Dem Franchize Boyz

Dem Franchize Boyz

On Top of Our Game

So-So Def/Virgin Records

The “indie rock” moniker has ceased to carry the meaning with which it was conceived. “Independent” music conjures imagery of lonely 4-track bedroom recordings circulating on cassette tapes. Today, however, we’re blessed (or plagued) by acts such as the Franz Ferdinand, Broken Social Scene, and most recently the Arctic Monkeys, who created monstrous hype around their less-than-conventional name based entirely upon the rate of their record sales, the result of “myspace”-esque blogging popularity contests.

The legitimacy of pop acts today, even ones in a field where pretensiouness against the mainstream has purportedly always reigned king, is being measured more and more in dollar signs in conjunction with talent, and believe me, I’m not hatin’. Dem Franchize Boys are just that: a mainstream, pop act, flexing their muscles with no self-consciousness of their radio friendly position, no apologies, and under no farcical genre name to give you the impression they should be otherwise.

For those of us living under a rock these days, the South has the hip-hop game on lockdown and they’re not about to give it up. Unsatisfied with the term “crunk,” DFB call their form of songwriting “snap.” There are subtle differences that can be fleshed out when due attention is paid to the pristine production, a magnificent display of simple, but perfectly polished sounding beats.

Those of you who tend to dig on “intelligent rap” and flowetry, expecting lyrics like those of Sage Francise, need to get over it: rappers aren’t poets per se, and aren’t really trying to be, unless they’re intellectually deficient. DFB’s On Top of Our Game is ripe with song after song of catchy, club oriented brilliance, and to evaluate it on any other terms would be a disservice to the art form DFB are emulating and to some degree, embodying.

Jermaine Dupri, president of the So-So Def Urban Music branch at Virgin records, as well as Bow Wow and the Chicago-based rapper da Brat contribute to a number of excellent tracks, as does Three 6 Mafia on “Don’t Play With Me.” If you haven’t already heard “I Think They Like Me,” you need to get out more. And the rest of the album almost plays like a concept cut, utilizing terms that surface initially in chorus hooks but when recontextualized lend to great lyrics like “yes I’m settin’ my trend dawg/jus’ lean wit it rock wit it.” Also, the White T remix at the end is something that should not go unmentioned or missed.

Trust me, I can’t vouch for those who have had to get a ride from me in the past couple months who have been exposed to hours of this album through a really crappy car stereo system, but as for myself, this cut has only gotten fresher on each listen – something I would have never admitted to myself about a mainstream rap act even two months ago. If I hadn’t pilfered the album from the Illini Media building back in January, I would have said it’s been the most worthy use of my drug money this year.

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