“When I rap,” claims eccentric local rapper/ musician/producer Rajbot, “it’s a deliberate misrepresentation—my alter ego, a superstar rap hero. It’s who I am but a lot more sarcastic.”
Modern Complaints, Rajbot’s new CD, self-released in conjunction with Reno’s own Spacement Records, is not a straightforward hip-hop experience. The album was three years in construction, and the result is an aberrant, off-kilter mix of perfectly sequenced samples, washes of white noise and Rajbot’s cheeky rapping.
“It’s an obnoxious, noisy concoction,” he says.
The beats are neither smooth nor predictable. They are weird, intricate sound collages that combine a trashy, lo-fi, punk aesthetic with a cerebral, futuristic sensibility. The music is decidedly sample-based, but Rajbot also recorded tracks using guitar, percussion, ukelele and the distinctive Moog synthesizer. There’s also musical assistance from other artists, like the Seattle-based grind band Iron Lung.
But the heart of the record is the samples.
“It’s a medium based on thievery,” says Rajbot."You pillage records, pick out clever things and smash them together. I’ll steal from anything and everything: funk, jazz, butt rock, whatever.” In the liner notes of Modern Complaints, Rajbot goes even further: “Intellectual property rights are a joke, and good drum breaks should be public domain.” Attentive listeners might recognize some familiar sounds.
Rajbot employs a variety of song-specific rap deliveries, ranging from a nasal screech to a sarcastic lilt to a jazzy croon. His raps are based more on linguistic rhythms than rhymes and are often seeped in ironic intellectualism. Take, for example, this excerpt from “Unlike Some Kids I Know": “The hand drum assassin takes stabs/at the treble clef slabs/where the desktop demands/that blue lines and red marks/are hurdles of junk space/synchronized haste/but I re-engineer the pieces/(where) the beats conduct the composer/the composition is kept/in the cardboard cutout/on the human-to-wall intercept.”
The raps include this sort of highfalutin logorrhea, as well as paranoid narratives ("Anathema Jones") and, somewhat surprisingly, a straightforward ode to bicycling ("Bureaucrat in Denial").
“People tend to either read too much meaning into stuff or not enough,” says Rajbot. “Take it for what it is. It’s fun to rap.”
On the one hand, Rajbot embraces being completely petty and comedic, criticizing people because of the most inconsequential issues. On the other hand, he often takes his intellectual pretentiousness as far as possible, to such intentionally absurd levels that it becomes clearly satirical.
These intellectual and linguistic complexities and dualities are what you might expect from someone who likes to quote Biggie Smalls and Jacques Derrida in consecutive sentences during conversation.
“It’s nerdy. It’s dorkery. I’m a nerd,” he says. “Seriously though, it’s all about the beats.”