For the benefit of all you word freaks, it bears specifying that the above “gang” contained in that post-colonic little poo-sample of a subtitle up there is encased in the vocative, and singularly numbered. In other words, all the precedent gibberish you just read means it’s not “gang” y’all, but “gang” hey you, mister reader, there. Some contemporaries of “gang,” like “blood,” “youngblood,” “suckapunk,” and “Earl of Sandwich” are more widely known, but for our purposes here, the more seldom albeit no less appropriate choice, “gang,” will serve as our swollen, erstwhile endemism of the month, a cultural theft

[say word] that Yoni Wolf already knew about, but you, gang, did not.

Co-optive dalliance and cognit0-scientific quaelibent aside, what operates most effectively in the above paragraph is self-flatterly disguised as self-deprication. Again, Yoni Wolf already knows this of this device, having put it to use in lyrical content that reduces to “begruding self-affirmation” [see myspace/why?, the teaser for the Alopecia album].

“Begruding self-affirmation” is usually what I feel after taking my morning “Cicero,” which is [novus homo] code for that guilty “new man” feeling lawyers feel, too, after passing their bars. The concept is simple: the more excremental, indeed the more diminutive the reference to one’s work, the more one truly enjoys its smell, wonders at its dimensionality. Again, see the first line of the first paragraph of this another shitty review from yours truly, where “post-colonic little poo-sample” really means “I love myself I love me yes so greatly I love myself and my stuff, sucka!”

You get that vibe from Yoni Wolf, like he loves himself and his music so-so much, when he says things all cocksure at shows like, “Stay out of the Tenderloin, Bon Jovi!” which he said on Friday night, or maybe it was his brother Joshua that said it. Okay, then, Misters Wolf, which one of you said it? Or was it the bassist, or that other guy in the band? Tell me, which one of you has made New Jersey his baby bitch and personal colony? Which one of you owns an Arena Football team, is a cowboy on a steelhorse eyeride? Oh, none of you? See I think there’s plenty of room in the Loin for a Bon Homie, homies. Also, which one of you is suffering from Alopecia, and really, why didn’t you just title the album “Greek for Hairloss”?

Okay, no more bologna. cLOUDDEAD was a supercool project that involved Yoni Wolf and actually outclassed a lot of the other hip hop of like ilk [e.g. Paul Barnam] thanks to Wolf’s writing, which is legit, which is some studied-ass shit. He should love himself for his discipline and his gift; he should also love himself because he sounds like the dude from the Mountain Goats and/or the dude from They Might Be Giants, or is that his brother Joshua, or is that actually Bon Jovi rolled up in a chuppa? A little crook-and-quirk to the vocal is never a bad thing, especially when most singers these days sound like they hate themselves or like the dude from Nickelback.

Mostly unfamiliar with Why? the band, I was most surprised at how consistently folksy, and indie [cough] it all sounded, what with the sad-panda overlays and bells and other pseudo-Sufjanese what-have-you; but thankfully, the instrumentation isn’t entirely melancholic. There’s a pervasive funk underneath the all the languishing and brooding that says, “gyeah,” like somebody named Yoni Wolf used to steal away from Torah study to do a little six-steppin’ to those well-documented, homemade synagogue cuts.

If hip hop is about representing who you are and what you know, then I must say that Why? puts it down pretty well. Is it hip hop proper? Of course not. But setting lyrics about cousins’ bar mitzvahs against the earnest knell of the Pan-Indie Trope allows the music to hang on the irony of the functionally apathetic hep-bop independentsia, a new digi-compulsive intelligentsia dipped, or better, dunked like an e-z-sneaker in the culturally fluid cesspool of post postism (in which most artists have lost their handle on irony while trying to tread asswater). Why? filled the hall with the ironic-ish ish, and they sounded damn good, too. Won me over for sure. More than once I found myself saying, “Damn, kid, there goes a werd freak.” I mean, lyrics about pronouns? I like it! Keepin’ it meta.

Here’s the last thing, full circle: all this talk about “gang” and “blood” and “suckapunk” and all that, all the business about I say my work is crap and I really mean it’s good, all the hood-sounding bravado, the ebonically charged grammar edumacation, the idiomaths and the stylized nonsense, it’s an homage, really, to anyone who ever knew upon feeling a beat drop that poetry has never been anything but what the crowd wants to make it. And the man with the best listening ear, he becomes the poet. And the poet we’re honoring here is your boi Yoni, from Oakland.

Psych gnaw, son. That means “just kidding,” sir. It’s Bon Jovi #1. It’s the Earl of Manwich whom we love so well!

It’s the itch that every true emcee still needs to scratch, which, whitewashed or not, has got him runnin’ his jibs full downwind on some hot air like, “Yep, it’s me, I am the shit, I bring the party.”

[audio:] Why – “The Hollows”

Photos by: Agata Kamler