Whenever the kids want to have their say, the parents are bound to get a little nervous.
Take Neato Bandita Frito, for example. They’ve got similar species markings to any hip-hop act from Philly to Fresno. Songs laden with sexual innuendo and bravado? Check. Songs about the thug life (ultralight filtered menthol version), yes. Songs about, oh, let’s see, now, what’s that controlled substance that Cypress Hill and their like are always on about ... yeah, check. At least a couple songs about that.
But crimony, mother, where would youthful rebellion be without a little fuel for parental nail-biting? What self-respecting bunch of rhymeslingers wouldn’t have a weed song or two? That would be like being in a black metal band whose members didn’t want to burn any churches and couldn’t get enough of the good Lord’s love. Punks who thought everything was just fine the way it was. A straight-edge reggae band. That would be throwing a youth rebellion that no one showed up for.
Besides, can’t you take a joke? Neato Bandita Frito as good as fess right up that clowning is all part of the act; making a parody of shopworn rap and hip-hop conventions is half of what Neato Bandita Frito—Gan-J, Funkmaster Keenan and DJ Groan—are all about.
But Neato Bandita Frito come off neither as a complete joke nor as a bunch of totally oblivious wiggaz earnestly essaying to be down for whatevah and all about the cheddah. They fall somewhere in between: intentionally kinda dorky (with Gan-J grinning goofily and Funkmaster Keenan’s skinny frame slouched around the mic, looking about as likely to pop a cap in your ass as Estelle Getty from “The Golden Girls”), but with some pretty ambitious—though slyly self-deprecating—rhymes. Some real lip-flappers, too.
A Neato Bandita Frito show won’t find you trying to divine their rhymes a line ahead of them (like when you listen to some new hip-hop and wonder how many more permutations of rhyme there can possibly for “trigger” and its boon companion … well, you get me, don’t you?). No, instead you’ll be impressed that they thought to rhyme “onomatopoeia” and “diarrhea” in a song about Gan-J’s senior project and possibly marveling at the strange way that a good rhyme can nudge the semantic content of a song in strange new directions. They assimilate huge gobs of pop culture carrion into songs about Andy Kaufman, songs that make references to movies like Mall Rats and Cannibal: The Musical. Songs with lines ranging in cleverness from “Girl, you broke my heart/It hurt me so bad, I had to fart,” to genius bits like “I eat seven turkeys for a meal/And still feel lean/I got my protein,” and the part where Keenan comes clean about not being from the hood even though he still knows the smell of the blood on the sidewalk because he saw it in a dream.
The music reeks of teendom. It can be terribly juvenile. And it’s terribly entertaining.
See Neato Bandita Frito at the Boys and Girls Club Friday, Jan. 19, with possible shows before then. Check “8 Days a Week” for upcoming shows.