It’s a high-concept project. This Jewish guy from Canada moves to Berlin and reinvents himself as Chilly Gonzales, a hip-hop supervillain in old-skool tracksuit and giant gold chain. His plan, he says, is to destroy music, to empower the world so everyone can be an MC. He’s got the rhetoric, the attitude, the deadly serious prankster postures worked out just so.
But when you’ve spent so much time on the hyperbolic persona, you’d better make sure the music, if not epoch-making, is at least pretty special. Given the build-up, ‘Gonzales Uber Alles’ is a disappointment; an endearing, faintly kitschy but conspicuously non-radical debut. Perhaps it’s a covert manoeuvre, [a]Gonzales[/a]’ initial move to infiltrate the mainstream by stealth before dropping a truly subversive bomb. If so, he’s in very deep cover.
Sure, there are flashes of excellence. After a silly tinkling cocktail piano intro, ‘Real Motherf – – – in’ Music’ is a pounding mash-up of scratches and samples, a cross between DJ Shadow‘s intricate melodramas and Kid Loco‘s stoned cuteness. Most of [a]Gonzales[/a]’ best tracks work this way, with the odd twist: ‘The Worst MC’‘s lush soundtrackery, rippling samples of harpist Alice Coltrane and some rappers way in the distance; the mocking jazz noir of ‘Past Your Bedtime’.
After a while, however, the masterplan goes awry. The single ‘Let’s Groove Again’ is fine, all arch croon’n’swoon, though revolutionary pretensions are swiftly dispelled by the realisation it sounds like Space. But the two tracks fronted by female accomplice Sticky are merely pleasant trip-hop cheese. If this is music to change the world, the subliminal messages have been planted with extreme levels of cunning.
Or possibly not. ‘Gonzales Uber Alles’ is a classic case of the dream outpacing the reality, of the brain being engaged before the machinery’s been plugged in. By most standards, it’s a sweetly ironic take on modern sample-pop, the sort of confection usually found on Grand Royal. But compared with the fight its creator talks, it’s sadly underwhelming. In a recent [I]NME[/I] interview, Chilly Gonzales proudly claimed he spends only two days a year on music, with the rest of the time set aside for plotting, for honing his fantastic superstar image. An unlikely story? Here’s the proof.