Brooklyns Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire released his Man in the High Castle mixtape against the consent of Universal Music Group, who vetoed the 19-track collection of older songs because, said the MC, they “hate me to rap.” Like Death Grips before him, this might be an elaborate marketing ploy; either way, there’s at least some truth to the reasoning. UMG has found a true wildcard, an MC whose obsession with girls, controlled substances, and freaking out squares is paramount to his success in the before a major label. As a result, this tape is either a swan song for eXquire XXX, or a strong argument for UMG to zip it and support every lewd second.
Titles aside, “Pussy X3” and “Good Pussy in Chicago” are on the lower end of eXquires smut-o-meter. The former is a crucial demonstration of the MC’s skills: a Fat Boys-meets-2-Live-Crew tale of an obsessive groupie playing the muse a la Kathy Bates in Misery. It’s why eXquire’s more than a peddler of dirty words: there’s a humor to his nastiness that offers a subtle wink and enough solid wordplay (“Chicago” features “kiss it like it’s Christmas and my pubic hair is mistletoe”) to remind you there’s something truly substantial there in the blue material.
The subtlety and humor continue in the X-rated “Fucked Yo Mama”, a diss track to all the young boys whose mothers eXquire has visited (“I hate your lil ass/ hope you grow up to be gay/ I threw out your homework and stole your PS3 games”). But it’s so gross and overdone with its details and vitriol that its more laughable than worrisome.
On the opposite end of the “going out with a bang” spectrum, there’s evidence of eXquire pushing the envelope without being quite as direct. ”Igloo” is decidedly PG-13, in which eXquire compares his little heart to a quaint igloo. But really, that’s just a fancy ruse for more rhymes about his prowess (“first she called me Anthony/ then she called me eXqo/ then she called me God”) and general dominance over other MCs. It’s a great Trojan Horse approach, riding in on a friendly sound of alt-leaning rap while delivering the same old rhymes that made you who you are.
Going less “cerebral,” eXquire has more bangers, some of his most accessible and even-keeled thus far, in cuts like “Carne Asada” and “Kiwi Strawberry Mystic & Romanov”. eXquire’s rhymes and charisma require a lot of room; moving the spotlight onto the music and the oh-so catchy chorus in the latter is a sign that he understands the notion of holding back to deliver later. “Kiwi Strawberry Mystic & Romanov” benefits similarly, but its woozy bass, arpeggiated strings, and decent lines (“Illuminati got my Pro Tools tapped/ they ain’t feelin’ me”) seem half-cocked on the surface. What it boils down to is placement: coming in before the album’s true tomfoolery means the weirder shit’s easier to swallow and the label’s got the straight-forward hit they’ve undoubtedly requested.
eXquire even offers instances of actual earnest emotion. “Unthinkable (RemeX)” benefits from a return to the spotlight, with its brief verse about heartache so profound that eXquire hurls in a McDonald’s bathroom. Not only reminding the world of his emotional side, he humanizes his angst and makes himself almost vulnerable. Such veracity peaks in “Just Writin Vol. 1”, where eXquire pens a letter explaining that he’s not the man people say he is — that much of his lyrics are a way for him just to feel at peace. He’s at his most calm and alluring when paired with a vintage soul-funk guitar, leaving his personality and merit undeniable as he tells you about the man behind the monster.
If eXquire’s UMG debut, November’s Power & Passion EP, does see him change significantly, more than shortening his moniker to Mr. MFN eXquire, it’s going to be bad news for all parties involved. For all his talent, depth, humor, charm, and intensity, eXquire deserves to be only eXquire.
Essential Tracks: “Igloo”, “Fucked Yo Mama”, and “Just Writin Vol. 1”