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Wow!: MC Paul Barman Is Freaky, Cheeky, Geeky

by Matthew Webber

MC Paul Barman, Paullelujah!(Coup d'Etat Entertainment)

As a bespectacled, khaki-wearing, white (actually, pale) graduate student in English at a Midwestern state university, I'll be the first to admit I'm not exactly a rapper's target audience member. When I bump something like N.W.A. in my bedroom or car, I can't help but feel as if somebody like Ice Cube would just as soon bitch-slap me as sell me an album. Although I rooted for Eminem's character in 8 Mile, our shared whiteness was not enough to make me feel as if I could relate to him.

Whenever I attempt to rap (again, in my bedroom or car, or in the vicinity of other pigmentation- and rhythm-challenged grad students), there is no one I can emulate. I can't "Fuck the Police" or "Fight the Power" with any degree of sincerity. My suburban upbringing is only a hardship in that it gives me nothing about which to rhyme. So I usually mutter something about kicking you to the curb of my sub-divided suburb, dividing your crew like four into two, 'cause you're half of a rapper and half of a clue, you're an unsolved murder, she wrote it in blue; which I follow with some "yeahs" and some "fo shizzle, my bizzles," which I have to explain means "for sure, my bee-yatches," which means "bitch." It's as ugly as it sounds, if not uglier, and probably not as hilarious as I think it is, yo.

All of this explains why at least one of my boys and I think MC Paul Barman is the dopest MC alive.

MC Paul Barman is a Jewish, Ivy League-educated white boy whose songs are as hilarious as New Yorker cartoons, which is to say that he's so culturally literate that he's almost functionally illiterate because only about five people will get what he means, and since he raps about having only five fans, and since the two I know can't even catch all of his cultural references, perhaps there are only three people who are able to completely get him. Really, New Yorker cartoons are more closely related to his flows than are most of the raps you would see on BET, which is probably why he included his lyrics in the liner notes in the form of The Jew Dork Rimes newspaper, complete with a table of contents, editorial cartoon, obituary, letter to the editor, theatre review, etc. Even if you hated the music, you'd have to admit that the Paullelujah! liner notes are the best you've ever seen.

But you wouldn't hate the music, not if you're a fan of what rap music could be. The beats are so ill they're contagious: Phofo, MikeTheMusicGuy, and Prince Paul, who produced Barman's debut EP as well as scoring the earliest and best De La Soul albums, sculpt the aural equivalent of a rousing game of Boggle or a Cryptoquip. Someone should revoke their licenses to ill!!! The beats are typical of other Prince Paul productions or those by Dan The Automator, but I cannot emphasize this enough: THEY SOUND NOTHING LIKE ANYTHING YOU'LL HEAR ON THE RADIO.

Neither, of course, does Barman. The reason he's my new hero is because I actually could become him. He raps for people who have ever passed a Calculus class or read the Atlantic Monthly. He is the only rapper alive who will reference on one album: Erica Jong, Maxine Hong Kingston, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Margaret Sanger, NAFTA, SOHCAHTOA, Quetzalcoatl, and "trickle down ergonomics." As a teacher of Expository Writing at my Midwestern state university, I can especially appreciate a lesson such as the one Barman teaches on the title track: "Current Events. Comparison/Contrast. Cause and Effect. Embarrassing bombast. Five Paragraphs each get a topic sentence or 'hook' for pop ascendance. So much plop, of course people stop attendance."

In many ways, Barman is what rappers should sound like but seldom do anymore. Some of his lines contain more clever wordplay than other rappers' entire songs. He riddles and puns and converses with different voices. He even raps in palindromes!!! He has more internal rhymes than even Eminem does, as he proves in "Cock Mobster" when he rhymes famous women's names with what he will do to them sexually: "Winona Ryder? Goin' inside her." "I would jizz early, inside Liz Hurley." Barman can be raunchy, but he's funny more often than he's sexist. His voice is kinda whiny, but no more than is Mike D's.

MC Paul Barman may not be the greatest rapper of all time, but he's certainly the geekiest. This is why, if you're a geek like me, you'll probably be able to relate.

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