- SPIN Rating:7 of 10
Label: Young One
"If we could record every day, we would," the rapper Mondre M.A.N. told The Fader late last year. Since July 2011, he and his partner Squadda B have self-released 13 or so mixtapes through Bandcamp, both as solo artists and as the duo Main Attrakionz. They rap about the possibility of having fabulous, extroverted lives because it's part of their job description. But they would probably rather be holed up, high, and making more music. One song on their first so-called real album, Bossalinis & Fooliyones, is called "On Tour"; its opening line is about how great it feels to get home.
As personalities, Squadda and Mondre are uniquely endearing: The latter is slightly more sheepish and introspective, the former more bombastic. On "Sex in the City," Squadda raps about the one thing that male rappers will rap about after nuclear winter destroys the world's cars, money, and jewels: his giant penis. Halfway through, he almost giggles — less the boast of a man than a child, overjoyed. "Took a trip upstairs, get my mind weeded," Mondre says later, on "Love Is Life." "Sat down, realized I got everything I needed / Like, I succeeded." Then, as though the thought is dawning on him just now, he whispers, "I think I made it."
In 2012, the Internet is as much a region for hip-hop as the South or the West Coast. In 1996, it was novel to hear a New York rapper like Raekwon next to Atlantans like OutKast; here, Squadda brags about chasing girls with Danny Brown and Das Racist, who are from Detroit and New York, respectively. These are rappers who not only seem to primarily live online — in the sense that they use Twitter and release downloadable albums for free — but who reflect the incisive, inclusive, omnivorous attitude the Internet breeds.
Producers on Bossalinis hail from all over the country, and vary wildly in both style and stature, from guys like Zaytoven (who has worked extensively with Gucci Mane) to crews like Metro Zu (who once sampled Animal Collective). Conscious, gangsta, crisp, fuzzy, introspective, hedonistic — one by one, the album checks them off. Like fellow Oakland resident Lil B, Main Attrakionz often sound like rap fans more excited about imitating the sounds they love than forging something unmistakably their own.
Like a lot of young artists who've been flash-fried by the Internet, these guys also aren’t so much great as they are getting better, using public interest to spur themselves on. Bossalinis is cleaner and more varied than their mixtapes, but this album is also long. Really, really long. Almost 70 minutes long. After a little while, the open-hearted, all-good vibe can sound like magpie indecision. Part of it, again, is that Squadda and Mondre are skilled rappers, not radical or superlative ones, charming in spite of their limitations more than because of them. The sheer breadth here gives them a lot of weight to carry. Sometimes, they drag it; sometimes, it drags them.
Early write-ups described the duo's style as both "lo-fi" and "cloud rap," the name given to the distant, grainy sound developed by producers like Squadda and Clams Casino. This happens all the time: Journalists invent names for what artists do in order to more efficiently categorize them. Usually, artists either reject these labels or mock them; Squadda confessed in an interview he had to look up "lo-fi" on Wikipedia, but it seemed cool by him. Two of the songs on Bossalinis are called "Cloud Body" and "LFK," which, we find out, stands for "Lo-Fi Kings." This is not a question of joining them because you can't beat them. This is a question of joining them because beating them just seems unfriendly.