I’ll be honest – I’ve never had an interest in listening to MC Lars. I’d heard his name being mentioned on forums and blogs, and knew who he was, but other than that I’ve never really paid attention to his seemingly quite large (and growing) following, particularly on the internet. So, before I listened to this album, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.
As it turns out, it’s quite interesting. Where Ya Been Lars? sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album; snappy, humourous and quite subtly catchy. A feature from Weird Al Yankovic on True Player For Real also helps cement this album’s identity and will probably expand his fan base a little more, to those people that like a little witty familiarity on their nerdcore albums.
Whilst being a predominantly hip-hop album, MC Lars has always incorporated the ‘alternative’ music scene into his music (or so Wikipedia tells me). The title track boasts a huge ska chorus, performed by Surburban Legends with the vocal aid of the MC Bat Commander of The Aquabats, with more rock samples and beats sprinkled throughout the whole 14 tracks.
After the first 7 tracks, you could be forgiven to think this is a light-hearted record, occasionally touching on slightly more serious things like global warming and putting a funny spin on them. But then, out of nowhere, Twenty-Three arrives (I think it’s something like what the Americans call a curveball, in a purely metaphorical sense). It sees Lars getting serious about suicide, the softly sung chorus actually becoming quite haunting after a few listens. Unexpected, to say the least.
Twenty Three acts as an approximate halfway point of the album, and after this is more of the same (but not in a bad way). Songs like Guitar Hero Hero are so easy to relate to, because everybody knows one of those people. You know exactly what he’s talking about, and agree with him wholeheartedly (unless, of course, you are somebody that the song could be applied to, in which case, look up now, there‘s the track going straight over your head).
White Kids Aren’t Hyphy is a semi-parody of Skee-Lo’s hit I Wish, and name checks possibly the whitest, most un-hyphy rappers in existence, which is amusing even when you’re a fan of them, mainly because it’s all so true.
Standout tracks are definitely Twenty-Three in particular, not everybody will enjoy the sudden change of tone and subject matter, but it proves that Lars is actually capable of doing something different. Hipster Girl is an ironic look at the Williamsburg hipster epidemic, think Cage’s Scenester, performed by Bill Bailey (actually, don’t. It didn’t sound so bizarre before I actually pictured it). Think Cage’s Scenester, performed by somebody that makes light-hearted music in a joking yet semi-serious fashion (which is exactly what Lars does).
Don’t be fooled, though, it’s not without its flaws. The massive amount of features may look a little overbearing, when you see them all on the tracklist, but when you’re listening, you sometimes forget they’re there (which is both a good and bad thing). We Have Arrived is quite forgettable (but when I say this, these tracks generally end up becoming my favourites a few months down the line, so don’t quote me on that). The chorus of Hey There Ophelia stands out, but nothing else about it really does. Some people may find the album a little ’same-y’, as admittedly, he does have quite a set formula (apart from the aforementioned Twenty-Three). Although, as the saying goes; if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.