The phenomenon of white rap has gone way beyond mere novelty. Back when The Beastie Boys released Licensed to Ill, it was unheard of for white guys to bust rhymes, let alone make a hit record doing so. But now, things are different. Eminem is a critic and fan favorite. And those Beasties? Well, they’re approaching legendary at this point.
But sometimes, white rap still sounds bizarre, as in the case of Gold Chains. Chains, or Topher LaFata as Mommy and Daddy know him, is a Bay Area-based computer-programmer-turned-rapper. He’s bald, short, wears glasses and sounds like Method Man. It’s hard to take him completely seriously, yet he’s too good for us not to.
After two amazingly amusing E.P.s, Gold Chains has finally committed to recording a full-length album, Young Miss America. And it’s out there.
Understanding Gold Chains requires a lack of prejudice on the part of the listener. Gold Chains doesn’t fall into the East Coast/West Coast, ballin’/shot callin’, gangsta/playa, Death Row/Roc-a-Fella trap. Oddly enough, he’s more of an idealist, whose San Francisco is a Utopia where the party people and the People’s Party are one — a massive crunked-up orgy for hustlers and their ladies to leave their wallets behind and shake some ass.
“Code Red” starts things off on a bass-y groove, an ideal candidate for first single, though it isn’t one. “Several Times Defined” sounds like Otis Redding filtered through Aphex Twin, as Gold Chains discusses starting an “emo-tek-rap-hop band,” though ultimately settling for a bumpin’ party, where he boasts, “even on a Sunday/we turnin’ it out.”
“The Game” is the first single, and the least catchy song on the album, due to its jerky, almost glitchy electronica style, though “Nada” is the party anthem we’ve all given up on hearing Master P release.
Things get stranger near the end. “Revolution” is an appropriate title for track 7, an anthemic four-minute rant against playerhaters, and “Young Miss America” proudly asks, “who needs a bitch/when you’ve got a lover?”
“Break or Be Broken” could only be described, begrudgingly, as a ballad, despite being the most vulgar track on the album. This song creates an impressive climax to the album before shifting swiftly into “Citizens Nowhere,” which actually sounds like Marilyn Manson with its electro-glam swagger. And yet, it’s one of the most interesting songs on the album.
Unfortunately, there’s one too many tracks on the album. The album closer, “Let’s Get it On,” starts promisingly enough, with Chains chanting “what do you want from me?” over some uptempo action. But before long, some Peaches-style white girl rap kicks in, and the “stop” button becomes all too tempting.
But one bad track doesn’t spoil the album, and Chains nonetheless proves himself a legitimate MC worthy of all the dubious acclaim given to schumcks like Mathers. But unlike Shady, Chains doesn’t need Dre to do his dirty work. Because the MC of this Punk Rock show is DIY, bitches, and you best recognize lest ye be wrecked, fool.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.