By the time hardcore hip hop cemented its worldwide cultural dominance in the early '90s—Dr. Dre's epochal LP The Chronic
being its undisputed moment of coronation—its ethos was dizzying in complexity and magnitude. Call this coincidental or contradictory or, probably most accurately, multi-dimensional. Twenty-five years later, pulling the layers of infinity apart is, as with anything, a ridiculous task that trivializes its nature. The point is that the last and easily most innovative form of Western pop music in recorded history succeeded in fulfilling that elusive and distinctly American mythos: being all things to all people. Beyond that, hip hop ascended to the mainstream throne without compromise; pop music was remade in rap's image, unlike virtually any other musical movement that preceded it. And that remains unchanged a generation or two later.
Reinventing the wheel creatively is also one of its central and most admirable tenants. Imitation is never flattery in this genre. But what about linking regional styles and vastly different musical approaches and lyrical stances?
Thirty-two-year-old Tucson emcee Cash Lansky makes a strong case for the positive merits of that question. Over the course of three solo albums, a high profile and Murs-consigned collaborative record with local rapper Marley B called The Tonite Show
and countless one-off releases, Lansky's talent has never been in question. Neither have his commercial instincts. One of his greatest stylistic coups has been his ability to connect the dots between various underground rap sub genres—East Coast boom bap and introspective backpack rap—and make it seem like the similarities far outweighed the seeming fundamental differences in approach and worldview. Lansky's signature has been the erasure of such borders.
While The Tonite Show
didn't end up being the commercial breakthrough it was designed to be, but, along with Lansky's subsequent recordings, it propelled him into the upper stratosphere of Southwestern hip hop.
On his new album, The Cool Table
, the rapper branches out even further. His lyrics, always impressive, are now completely effortless vignettes of daily life, but the mundanity of daily life is honestly examined with razor sharp articulation. Boredom, pleasure, injustice are all themes that permeate The Cool Table
—delivered with either dismissal or pathos, but Lansky never gets bogged down in rage or disgust. Though sometimes reflectively melancholy, this stunningly consistent group of songs are more often elevated to anthems of the idea of just letting things be, a rarity in any genre of modern pop, usually united in bravado.
While Lansky's deft observations are the record's consistent thread, the infectious and accomplished production is where The Cool Table
aims for a place in history. Clattering 808 drums suggest contemporary trap on a few songs; soul-based strings and bass lines nod to rap's past on others. But as usual for Lansky, the titles tell a good deal of the story: "Modus Operandi," "Soufwestern State of Mind" and "90's Chill" give half the game away on their own. But naming his record The Cool Table seems to suggest his exclusion from such a place. Or maybe he's aware, accurately, that the implied exclusive club, and his place in it, is at this specific time and place in hip hop's estimable history is one headed by Lansky himself.
The Cool Table release show is Friday, March 17 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress. With Jae Tilt, Headlock, Street Blues Family, Lando Chill, Marley B. $8-$10. 7 p.m. 21+