Pearls before swine
Random Abiladeze shoots straight while his alter ego is coked-out, Bedazzled
Sacramento, CA 95816
In the never-ending quest to truly know yourself, it’s sometimes best to figure out what you’re not. In this case, Sacramento rapper Random Abiladeze learned early on that he wasn’t cursed with false bravado (or “swagger,” to use played-out hip-hop terminology). In other words, you won’t catch him strutting down the street in Bedazzled jeans, rapping the lyrics to his own songs.
But this is exactly what Mayne E. Savage would do. The character, who makes his debut on Random’s new album, Skill Before Swagger, was created by Random as an alter ego. Savage loves to rap about bagging cocaine, shooting people and partying with hot chicks. “We pushing packs of white, all day and night / sipping Grey Goose, tell me what you about to do tonight,” he raps. And so on.
“That was completely freestyle,” Random says of his alter ego’s verse. “Mayne E. Savage doesn’t write shit because he ain’t got time. He’s keeping it completely thugged out to the fullest.”
Yup, Mayne E. Savage is a mess. But the truth is, only a rapper like Random, who has a unique fascination with the absurd, could pull off such an adept satire of contemporary rap stereotypes.
And only Random could become annoyed at an interviewer for asking too many questions about the character. “I hope this whole thing isn’t about Mayne E.,” says Random, disappointment in his voice.
Fortunately, Mayne E. Savage isn’t the only impressive aspect of Skill Before Swagger, the third album in Random Abiladeze’s rapidly growing discography. With production handled by AdamBomb (who also provided the beats for Plush Lush’s masterful Blind Man’s Dream Pt. II), the album is rich with acoustic instrumentation and ear-catching structure. Favorites include “Got My Own Style,” where AdamBomb stretches out an organ sample, allowing Random to rhyme over an energetic and funky soundscape full of attitude and momentum. The guitar infused “Ways 2 Flow” is sparse enough to let the rapper’s voice take control, but interesting enough to stand on its own.
Random’s raps on SBS are more playful and relaxed than on his previous Space N Time mix tape and Brutally Honest album, yet they are no less meaningful. In fact, Random’s easier delivery allows his message to become more refined. He was inspired by a verse from Matthew 7:6 (“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”). The allegory of Jesus’ words—that one shouldn’t offer things of value to those who won’t appreciate them—relates directly to Random’s yearlong hiatus from the rap world.
“That’s why you didn’t see me for a long time; I had nothing left to say,” he says.
By the way, the hypocrisy of shunning false bravado while slyly comparing himself to Jesus does not escape Random. He points to the dichotomy of using the “I” to rap about humility. “I understand why people don’t like rappers,” he admits.
In the end, SBS is an album thick with ideas and webbed with complexity; it reaches a fine balance of hard rap and intellectual poetry. Humor is evident, but the album is also abundant with lessons about life and its beautiful inconsistency. This idea culminates on “The Matrix,” where random raps, “Instead of going back to basics, we make our lives complex until we hate this.”
And SBS is short, clocking in at just under a half-hour—yet there’s dynamic power in Random’s brevity. At times he is hopeful, at times existential, where he speaks from the dream world, pondering lost love and religion. Sometimes the album plays like the soundtrack to a sick, angry and restless mind.
Mayne E. Savage asks, “What’s wrong with him?” Through Skill Before Swagger, Random Abiladeze explains.