Thunderheist – ‘Thunderheist’

June 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Vine, May 28, 2009.

Thunderheist
Thunderheist
(Big Dada/Inertia)

The roots of electro-nuanced sex rap can be traced all the way back to 1984 and West Coast hip-hop’s first real superstar Arabian Prince (aka Professor X). Before going on to found NWA, the Inglewood rapper was lacing cheesy electro boom-bap with all manner of moustache-heavy sleaze and high-cut bikini-clad beach scenes. His legacy, perhaps indirectly, paved the way for gender-flipped sex-core rap of Peaches, Princess Superstar, Avenue D and Southern booty rappers Yo! Majesty.

The self-titled debut from Toronto duo Thunderheist – MC Isis and producer Grahm – adheres closely to such a pedigree. Over 13 tracks worth of retro drum machine beats, clustered handclaps and thickset bass lines, Isis spits all manner of pants-down innuendo, talk of booty popping and odes to partying white powder style. The problem, though, is that Thunderheist seem to think they’re doing something new. In fact, they’re so damned sure of they originality that they’ve developed an attitude problem about it.

While the first line of their presser has them throwing “a wrench into static hip-hop conventions”, the record – which is fun and danceable enough on paper – proves self-conscious to the point of hindrance. Flatly delivered lines like “Bitch, where the after-party at?” (‘The Party After’) just come off sounding half-arsed rather than obnoxious, while the abundance of booty talk feels uncommitted and downright sexless. When Peaches or Shunda K. spit attitude, you believe it. But there’s such a sense of cooler-than-thou detachment to this whole affair that it’s rendered meaningless.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Thunderheist is that there’s plenty of potential on show. More than just an electro diva, Isis’ technical skills on the mic are sharp and tight and Grahm’s Baltimore-inflected beats prove more than serviceable; check the kinetic ‘Jerk It’ and bass-riddled bump of ‘Slow Roll’ for evidence.

But parties – and sex for that matter – are all about inclusion. It seems like Thunderheist wanted us to know all about their antics without actually extending the invite. Our one consolation is this passionless, vain, lead balloon of a record.

Dan Rule

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