A Bones Halloween

Max Bell was not Mad Max for the holiday. There’s seemingly new teens with two decade-old styles popping up on blogs each week. Quite often, they approach golden age hip-hop like perverted...
By    October 31, 2013

Max Bell was not Mad Max for the holiday.

There’s seemingly new teens with two decade-old styles popping up on blogs each week. Quite often, they approach golden age hip-hop like perverted archaeology. Dusty ‘90s gems are an object of fascination. It’s usually rap made with the best of intentions, but it’s also the downplaying of plagiarism. Instead of consuming their influences and finding themselves through them, they’ve cannibalized said influences and stunted their growth. Or maybe we’re praising them too early. Music writers are culpable for some things.

All this is to say that I’ve recently come across Bones, a ‘90s baby who doesn’t fit said mold, who looks a cross between Yelawolf and the kid with the video camera from American Beauty.  From what I’ve gleaned, he was born in Oakland and left home at 16 to pursue a life of guns, drugs, girls, and rap. If his Soundcloud locale is correct, he’s in L.A. now. And, if I had to ballpark his age based on info in his rhymes, I’d say he’s either 19 or 20.

Bones has released hundreds of songs in the last year, and his next project, Paid Programming, is out tomorrow. Most of his songs don’t have hooks, but anything in the triple digits in one year is nothing to scoff at. More importantly, none of Bones’ music sounds like Oaktown or L.A. Most sound like early Three 6 Mafia (he even has a song with Gangsta Boo), No Limit and Bone Thugs meets Nirvana and Marilyn Manson. If they ever remake Dahmer (please don’t) with a hip-hop soundtrack, Bones would be the first person to call. He raps in a monotone akin to sociopathic mass murder, his eyes as dark as worm-infested, earthen grave walls and the corners of the deepest crypts. He is a gaunt and milk-white rhyming reaper riding around in a pimped out hearse, a blade in his hand and the bodies stacked next to the weight.

Parsing through his catalogue can be a trying, but some sort of “best of” compilation wouldn’t be wholly unwarranted, as Bones has at least two dozen solid tracks. With over fifteen producers in his crew, Team Sesh, it seems as if Bones has an endless supply of grim, atmospheric swangers to spit over. Lyrics range from the haunting and harrowing (“Drain the blood from my veins / Hang me outside in the breeze / Throw my body to the birds if you don’t need me” – “Locale Forecast”) to the self-aware (“I’m stepping out on the scene / It’s feeling like it’s ’93 / It’s sounding like it’s ’96 / But the bitches from the ‘90s” – “Master Bedroom”) and the traditional (“Bringing it all the way back / It’s the return of the mack / Mac 10 clips ready to bang on attack / Alizé sipping, rolling blunts in the Lac” – “Alizé”). In other words, Bones may very well be demented, but he’s not in denial.

Then there’s a song like “Blunt Gut Garden,” where Bones imagines himself as a prince in the year 1346. It’s as comedic as anything from Riff Raff, yet delivered deadpan, carrying over into lines like “Moats full of acid / Ash on my mattress / Drawbridge up, thou shalt not pass,” and, “Cane made of emeralds / Coins made of gold / Spider silk robes, let ‘em drag on the floor.” This is pure fantasy, medieval Game of Thrones rap. Authenticity counts for much in this genre, but not enough is said of crafting pure fiction.

For all his raps, Bones also has songs a number of tracks where he sings (see the funky R&B of “Stay the Night”). When these come on, it’s hard to tell if the self-portrayed hard white pimp is serious or not. There’s even moody jazz, like on “The Sounds of Downtown” or “Coffin.” Maybe Bones has yet to excise the excess. Or maybe he’s just leaving himself options, room for growth in other directions.

In addition to his musical prolificacy, Bones has shot and self-edited videos for a sizeable chunk of his songs. Most look like eerie, found VHS footage from Rob Zombie home movies. His album artwork is pure Pen & Pixel, and he makes no secret of his No Limit allegiance (“In the back seat yelling No Limit Soldiers / Acting like I’m from the Nolia / But I’m not, I thought I told ya” – “Blunts in the Graveyard”).

I’m not saying that Bones isn’t, on some level, culpable of golden age reverence turned performance art. And I’m not saying the Bones is the greatest or next big thing. But he’s made the backward gaze infinitely more interesting by cloaking it in opaque fog of the undead. And instead of pretending that he isn’t aping ‘90s in 2013, it’s as if he refuses to believe that he doesn’t live in that decade. Above all, Bones may have created a world out of time. I don’t want to live there, but it sounds like a place I’d consider visiting on Halloween.

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