Back That Smut Up

As the Smut Peddlers, members of the High and Mighty hip-hop crew find new life in porn.

The Smut Peddlers have chosen an odd place to call home. New York City, formerly the sin capitol of the world, has been virtually transformed into a porn-free zone thanks to a woefully energetic mayor. For a group that traffics in the very trash the city has so swiftly swept to the curb and whose goal is to become the Larry Flynt of the rap world, a Manhattan zip code seems almost like a death wish. So far, however, the Smut Peddlers have managed to prove that they have more staying power than Bob Dole after his evening Viagra.

The Smut Peddlers were originally conceived as a one-off side project of the High and Mighty, the duo composed of Philly natives Mr. Eon (Erik Meltzer) and Mighty Mi (Milo Berger). With New York rapper Cage, the group released its first effort under the Smut Peddlers name, the twelve-inch "One by One," in 1998. But the Peddlers have experienced a rebirth with the release of a new full-length album, Porn Again -- a nasty, grimy, offensive effort that is nothing short of irresistible. Will the most politically incorrect rap artists please stand up?

On Porn Again, the sick and twisted Peddlers bake up some XXX-rated rhymes accompanied by plenty of beats and weed by the pound. Berger's production sounds like a downtown- Saturday-night hybrid of DJ Premier spliced with the soundtrack to a '70s skin flick. The cover of the album features Beetlejuice -- the diminutive bug-eyed master of swank from the Howard Stern show -- surrounded by a bevy of "New York ho's" (as Berger describes them). Beetlejuice also raps on the disc ("Pimpology"), sounding like some pimp barker from a hip-hop/porn cable access show set in the outer limits. (According to Berger, Beetlejuice fit in perfectly: "We thought he really embodies the perfect Smut Peddler. Now he is an honorary member.") This isn't progressive, enlightening or political music. It's down-and-dirty stuff about getting down.

They're your pusher men: DJ Mighty Mi, Cage, Mr. Eon and Beetlejuice (kneeling) are the Smut Peddlers.
They're your pusher men: DJ Mighty Mi, Cage, Mr. Eon and Beetlejuice (kneeling) are the Smut Peddlers.

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Featuring High & Mighty and Cage
8 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, $9.50-$10.50
303-447-0095
Fox Theatre, 1135 13th Street, Boulder

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"The type of hip-hop we make is smut -- unadulterated, no-prophylactics type shit," says Berger.

"It's the side that people try to repress," adds Meltzer. "Governments try to repress it all over the world, but [we need] a freedom to explore. We've got to keep the smut in there, or people are going to get more repressed, and there is going to be more rape. Like if you go to Europe: They've got their red-light districts, and it's very open. It seems like they're talking about it. But here, it's like the old puritans in us."

It's doubtful that Meltzer's argument will persuade the opinions of people like C. DeLores Tucker or Andrea Dworkin. The porn-laden content of the record has certainly invited the criticism that the Peddlers are misogynistic -- a tough charge to beat when one considers the group's own words. Lyrically, the Peddlers put the magnifying glass to all things sleazy, dirty and funky -- a thematic trifecta that's best summarized in the track "That's Smut": "Money shots and porno plots/Politicians in limousines sniffing double Ds trapped in baby tees."

With Porn Again, Meltzer and Berger find themselves in a position that many hip-hop artists know all too well: that is, defending the musical merits of their work, even when the message might be objectionable to some.

"I think some people might think it is misogynistic, but that's just on the surface," Meltzer says. "The whole layer of porn is just there to attract you. Once you put the CD in the player, we just hope you like that shit for what it is: dope lyrics and dope beats."

The lyrics, he notes, are usually born more of humor than ideology, though it's a matter of taste (or lack thereof) as to whether a listener is likely to find certain lines funny. The track "Talk Like Sex Part II," in which Cage waxes on Mary-Kate and Ashley, those lovable twins from TV land, is a particularly salient example: "Exactly four years [from] today/The Olsen twins will be doing their first three-way." Later in the track, the legendary Kool G. Rap spits this jewel: "Get a nigga freaky enough/It'll make him want to fuck his armpit."

Without Meltzer and Cage's talents on the mike -- and Berger's production and deejaying skills -- it would be easy to deride these guys as exploiting a rap gimmick that's as old as Luke Skywalker. But each Peddler has established himself as a viable player in the hip-hop game. Meltzer and Berger's cachet within the scene was cemented with the High and Mighty's successful debut Home Field Advantagein 1999; their single "B-Boy Document '99" (with Mos Def and Mad Skillz) blasted radio airwaves while the accompanying video saw steady rotation on BET. Cage has been making noise for some time now, for both his personal travails and his music: After spending three years in a mental institution, he inked a deal with Columbia (which eventually went south), blazed a cut by Pete Nice and began releasing twelve-inch singles (including "Agent Orange/Radio Head") on Bobbito Garcia's Fondle 'Em Records. He probably is most notoriously known for his ongoing beefs with Eminem, whom he refers to as his "bitch lady" and accuses of biting his style. (The two have been dissing each other on wax for the past year: In his track "Drastic Measures," Eminem raps, "I'm picking up Cage's sister early.../Went on stage and sprayed Cage with Agent Orange." On his cut "Illest Four Letter Word," Cage raps, "I heard some blond bitch walking through New York looking for Cage/I'll stab you in the face, ten times in the same place.")

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