Hot Karl: The Great Escape
Distributed by Headless Heroes
Parental Advisory for explicit lyrics
Reviewed by Jon Minners
I love rap music. Ever since I was a kid in the Bronx growing up in the 80's, I have been hooked to the sound, rhythm and rhymes that have made Hip Hop the hottest form of musical entertainment on the market. So, I created the JPMessiah gimmick whose original writing can be found on these pages. I canít rap about bling bling and bitches, because I never lived the life of a rapper and now I have a rap star I can look up toÖwell, sort of.
See, rap influenced other white kids it was not supposed to, like Eminem, who got his material from living on the mean streets of 8 Mile, but you had to know that shows like Yo! MTV Raps and national tours from Run DMC would lead to the discovery of rap in the suburbs, where Jensen-Gerard Karp, a young kid who grew up in Calabasas. CA, a secluded suburb only a few miles away from the Malibu beaches discovered his affinity for rap. He listened to N.W.A. and Slick Rick, never relating to their subject matter or lifestyle, but loving the art form and eventually writing lyrics about the life he knew, which is far different from the life on the streets.
Under the Hot Karl persona (go find out what Hot Karl means), the aspiring rapper would call into a Los Angeles radio show to rap on the Roll Call competition, where he lasted a record 30 days on air to become the all-time champion and create a surprising buzz in LA. This would lead to Karl being signed by Interscope Records and the creation of his debut CD, Your Housekeeper Hates You, which included guest appearances by Redman, Fabolous, DJ Quik, Mya, Sugar Ray, DJ Clue and MC Serch. But Interscope decided not to release the CD commercially due to scheduling conflicts, and Karl requested to be released from his deal, returning to the underground scene, which is fast becoming the place where real MCs go.
Karl has signed with EMI Publishing and has seen his music and likeness appear in NBA Live 2003, but the big news is the release of his new CD, The Great Escape. Music from this CD, which I caught on an episode of G4ís Attack of the Show, is very different from the music you hear on your everyday rap CD. First, his voice; Hot Karl sounds like a white guy and it can be irritating at first, because he sounds like a preppy white guy, a nerdy, preppy white guy, at that, but if you listen to the music and are a real fan of rap, you will appreciate the rhymes, the beats and the message in the lyrics.
The first song, Let's Talk, features MC Serch and a discussion about how to make it in the industry. Karl makes it clear that he doesnít want to be just another gimmick used because he is white and from the suburbs. Karl would rather rap about the 80ís or 90ís than rap about booty shaking bitches. Karl is definitely a rapper from my generation. In Kerk Gybson, there is an awesome hook, of course, sung by a girl with a beautiful voice (Iím still a sucker for that): "I remember not too long ago/When Facts of Life was my favorite show/Could have sworn it was only yesterday/But I know that itís gone/So I pretend that today itís the same." Then Karl gets busy with one of my favorite raps, ďTransformers were more than meets the eye/we called 867-5309/And we hoped weíd get Jenny/But no, we never did/We got cassette singles and Garbage Pail Kids/Rainbow Brite was the girlís favorite toy/And Tetris was the shit for the first Gameboy.Ē Karl proceeds to shout out everyone from Bo Jackson to Rick Rude and the Junkyard Dog in a song that definitely brought me back. Oh, memories.
Butterface makes fun of girls who look good from far, but look far from good, who have a banginí body, but a George Foreman Grill. And he calls out Mya, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lisa Marie Presley and Serena Williams as best describing this principle. Damn, thatís harsh. You got to love it. And then there are songs like Home Sweet Home, Just Like Me & You and Dreamin', which discuss the problems with growing up in the burbs, where image is everything and if you are not living the life of Paris Hilton or whoever, you are nothing. What girls will do to succeed is actually type sad and I applaud Karl for examining how not all is good in his ďhood.Ē I also like the 80ís rock feel that is added to Dreaminí. It was refreshingly different.
Back/Forth is a catchy song with a great hook (Back/Forth Ė See/Saw Ė Come on Baby/Take it raw), but it also has a great beat and a really good flow. However, one of the best tracks has to be I've Heard where Karl attacks his critics. "Iíve heard I copy Eminem with everything I write/But I guess thereís worse rappers that a cat can sound like/Iíve heard Iím just a gimmick/that cashes in on a fad/Iíve heard that independent means Iím not good enough/If itís not on MTV/then my whole album must suck/Iíve heard Iím either selling four million/or just four/Iím that dude you love to hate/but that dude you canít ignore."
Even the skits are funny, attacking the whole mainstream vs. underground rap game. Hot Karl is definitely making his mark on the industry. He is an inspiration; a man who walked away from his dream, because he knew what was right. Hot Karl is going to have another chance at success, but when he does make it, it will be his way Ė The Frank Sinatra of rap.