Please indulge me in a brief word about each element in this grand tapestry of rap.
First are the fun and tough raps:
“file_id.diz” – BBS ASCII modem LHARC ARJ algorithm nerd PKZIP binary transfer nerd NO CARRIER. It’s a mission statement – not so much for the album, as such, but for my life: be the best, and say so.
“Professional Widowmaker” – Got my Tori Amos swag on for this one. You say you don’t want it again and again; you SURE you don’t really mean it? Don’t eff around and wind up getting silent all these years!
“Halifax Rap Legend” – I grew up in Halifax, and Halifax loves me like they love Sloan, Ellen Paige, Scott Storch, Andrea Dorfman, Sixtoo, and The King & I. (Because of the Anna Leonowens connection; not rap group Da King & I who did “Krak Da Weazel.”)
I heard some people who used to feel like big kings in Halifax but don’t really do anything interesting anymore don’t like it when I claim this title. You know what they can do?
COME FI TEST (at the expense of their COMFINESS).
“Tim I Said No Guests!” – I promised this was a solo record, but Timbuktu had me over for secret holding-hands barbecue party and next thing I know, we’re in his sweaty London basement trying to sound like lost Juice Crew members. Too sexy.
“Bring Your Girlfriend To Rap Day” –Audra doesn’t count as a rap guest; she is part of the fabric of this whole record, plus tapdancer. But super witty! We busted through a lot of hard times and said we were gonna have so! much! fun! and the verdict is: UNH!
“Holocaust Cloak” – I am hoping one day to be recognized as the rapper with the most ever references to The Princess Bride.
This song is not about THE Holocaust; just imbued with the spirit of Andre the Giant as lovable, rhyming ex-wrestler Fezzik – set on magic fire in a wheelbarrow, scaring the hell out of the tyrannical Prince’s palace guard.
Even more than that, though, it’s about loving rap and being the greatest at it plus the best person ever because that is kind of my thing.
“How Shall I Send Thee?” – Everyone got sick of the keep-it-real movement in the mid-90’s, but then everyone really really stopped keeping it real, so maybe we should have sucked it up a little better.
This is my new keep-it-real anthem for the kids to kind of bristle at right now, and then bang out in fifteen years when they suddenly pretend they always loved it. That’s when the money rolls in for me.
And then are the sombre and upsetting raps:
“Write Protected” – Memory is like magnetic tape; imperfect, unreliable, always degrading. Everything goes away away and the more you squeeze it close the more you crush it. This song lives somewhere between Radiohead’s “Videotape” and The XX’s “VCR,” but stands on the shoulders of a Halifax monument: Universal Soul’s “Video Cam.”
“Mundane Arcana & Eldritch Lucidity” – We live in a culture where the weirdest things are ordinary and vice versa. Tension warps kids and batters adults. What’s the alternative?
“Make Hymn Cry” – A country gospel tune about dealing with the very worst villain.
“Triptych I: Hot Commodity” - Anti-pornography makes strange bedfellows of religious woman-haters and feminist activists. I don't agree with puritanical, misogynist, body-shaming concepts of obscenity, and it's hard to be against objectifying sexy imagery per se (cause it is often lovely), but it is evident that pornography as an institution is being wielded as a force to undermine and devalue women as people in our culture. And I hate that.
How can we protect the autonomy of people to do and represent what they want with their own bodies, and the bodies of enthusiastically consenting others, while also not just letting men treat women like they lack all human value?
There aren't a lot of rapping Dworkin apologists, but I'm one. I think that listening to the various, often conflicting, even more often challenging, voices of women is the responsibility of a man who wishes to help end oppression.
It's too easy to just pretend everything's fine. You've seen porn. Everything is not fine.
"Triptych II: Hot Property" – Some years ago, I was careless with my flamethrower heart and my life caught fire and burned and burned and everyone threw gas on it and I ran around all frantic and left blisters where I touched. I hurt more people than I can tell you, more deeply than I can stand to recall. Not least of all myself.
This song was supposed to be healing but it’s too defensive, too indignant. It really just feels scraping and raw. At the time of this writing, I haven’t forgiven everyone. I would like to. When I do, I’ll write a new song.
For now it’s this one, and I am sorry.
“Triptych III: Cold Comfort” – I’ve never used illegal drugs, alcohol, or narcotics in my life. This song is about that.
Pain is an experience. Numbness is an experience. Intoxication is an experience. Pain is a cavern. Numbness is a cavern. Intoxication is a cavern. This song is about that.
Have I chosen to experience life more or less fully by remaining sober? Am I missing out? Am I feeling too much? This song is about that.
The false but seductive and significant binary of gendered experience. Gut-wrenching love all sliced open, starving. This song.
Giving up. Going away. Getting out. About that…