At times, it seems as if the current contingent of hip hop artists is divided into two factions: those who scream out claims of keeping it real while perpetuating fairy tales of dope, guns and money, and those who do actually speak truth in their rhymes, but dedicate their time on the mic to lamenting about mainstream hip hop or telling inane tales of what they had for breakfast and the last time they went shopping for socks.
Just when it seems as if honest and exciting biographical hip hop has gone extinct, Beyond Repair, the debut album from Northern California’s Damaged Goods, arrives on the scene to restore our faith in reality rap.
The group- comprised of M.C.’s Borg One (also a member of Sacramento favorites Who Cares), Chuck E. Cheese, and siblings Cynic and Lacy J -pulls from a seemingly bottomless supply of personal experiences, touching on topics ranging from alcoholism (on “Goodbye Sober Day”) to relationships and infidelity (“Check Yourself”) and recounting stories of pub brawls (“Bar Night”) and confrontations with law enforcement (“Badge On A Bitch”). In one of the most personal tracks on Beyond Repair, Cynic and Lacy J trade perspectives on the abusive and dysfunctional family environment they grew up in. While this may not be a particularly novel topic in itself, the two speak of turmoil and vulnerability and turn the story into a testament of strength and family loyalty, rather than turn it into an emo pity party.
Throughout the album’s 17 tracks, Cynic, Borg and Chuck make frequent references to another topic near and dear to their hearts: graffiti. As longtime members of the nationally renowned graff crew TBK, the three have well over a decade of experiences to draw from. Among these experiences is one of the most publicized graffiti cases in history - an arrest and subsequent trial that led to one of them facing 27 felony charges, a year in county jail and over $40,000 in restitution and lawyer’s fees after narrowly escaping 3 to 5 years in Folsom Prison.
Over Cynic’s eerie, synth-laden soundscape of production, the members of Damaged Goods use fiercely energetic deliveries to give us a look into their lives, and to make listeners take a look at their own lives as well. “It’s just observation of people in general, human condition, things that people go through,” says Cynic. “That’s kind of where the name Damaged Goods comes from; you just see all the things that you’ve been through and try to relate that so someone else will hear it and say, ’Oh shit, I’ve gone through that too,’ or maybe they’ll feel something out of it. It’s not glamorous like, ‘Oh, we’re out here ballin’, spending money, we’re shootin’ people, we’re pushin' major weight’ . That shit’s tired, nobody wants to hear superhero rap anymore.”
And with the release of Beyond Repair, we now have an alternative.