It's got a good beat, but you can't dance to it. Like Play With Toys, Basehead's first album, Not in Kansas Anymore is an unlikely sonic mishmash, a melting pot of musical styles under which no flame burns. The ingredients broken rhythm & blues, stinky rock, big pieces of fat funk, borderline "rap," "Am I singing yet?" vocals they all just sit there as a gritty meal for hungry eardrums.
It looks nasty. But it plays like the dreams you wake up from, startled. Dreary, seductive songs like "The Popeye Philosophy" and "Brown Kisses Pt. Too" beckon like books you haven't read, songs you haven't heard, lands you've yet to visit. On some songs main man Michael Ivey's voice is practically indiscernible, but then the snare snaps or the bass drops low on a funky beat, the reverberation engulfs you, and it just doesn't matter. The DJ's scratching is like a beacon in a warm storm. The guitar is spirited and engrossing.
Not in Kansas Anymore taps you, sometimes pinches you hard, asking you to question the fundamentals of musical genre, of where black people fit in besides on the R&B and rap charts. Ivey and his crew put forth the endangered notion that the parameters of the contemporary black male experience are not Keith Sweat, Dr. Dre, Chuck D and BeBe Winans. Even at its less listenable moments, and there are some, Not in Kansas Anymore breathes with the freedom that comes when narrow interpretations of blackness and black music are shed. Some songs, like "I Need a Joint," cross a Stray Cats-like strut with achy soul, and others move along almost as infectiously as an L.A. and Babyface production. There is an underlying bounce to this album that belies its moodiness.
Basehead is not falling down under the weight of the label alternative that has been foisted upon it. The band asks instead, with its close-your-eyes-and-listen attitude and sometimes morose, sometimes funny stance, alternative to what? Not the fierceness of good hip-hop nor the best of what's left of rock and funk and R&B. Not in Kansas Anymore is an alternative to the benign bullshit music that floods the chain stores and commercial radio waves. Alternative to that, indeed. (RS 656)
(Posted: May 13, 1993)
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