MC Paul Barman: Paullelujah!

MC Paul Barman: Paullelujah!

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Album: Paullelujah!
Label: Coup D'Etat

If rappers were judged solely on cleverness and the obscurity of their pop-culture references, MC Paul Barman would tower over his peers as one of the greatest performers ever to pick up a mic. But there's much more to rapping than name-checking Krzysztof Kieslowski and Chuck Close, which is why Barman's much-ballyhooed debut EP It's Very Stimulating sometimes felt less like hip-hop than a Borscht Belt routine set to jack-in-the-box beats. Barman has always had wit to spare, but on Stimulating, he didn't rap so much as breathlessly recite bawdy limericks for the Mensa set. Nevertheless, Barman's pop-culture-dazed blend of highbrow allusions, lowbrow humor, and neo-vaudevillian shtick won him critical kudos and enormous buzz in hipster circles. His association with legendary producer Prince Paul, who produced Stimulating, even granted Barman instant hip-hop credibility, but rather than capitalize on that buzz, he held off releasing a full-length debut for two years. The wait seems to have paid off. Barman will never be mistaken for Rakim, but on Paullelujah!, his delivery is less forced and more relaxed, which makes his act a lot more palatable. He continues to work the rarely explored intersection of rap, stand-up comedy, and performance art, and he's widened his satirical focus to include everything from gentle social satire to genre parodies. On the album's best track, "Anarchist Bookstore Part 1," Barman wittily dissects the myopic idealism of undergraduate Trotskyites in a way that should resonate strongly with anyone who's ever spent too much time in a college town. On "Talking Time Travel," Barman adopts the persona of an absurdist metaphysical troubadour, while "A Somewhat New Medium," an anecdote about the price of tolerance, works both as a spoken-word piece and as a parody of a spoken-word piece. A steady diet of nothing but MC Paul Barman would be tough to take, but it'll be a sad day when there's no place in hip-hop for his kind of goofy iconoclast.

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