The juxtaposition of white-boy geekiness with swaggering hip-hop posturing forms the core of The Lonely Island’s smart-ass take on pop music, but the trio is also distinguished by obsessive cultural specificity on its sophomore effort, Turtleneck & Chain. Who else would satirize a lesser DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince single like “I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson” in 2011? The Lonely Island’s “Rocky” cheekily suggests that if an affable everyman really were to fight a world-class champion, the match would probably end not with a surprise upset, but rather with the underdog in the morgue after being brutally beaten to death.
The sneakily subversive “I Just Had Sex” similarly acknowledges the subtext behind just about every sex rap: exuberant joy at simply being a participant in a sex act, no matter how terrible it might be. The Lonely Island understands hip-hop’s shallowness on a profound level. It mocks out of love rather than contempt, but the group isn’t too reverent to point out the genre’s inherent contradictions and hypocrisy. On “Mama,” hip-hop’s obsession with deifying mothers as, in the song’s gloriously overwrought turn of phrase, “angel[s] on earth with invisible wings,” is juxtaposed with the mundane reality that real-world moms annoy you with calls at work and embarrass you in front of your friends.
On “We’re Back!”, Turtleneck’s opening track, The Lonely Island makes smart satirical sport of the overly caffeinated big talk and hype that often opens rap albums and mix-tapes, while also tapping into the hype’s flashy, trashy power. “The world needs us!”, The Lonely Island proclaims. It’s an intentionally ridiculous end for a song about impotence, inter-species fan-fiction, and a dude who lives by the dump, but it’s also true.