June 21, 2003

Cex "Being Ridden"/"Being Ridden Instrumentals"

Cex is challenging and changing hip-hop, even though he's not really trying to do so. His career isn't one that would lead you to believe that his motive for making music has been to redefine rap music; instead, he's made challenging (and often funny) music that's as thought provoking as it is enjoyable. Having made records that are equally noise, experimental and electronica, his career path has always been one that can be defined by one cliche: expect the unexpected. With that said, his new album is a surprising turn of the knife; it cannot be denied that Being Ridden is a hip-hop record. In fact, it's a great hip-hop record. Cex has excellent rhyming skills, and his rapping voice is extremely strong. His humorous self-reference of being "a white Eminem" ultimately proves to be true, especially after repeated listens to Being Ridden. He could easily surpass Mr. Mathers and other "wack MC's" if he really wanted to.

Luckily, Cex is much more interesting than that, and I doubt that he's going to go straight for the bling-bling to spite his talent. True, songs like "Earth-Shaking Event" and "Not Working" betray a slick sound that recall the best parts of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince and De La Soul. These two songs prove that Kidwell has the potential of becoming the Next Big Thing in Rap, but I really can't see teenagers and/or MTV embracing him, simply because he's smarter than that and, ultimately, too smart for them. Sure, he's funny as hell, ("middle finger to the indie-rock singer/middle finger to the wack mc/middle finger to the uncreative underground" is one line that I simply love) and I can't help but laugh every time I listen to parts of Being Ridden, but would kids really go for the more challenging moments--such as the acoustic guitar-based "See Ya Never, Sike," "Cex at Arm's Length" or "The Marriage"? I really don't think so.

The one complaint I've heard about Being Ridden is Kidwell's singing. They say he can't sing. They say his sining's flat. Personally, I can't see it; he's an interesting musician, and he writes good songs, and this complaint is tied into one of the main complaints made towards rap music. It's not that he can't sing; it's just that it's uncommon for him to be heard singing, and it's even rarer for rap records to have an artist actually SING on them, too. I have heard some say that when he sings, his songs have a Trent Reznor vibe to them, and on songs like "The Wayback Machine," it's easy to understand where the critics are coming from, even though I think they're wrong.

It's a good time to be Cex. He's at the crossroads; he's stumbled upon a sound that could easily make him a larger name, and whether or not he chooses to continue to follow that path is perfectly fine with me. No matter what he does, it's assuredly going to be fun and interesting, and I'd hate for him to sacrifice past glories for one fleeting moment of fame. Luckily, I think he's smart enough to realize that. Next big thing in hip-hop? There are better things that you could do with your time.

For those Cex-heads who might balk at the lack of electronica brilliance of the past or the rapping on Being Ridden, don't worry; Cex has thought of that and will take care of you. Being Ridden (Instrumentals) is, as the name suggests, an instrumental version of Being Ridden. Not to fear, though; this album is not exactly all of the songs from the album stripped of their vocals, though many of them are the same. I really don't need to be convinced of Cex's brilliance, and think that Being Ridden (Instrumentals) is a bit redundant, but that's just me.

--Joseph Kyle

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