By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
By Julie Seabaugh
By Julie Seabaugh
Spark1duh? is the hip-hop alter ego of Jason Karr, the rare white rapper who doesn't waste time apologizing for or making fun of his skin color. Instead, Karr employs a mish-mash of cultural touchstones — references to old Nintendo games and Philip Seymour Hoffman (!), smooth soul samples and curse-laden movie dialogue — to craft a varied, entertaining album.
As a rapper, Karr's rhymes are more clever than speedy, and his confident style is brash, funny and charming. He teams up with producer Splitface for "Survival of the Illest," and the track's stuttering low-end piano notes and jazzy guitar flourishes kick off the disc with depth and sophistication. Samples used in other songs are a mixed bag, although Karr is mostly content to rap over a soul loop or rock & roll snippet, and these bare-bones backing tracks fit Wallets' mood. The Meters-y organ funk highlight "Shine," which recalls the Beastie Boys circa Check Your Head, gives Karr a propulsive kick to deliver some of his most quick-lipped raps. He's a little more tongue-in-cheek on other tunes: Two tunes are AM Gold throwbacks which use Cat Stevens' "Wild World" and Billy Joel's "Movin' Out," respectively, although the samples (and the joke) feel a little stale by the end of both songs.
Of course, any hip-hop record that samples soft rock so freely is clearly not concerned with genre restrictions, and the bouncy piano pop of "Everything's Fine" suggests that Karr could moonlight as a respectable rock & roll singer. Ultimately, My Life with Dusty Wallets is another record about weed, women and Karr's lyrical prowess — salient topics, all — although Spark1duh? has a compelling, fun take on a proven formula.
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