration of going "natural" that, if you think about it, also encourages a whole bunch of somewhat problematic ideas about "purity" that hip-hop still needs to shake. Ice Cold Perm seems happy to let in as many outsider ideas as possible. 100s has no problem coming off unnatural or "impure."

This is snarling, no-nonsense pimp-rap, celebrating exploitation and preemptively lashing out at everyone trying to get anything over on 100s, but it finds a way to complicate those regressive, retro sensibilities, or at least superimpose them onto more contemporary, relatively open-minded Internet-rap values. Cash-Money tribute "'Bout That Life" features Chippy Nonstop, a post-Kreayshawn female MC who seems intent on bringing back that tiny, early-2000s post-Peaches moment when filthy hipster rap like Gravy Train!!!! was sort of a thing, and her appearance does confound some of the macho, The Mack-referencing talk on this thing. And rather than sample violent hood classics, clips from movies like Hollywood Shuffle and House Party punctuate the album, adding a folksy, regular guy-ness to it all.

Mostly produced by Joe Wax, who has worked with Main Attrakionz (who guest more than once here) and more on-the-ground Bay Area acts like NhT Boys, the beats on Ice Cold Perm pleasantly float around, but they maintain a cold pulse that's different from the warmth found in most "cloud rap." "My Activator" slaps like a potential single and has no time to fully indulge mood and atmosphere; "Land of the Laced" twinkles along like Biggie's "One More Chance (Remix)"; or, at least, Jim Jones' "Summer Wit' Miami." 100s lacks Mondre M.A.N. and Squadda B's winning sincerity, but this is actually a far more consistent release than anything that duo has released. For MaZ, the goal is an explosion of songs and ideas that the listeners put together however they see fit. Open-sourced hip-hop for the Tumblr generation. For 100s, you're hearing a determined and focused personality — take or leave every last bit of it. He just happens to exist in the era of Bandcamp and cloud storage.

If the production here wasn't so goddamned beautiful, or if the graphic design wasn't so tasteful, or if conservative rap fans didn't keep moving the goal posts for what's defined as "gangsta," then 100s undoubtedly would scan as "street." The cover of Ice Cold Perm is a homage to Snoop Dogg's The Doggfather. The song "1999" reverently looks back to that weird time when bounce-tinged booty rap by Juvenile was what everyone was listening to, and the songs here are almost entirely scowling, smooth-sounding insults and accusations. But there's also a complexity that might not be apparent on first listen. One moment, 100s is chanting nonsense like "Romeo and Juliet, hot sex, Romeo and Juliet, hot sex," which could've come from that Problem tape I was going on about last week. On another song, he's accidentally running into a Pimp C-like mix of misogyny and pro-body image insight ("It's that skinny nigga rockin' leather / Never fuck with skinny hoes because our ribs will rub together"). And he makes sure to include touching lines like this one, from "Slow Drip": "Saw my big cousin, from back in the day, strung out on that shit / It's all love, I gave him dub, and two cigarettes and a meal to keep him strong / And I told him be safe, I'd do more when I'm on."

This is a version of pimp-rap that's more lived-in. It's the pimp as an absurd outsider with an all-over-the-place street code that, nevertheless, makes sense to 100s, a slightly silly figure, out there — on the streets and the Internet — all alone.

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