Copywrite “T.H.E. High Exhaulted 8th Anniversary Edition” – Album Review

From the Copy-terion Collection

In 2002, Columbus -born battle rapper Copywrite had all the buzz the indierap underground could muster. At a time when the likes of Rhymesayers and Definitive Jux were really gaining momentum, their contemporary Eastern Conference Records (ran by Rawkus-defectors The High & Mighty) had been peppering each of their releases with Copy’s show-stealing guest appearances to the point where the prospects for his debut were reaching Canibus-level anticipation. Coincidentally, when T.H.E. High Exhaulted finally dropped that summer, it was met with Canibus-level disappointment. A one-dimensional punchline-centric battle affair, it was celebrated by “lyrically lyrical spiritual miracle”-types and universally panned everywhere else. Still, there’s been instances of rap albums dropping ahead of their time and the post-Amazon Reviewer era has resulted in once disappointing albums like Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia and A Tribe Called Quest’s The Love Movement finally being embraced and appreciated for what they are. Now that he’s on his own and ready to unleash an 8th Anniversary Edition, would T.H.E. High Exhaulted finally be hailed as a forgotten classic?

First of all, there’s quite a few discrepancies between this incarnation and the one that came out a near-decade ago. Due to a dispute with his former label, all of the songs produced by EC’s co-founder DJ Mighty-Mi have been removed. Also gone are the RJD2-produced interludes that gave the listener some breathing room between the aural assaults. When you have an album that’s 18 tracks, losing a third of them is a pretty deep cut, particularly when that includes “Tower of Babble,” one of the record’s signature songs. It’s hard to say whether something that didn’t sound good to begin with sounds dated, but the album’s better moments do still somewhat holdup, largely with the added nostalgia factor. “F*ck Soundcheck,” produced by Deadringer-era RJD2 is still one of his best beats and when heard outside an album where the same song gets remade over-and-over, has a certain silly punchline fun-factor to it. The same goes for “Seven Light Years,” where RJ’s production almost flushes a personality out of Copy’s verses, playing to his strengths like any good producer would.

What the album looked like eight years ago.

While the redundancies of the returning tracks could perhaps have their flaws attributable to a bygone era, there’s really no excuse for how flat-out embarrassing the album’s 2010 output is. We’re no less than 45 seconds into the “new material” when we get our first OJ joke. These five new songs contain some of the most cringe-worthy failed attempts at cleverness delivered with the awkward swagger of a special needs child forcing a Lincoln Log into a Lego while using “multis” so forced that the listener legally qualifies as a witness to a rape. Instead of rattling further on how these songs are bafflingly bad on every conceivable level, I’m going to let you judge for yourself with seven ACTUAL punchlines delivered without a hint of irony or self-awareness:

7 Actual Punchlines from T.H.E. High Exhaulted’s new material:

– “I’m beasting (bee-sting) like a red bump with no stinger.”

-“My dogs O.D. like Garfield’s friend.”

-“Got the herb’s face like a Gothic Smurf – blue and black.”

-“What can I say I’m a Hell of a Guy / to the point where the devil’s jealous of I.” (ending with ‘I’ really makes it that much worse)

– “My cannibis is strong and sticky I cram it in a bong / break-up’s kinda funny like Anison and Vaughn.”

-“You couldn’t crack two G’s unless you dropped an egg.”

-(the beat drops out and this gem ends a song) “Everyone of y’all hatin’ will have hell ‘to pay’ (toupee) – bald satan.”

The most frustrating thing about T.H.E. High Exhaulted* is that Copy is capable of so much more than these completely interchangeable clunky setup-punchline verses. Case in point, “June,” an RJD2-produced track from the album’s original release that appears here alongside its somewhat-obscure remix. It’s a genuinely touching and borderline avant garde reflection that unravels the album’s non-stop angry tough guy persona into a brutally vulnerable reflection on losing a family member. It’s poignant, well written and superbly produced, a triad missing from every single other song on the record. The Camu Tao tribute “Away Message,” another new track, is a step in the right direction but as it stands you’re better off waiting another eight years before you let Copy attempt T.H.E. High Exhaulted again.

We give T.H.E. High Exhaulted a One Out of Five.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*Other than the baffling full title, which is “The High Exhaulted High Exhaulted.” Titles don’t just suddenly become acronyms, particularly when they’re also a fraction of said acronym. Also, eight years later and “exalted” is STILL spelled wrong. I know we have a certain leeway for that in rap, but come on now.

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