When a cheery, young and fresh-faced white kid approaches with a new rap album, it's a bit unnerving. Even amid understandable trepidation at the listening party debut for Spencer Livingston Gainey and Zach Miller's Norman rap outfit, Hi-PoP!, the 80-plus people in attendance and Gainey's amiable spirit didn't devolve the night into a bad rap stereotype, once the new disc started seeping through the speakers.
From track one of "The Duct Tapes," Gainey's sunny disposition beams through the tracks as he spits about optimism, backed by ethereal and jazzy beats more on par with early A Tribe Called Quest , Digital Underground and De La Soul than the modern ringtone studio gangsters. It would be equally easy for the project to slip into banality, occupied by embarrassingly upbeat (and usually white) Christian rap, but with tracks like "Gifts Like This," Gainey and Miller balance starry-eyed beats, earnestly introspective lyrics and a relaxed flow to establish their own curious musical identity.
The two got their start in high school, starting with blues, then progressing to psychedelic rock. After Gainey left for college, Miller started experimenting with beat-making, recording samples and cutting, tweaking and merging the snippets to create completely new sounds. When Gainey returned to Norman, he saw Miller's new direction as an opportunity to test his rap skills forged in drunken backyard freestyle sessions.
Gainey's breathy delivery swaggers like Snoop Dogg, but rather than existing in an urban world of crime and drugs, he occupies the brainy, conceptual world befitting of a college-town rapper. Miller's jazzy beats accompany perfectly, making "The Duct Tapes" an ideal rainy-day, headphone rap album."Charles Martin