Homespun: Earthworms

Midnight at the Capricorn

For Midnight at the Capricorn, the fellows in Earthworms (MCs Kama, Mathias, Black Patrick and DJ Mahf) parted ways with local label F5 and joined up with Columbia, Missouri's IndyGround. The move is reflected in the sound of the new disc: Guest stars include new labelmates Splitface and Steddy P, while production by locals Ben Bounce and DJ Crucial shows more nuance than the group's previous releases. Using dusty soul breaks, disco strings, heavy-metal guitars, symphonic backing tracks and even a Dolly Parton sample (as on "Circles") the members of Earthworms rhyme against a rounder, fuller sound. This shift is evident on hometown ode "Down By the River": Mellow brass samples bounce against drum-machine beats, a muted synth melody and Mahf's tasteful scratching. Lyrically, the rappers remain proudly underground but set their sights for global domination. This dichotomy between an independent spirit and a belief in big-time success has defined the group for years and creates positive tension on Capricorn.

Even when the beats break harder and the tone gets a little more rough-edged, Earthworms isn't afraid to let its pop-culture freak flag fly. "Boombox" rides on a stuttering rhythm and lugubrious mariachi horn sample, but the lyrics reference He-Man, The Lord of the Rings and Mad Max. The retro trend continues on the brief but catchy "1986," whose lyrics find Mathias reminiscing about the days of mullets, big bangs and Swatch watches over a Yo! MTV Raps!-worthy backing track. The rising-from-the-streets narrative "City Noise" is maudlin and lyrically somewhat by-the-numbers, but the Blaxploitation-era horn section and soulful chorus make the track a standout. The stylistic hopscotch from smooth soul and old-school scratching to more modern, beat-heavy hip-hop keeps the needle bouncing throughout Capricorn, and serves as a positive sign for the rejuvenated Earthworms.

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