Apr 24, 2013

[REVIEW] DJ Drama + ItsTheReal Present: Urbane Outfitters Volume 1



Sometime around 2008 I first discovered the Rosenthal brothers (Eric & Jeff) aka "ItsTheReal" and their hilarious hip hop sketch comedy.  I would laugh continuously as I would go from video to video of their expert satirizing of hip hop, some so brutally that I was sure I'd read about the target of their mocking having killed them.

There are even rumors of a rapper or two taking issue with their jokes, and looking over their catalog I could definitely see a small handful reaching in and touching the egos of some of their targets.  Some rappers definitely come off as surprisingly sensitive given the macho exterior that they put forward, and it wouldn't shock me to hear of them confronting someone for making jokes.

However the vast majority of artists seemed to take the jokes in stride, even jumping in with them on videos making fun of their image.  That's a brave thing to do, and something that sadly enough people can't.  I think some of the most successful people are those who can stand in there and send up their own images and not take themselves so seriously.


That's why Justin Timberlake is so successful on SNL and his appearances on the Jimmy Fallon show.  It's why I've always enjoyed Ben Affleck's appearances on SNL as well, because he has zero problem with completely wrecking shop on his image.  He doesn't take himself seriously.  He's secure enough in who he is that he doesn't take things like that personally.

Nick Cannon exemplified that in his appearances with the ItsTheReal guys, particularly one in which they "defended him" by just basically repeating every criticism of him that he'd received, even throwing in the "Cornball" line, which Cannon himself asked them to use.


Then one day they just stopped making videos.  They had branched out into other forms of media, whether it was writing for Rolling Stone and other magazines, or doing interviews for Bonnaroo, and doing some hilarious podcasts, and had left behind the videos, although they've spoken in the past of bringing those back.

Now they are here with another project of theirs, what I suppose could be viewed as the natural evolution of what they do.  They've spent their careers mocking the excesses and absurdities of the hip hop genre that they so clearly love, so I suppose it only makes sense that they would then take that to the logical conclusion: Become rappers themselves.

Now I think the easy comparison for them would be to lump them in with other "Comedy Hip Hop" such as Lonely Island or even Weird Al, with some of his hip hop covers like "White & Nerdy" or "All About the Pentiums".  However I think that those aren't really apt comparisons.

With Lonely Island, the most common comparison I've seen, while it's comedy and they have big name guest stars as well, it comes off more as comedy than hip hop.  Almost like they're just using hip hop to make some jokes.  No disrespect to those guys, I like those guys.  But it seems more like hip hop is simply a vessel that they use to convey their jokes.

With ItstheReal, it's not like that.  It's rap music that is designed to make you laugh.  The Rap music isn't simply a medium to convey their messages, it pretty much IS their message.  You can tell when you listen to the songs, you can tell when you watch their videos, or their interviews, or read their articles, they love hip hop.  They know hip hop, they've grown up with hip hop, and dare I say, they ARE hip hop.

Lonely Island never gave me that vibe.  It almost felt like a gimmick with them.  With Eric & Jeff, while some might scoff at the idea of two middle class Jewish kids doing a rap mixtape, it's who they are.  Beastie Boys faced criticism when they came out because they were viewed by many as the proverbial "white kids from the burbs" that were co-opting hip hop, yet they went on and essentially decimated that idea by showing that they truly respected the artform and that they were never going to be disrespectful of it.

Eric & Jeff have shown over the years that they respect hip hop in general and rap music specifically.  They poke fun at the excesses, they mock the egos, they pick at various warts and scars that have developed over the years, however they do it from the perspective of people who love and respect it, and knows that underneath all the negativity and fuckery that seems to be pervasive in hip hop, that there is something amazingly powerful there that's worth noticing.

They've shown their mic skills and wordplay in the past on videos such as "Christmas Missed Us", and "My Girl's A Republican", but this is the first time that they've gone full bore with it, and not only have they brought some mic skills and some seriously creative word play, but they've also brought some of their rowdy friends with them.

On the opening track, which serves as the intro, you have DJ Drama introducing them, and then you have Eric & Jeff simply repeating their names and "It's The Real" over and over.  It's something that would normally get very old very quick, but for some reason it's kinda fun.  Especially Eric's "Eric...Eric...wait...no?" part.

The second track is where the mixtape officially kicks off with the Bun B assisted "Girls with the Dirty Souths".  This ode to women who do not shave their nether regions is a great example of their witty word play that had me laughing repeatedly and having to rewind the track back to hear the parts that I laughed over.

Amber Rose on top, Rick Ross in your bikini bottom
Fabric of my life, the touch, the feel of cotton
Crimp that trim, never trim that hedge
F-f-feed that Ch-Ch-Chia pet between your legs
Some people dread locks, I say put a weave in
Get rid of that bush? That's change I can't believe in
Every time I'm strapping up, I'm heading into combat
Call ASPCA, don't shave that cat

And then Bun B drops by to deliver the knockout blow on the track with his equally witty verse with lines such as:

Got a girl named Camaro; man, she flyer than a sparrow
But she gotta tote her bush around in a wheelbarrow
My girl gets extra filthy, especially when she give me mouth
I ride clean, but love them girls with the dirty souths

I especially liked the ending to the song where DJ Drama decides not to let up and coming rappers jack the beat by continuing to talk random small talk over the outro "So...crazy weather we're having here, huh?"

The song is definitely one of the highlights of the mixtape, and the rest of the tape is fairly consistent, although I didn't necessarily like everything.

"Beef Wit Us" featuring Maino was hilarious, as was the video for it.  We've all known those guys who talk so much shit because they know that they have some one to back them up.  Those guys that are PERFECTLY summed up with the line by Eric when he says "Me, Jeff & Maino are one bad motherfucker, for real."

The song is hilarious in it's gratuitous bragging and posturing, yet really nails it on the final verse by Maino.  While it's great listening to it, it's one of those things where you have to SEE it, particularly that final verse in the video form to truly appreciate it and to really grasp just the hole that Eric & Jeff had dug for themselves, and now they realize the ladder's broke and as Puffy would say, there's no way out.

NOTE: Very strong language.  Not safe for work.

This song is another example of the great wordplay and fun lyrics that are to be found over the entire mixtape.

The remaining three songs (and a skit) are reliably entertaining and while I'm not the biggest Lil Jon fan in the world, I did laugh at his "Bye bitches!" line at the end of "Just To Make Dough".  Also Eric & Jeff's "I'm Rich, Fly & Drunk and I Forgot How To Rap" line is great as well.  Also one of my favorite lines on the entire tape was on "Suns Out, Guns Out" with Freeway where they dropped the line "I Shoot A Boy In Blue, Call it Poppa Smurf".

Clever, fellas, clever.

I think, though, one of the highlights of this tape, and one that sadly not everyone will know, is the person who does the chorus on "Funemployment".  I didn't know who it was, as it's not labeled, however apparently that is Greg Mayo who did the production on the mixtape.   I didn't know that he could sing, but DAMN did he do his thing on that. .

All in all this is a stellar debut for the Rosenthal boys, and hopefully is a harbinger of things to come.  The tape after all IS Volume 1, so you can expect to see Volume 2 sometime ... um..in the future.  I don't know when it will be released, but when it is I'll review that one as well.

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