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MC Paul Barman

The concept behind the widely ballyhooed Mr. Barman is all but irresistible. After all, the current hip-hop scene is a testosterone circus, with one rapper after another swaggering into the center ring to declare that he's a street-smart urban prince, a mack daddy extraordinaire, the El Supremo of Pipe Laying. By contrast, Barman, who on the cover of his debut EP bears a fairly disturbing resemblance to Carrot Top, reveals during his first real song, "Joy of Your World," that he's hung "like a birthmark." Then, a few rhymes later, he declares, "I'm going to buy a lamb/And when we make love/I'll picture titty humping."

What's wrong with that? Listen and find out. Barman's self-deprecation can be plenty amusing, and he's got an effective way of mating rather formal speech with NC-17 topics such as the ins and outs of oral sex; he quotes a woman as telling him, "You're too vigorous/If my clitoris/For example, turns purple." But his chirpy nasal delivery makes Eminem seem like Method Man by comparison, and his relentless aural spew prevents many memorable hooks from developing. Producer Prince Paul, the once and future wizard of the mixing board, does what he can to keep things interesting and entertaining, but without anything structurally resembling a song with which to work on most occasions, he's left at a severe disadvantage. And Barman is so intoxicated with his own cleverness (sample couplet: "He backlashed my booty/Like I was Susan Faludi") that his riffs frequently devolve into unfunky standup routines for pointy-headed white boys who couldn't convince a girl to date them even if they were packing shotguns. Paging Mr. Yankovic.

There is, however, one significant exception to this rule: "MTV Get Off the Air, Part 2." The last ditty on Barman's brief (just eighteen minutes long) debut, the tune pairs him with Princess Superstar, a foil whose confident flow is everything that his isn't. But he rises to the challenge as it were, confidently flirting and bantering over the CD's best backing track by far. At first, things go well for the lovebirds, with the Princess saying, "Look, Pepe le Pew/Let's cut to the denouement/You want to fuck me/I want to fuck you/So that's all," and Barman replying, "Can I chime in?/I'll still be rhymin'/When I'm in your hymen." But later, when the afterglow has gone out, he counters the Princess's nasty jibes ("Listen, Slim Shady/Tell Dre he better fuckin' pay me") with the funniest bullet in his chamber: "Your talents are bite-size/It's no surprise you rhyme with white guys."

If Barman comes up with more stuff like this, he may live up to the hype. If not, the only airplay he'll get is from Dr. Demento.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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