(Big Dada/Ninja Tune)
New York rapper Mike Ladd has released several records under his own name, but in 2000, he introduced the Infesticons and Majesticons--fictional dueling hiphop groups who battle for hiphop's fate. Infesticons debuted with Gun Hill Road, repping for the underground and all things pure (and dogmatic) in hiphop. Now, Ladd, along with guests L.I.F.E. Long, El-P, Omega, Vast Aire, and Murs, has released Majesticons' answer to GHR in the form of Beauty Party: a slick, club-banging party record in the vein of Top 40 hiphop, but with hilarious lyrics sharp on irony and knowledge. It culminates into what Ladd calls "après-bling"--where the ballin' P. Diddys of the world are replaced with the real high rollers: lawyers, bankers, and trust-funders. Glorification of Cristal and Benz-os are replaced with the worship of stocks, Burberry. It's my favorite hiphop record so far this year.
I think Beauty Party came out at a really good time.
Oh, thank you! I was like, oh, god, my timing is horrible.
Yeah, cause it's this totally ironic record in probably the most unironic times of all. Irony is officially dead this year.
It's just that with everything in the media reverting to excess, and politically, it's so '80s...
It's coming into a whole new form. The me generation has turned into the "kill everybody" generation.
And with "apres-bling," you made a recession record.
Yeah, definitely. I saw the direction things were going; where do you take bling in the worst economic recession this country has ever had? And the point is, no one's fucking talking about it. That's where you get the whole post-jiggy aesthetic. Missy, in my opinion, made an après-bling record; her new record has the whole apology in the beginning, but the whole time, she's struggling to let go of the bling, and she just can't.
What's the motivation behind Beauty Party?
It's two-pronged. The primary motivation is a tribute to the production and the craft that goes into making Top 40 stuff. Of course, some of it is absolute, complete fucking garbage. But even that takes a craft; whether it's art or not is a different story. But it's a serious craft! These people bust their ass at it. And I think people like Timbaland, Dr. Dre, Neptunes, are exceptionally good at what they do. It's not a dis at them, per se. It is a dis at the subject matter; beyond hiphop, just towards the ruling class, and primarily the unstoppable myth we buy into in the U.S.; that our number will come up.
Are those ideas that fed Beauty Party?
The ideas that fed Beauty Party were basically looking at everyone fascinated with money, and especially in the hiphop community, just going about it in this really garish way, and being obsessed with money and power. And the true thugs are the John Hancocks of the world. John Hancock was a pimp. I mean, if you read about him, he had these bright pink, silk jackets he would wear, and he was a smuggler. His profession was smuggling goods into the U.S. These guys were thugs! And their lineage still exists. It only takes one person to brandish a gun and be like, "Yeah, I'll shoot you." But it takes another person to be like, "Yo, one phone call and I can ruin your entire life." So my whole thing was like, if you wanna be a thug, be a real thug! Go the investment banker route; that way, you can kill 800 people with one phone call, as opposed to having to go about the business of shooting people.
I feel like you're representing the Id, the Ego, the Superego of hiphop.
[laughs] Yes, I AM MC FREUD.
It's just that your concept is so well thought-out and involved.
Yeah, man, I think about it. Whether it's well thought-out, I don't know. I mean, it was supposed to be a whole discussion of the aesthetics of beauty, and that really has not panned out yet. There needs to be a little more bell hooks in there, so we can really not sell any records. [laughs]
Where's the Majesticons/Infesticons battle going with the next record?
I don't know yet. I keep wanting to be a dick and just do a self-help record. Like, "Picture yourself on a beach. Your hands fall into the sand, your buttocks feel heavy."