Foreign Legion: Kidnapper Van: Beats To Rock While Bike-Stealin'

Foreign Legion: Kidnapper Van: Beats To Rock While Bike-Stealin'

Given the sheer number of acts hopping on the underground hip-hop bandwagon, it can be difficult to distinguish truly gifted, iconoclastic MCs from shameless opportunists name-checking the underground to compensate for a lack of skills. Foreign Legion is all too familiar with the phenomenon, and on "Underground," the group voices its resentment, lamenting, "I try to support underground MCs from East to West / I bought a lot of tapes on the streets, some of them were fresh / But in the process I purchased a lot more garbage / 'Cause underground nowadays means undeveloped and not polished." Foreign Legion's love-hate relationship with underground hip-hop pervades its enormously promising full-length debut, Kidnapper Van, from the free-association wordplay of "Chain Reaction" to "Reference Check," in which FL's rappers pay homage to each other while anointing their DJ the Bobby Fischer of cross-faders. An interracial hip-hop trio from the Bay Area, Foreign Legion sometimes falls victim to the same underground-hip-hop tunnel vision it so eloquently critiques on "Underground," but tracks like "Nowhere To Hide" illustrate the snotty humor and irreverent wit that sets the group apart from its stone-faced peers. "Hide" begins like a typical Canibus-style rundown of conspiracy theories, with the usual suspects accused of various crimes against humanity, but soon develops into a riotous parody of paranoid thinking, as the global conspiracy's crimes widen to include canceling Joanie Loves Chachi, killing Abe Lincoln, and inventing gangsta rap. By the time Foreign Legion sends out long-overdue shout-outs to linguist/dissident Noam Chomsky and talk-radio crazy Art Bell, "Nowhere To Hide" has long since proved itself a nerd-rap classic, a hilarious spoof of conspiracy theories that's all the more effective for being relatively deadpan. Nothing on Kidnapper Van quite matches the dead-on lunacy of that song, but FL's sharp wit and gleeful irreverence make it an auspicious debut from a group that combines a sharp comic sensibility with plenty of old-fashioned hip-hop skills.

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