Hip-hop has become so popular and easy to make, everybody's recording tracks these days. But a majority of new acts only emulate what they hear on the radio or YouTube. The self-promotion and mindless hooks have become the norm. Yet even rap has its punk rockers. Here's my definition of "alternative hip-hop," which I hope you find agreeable: Vocal-driven music often utilizing a live band, autobiographical and poetic lyrics, and lacking the focus on bass that's so prevalent in contemporary Top 40 hip-hop of today. And Why? fits that definition just fine.
On the band's fourth album, Mumps, Etc., emcee Yoni takes his strangely soothing monotone on a trip through anxieties and stream of consciousness. You can tell he was thinking about his own mortality while writing these songs. He's also acutely pop-culture aware, dropping references to outdated PowerMac G4s and getting stoned to Garrison Keillor.
Though the instrumentals are straightforward, rock-based and not distracting, there is something missing from Why?'s earlier albums. Elephant Eyelash was spacy and psychedelic and Alopecia brought out more folk influences. Mumps, Etc. is simpler, lacking some of that experimentation. It's still a force, and Yoni's magnetic vocals keep you just hooked enough to hear him out.
Why? plays the Wilma Theatre Wed., Feb. 27, at 7 PM. $20/$18 advance