Epic Beard Men This Was Supposed to Be Fun
Published Mar 28, 2019While 6ix9ine and XXXTentacion were getting themselves into trouble, the timing was perfect for Strange Famous boss Sage Francis and slam poet laureate B. Dolan to quit courting and finally hook up, for reals.
The politics of Francis have never been in question; he's acutely insightful of his own storied history as well as the perpetually collapsing world around him. Meanwhile, Dolan is renowned as the founder of Knowmore, the site that helped take down disgraced American Apparel CEO Dov Charney, and he's been active in supporting openly LGBTQ performers to combat homophobia in hip-hop. Combining their bearded prowess on the mic, their debut album as Epic Beard Men fully lives up to expectations.
This Was Supposed To Be Fun references the fact that, even though they use their platform to deliver crucial socio-political messages, no one is going to get down with this revolution unless they can dance to it, unless it's enjoyable. They let people in on the joke, embracing absurdity while calling out atrocities.
While he has dabbled in indie rock and the like, Francis pours his 30-plus-years of rapping experience all over this album, hitting the beats as fiercely as he did on "Makeshift Patriot" back after 9/11. Dolan was more of a late bloomer, being five years younger than Sage, and putting his mind to slam poetry more so than rapping, at least early on in his career, yet his distinct perspective brings a different shade to their collaboration. While Francis tends to come off as somewhat aggressive, a no-bullshit kind of guy, if you've heard Dolan's odes to Evel Knievel, Marvin Gaye and Ol' Dirty Bastard, you know he's a keen study of character, an intellectual with both fists locked and loaded. The cover art for their Season 1 EP wasn't just a cute Star Trek homage — in many ways, Francis is the Kirk to Dolan's Spock, perfect foils on a winning team.
Joining the festivities, This Was Supposed To Be Fun features guest appearances from Slug (Atmosphere), Blue Raspberry (Wu-Tang Clan), Eligh (Living Legends), Kathleen Stubelek (Circle Takes the Square), Worldwide, Vockah Redu and Yugen Blakrok. Rather than being associations calculated for clicks, their contributions feel more like kids from the neighbourhood dropping by the studio.
References to '80s pop hits like Roxette's "She's Got The Look," Men Without Hats' "Safety Dance" and Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime" add to the album's general old school hip-hop feel, while the 8-bit beat for "You Can't Tell Me Shit" feels like more of a Nintendo reference than chiptune.
While Francis and Dolan can get serious, like how "Hedges" examines everyday neighbourhood paranoia, the urge to report suspicious activity based on how he tends his garden, washes his car, and how high his hedges are, the lyricism on this record often tends toward more humorous ends: Lines like "old man shaking his fist at a SoundCloud" in "Hours & Minutes," "looks like the fart doesn't fall far from the butt" in "Pistol Dave," and "threading is the Auto-Tune of eyebrows" in "You Can't Tell Me Shit."
Even in "Shin Splints," a track expressing frustration with air travel akin to Brother Ali's "Uncle Usi Taught Me," the scene is painted with self-deprecation. Though "Man Overboard" is about an ill-fated party cruise parodying the Fyre Festival, the tune has a ludicrous yet dreamy sea shanty feel. Laugh with them or at them, you will have fun listening to this. (Strange Famous)