Sep 17, 2007 - 8:46 PM
So who is this fucker anyway?
Mars strikes me as a kind of Bay Area Bradley Nowell (the late singer/songwriter from Sublime). Mars’ music incorporates rap, rock, and reggae, advocates pot-smokin’, and even breaks it down to just acoustic guitar and vocals while still bringing poignant thoughts and the ever important funk. Just like Nowell once did before he OD’d.
I was cruisin’ through Mars’ self-titled debut CD, enjoying it, paying attention to Azeem’s guest emceeing on “Sharp Edges,” translating the Spanish on “Bailar” (Tu sabes que queries bailar con migo: you know you wanna dance with me), and thinking that it was an alright disc. Nothing was really grabbing me, though (and I didn’t really want to dance with duder). I was finding some of his repetitious rhyme schemes to be interesting but, well, repetitious.
Then “Dolores Park” came through my headphones. Mars sang and strummed against the noises of that sunny Mission hill and I thought of you. You know who you are. You’re the kid sitting at home in suburban America somewhere. Your parents suck. Your teachers are probably worse. And most of your peers choose to listen to the musical equivalent of an overdone ham and cheese Hot Pocket. Or maybe that WAS you once. That was me once.
As the noises of buses and breezes flowed into my head, I thought, “How I wish that I knew about Dolores Park when I was surrounded by hicks and republicans. How I wish that I understood the joy that is a beer and a spliff and a guitar while looking towards downtown San Francisco.” Know that it’s out here, waiting for you. And know that Yung Mars’ track about it is the best audio version of the experience that I’ve ever heard. It’s also the only version, but that’s beside the point.
I wish I’d known that the things that were really important to me back in the day would continue to be, and that the people that treated me like shit would fade from my memory like a bad dream. I guess that’s growing up though. Track 11, “Grub to Mars”, explains Mars’ own feelings of being an oddity, despite growing up in SF, and how he decided to follow his dreams, grabbin’ the mic at the age of fifteen.
Besides autobiographical tunes that are easy to relate to, Mars has managed to produce some excellent backing tracks. The live drumming of Lynn Farmer, bass work of Mark Pistel and a bluesy sax solo by Ben Doitel are particularly notable. On top of that, Mars takes time to focus on other people’s struggles and the big picture as well.
On the song “Struggle,” Mars says, “This is a poem for the struggle of the people livin’ third world lifestyles.” I found that to be an important demarcation: You can live in a rich-ass country and still be just as poor and fucked as some goat herding bastard on a desolate plain. You don’t have to live inside the invisible lines of a “third world country.”
So whether or not Mars has written his check to Unicef or not, he’s at least thought about the bass-akwards formation of modern socio-economic plight enough to coin a phrase that is new to me. Two points for things that make you say, “huh.”
Mars also gets two more points for giving much love to the Bay Area and the great state of California. “Califunk” really is a funky track that will get stuck in your head, even if the production does bite Dre pretty hard. It really would go perfectly with a vintage, full-size American car and a sunny day. The rhymes on it are also gonna pull at your heart strings if you’re from here: “Especially in the Bay, it’s just filled up with creative people and energy from all around the planet / But my true folks that were born here are harder than some granite.”
Last, but not least, Mars gets a tasty three-pointer for giving the finger to the church. (And just for the record, I love Jesus and have a sacred heart tattooed on my chest.) I’ll just leave you with Mars’ lyrics and if you don’t dig it, or just happen to hate fags, well, you can just fuck off back to Kansas then. (And, “No.” I’m drinking heavily to forget about a woman as I write this review):
“I’ll give you odds 100 to 1 / if Gods only son / had been a homosexual he still would have loved (and cared for). Got no love for the pope / I think the church is a joke / hate how they’re teaching children to judge and provoke.”
B+ for Yung Mars’ self-titled debut. It would be an ‘A,’ but some of the tracks are too repetitious. It would be an ‘A-’, but some of the tracks are too repetitious. B+ for Yung Mars’ self-titled debut.
Visit www.yungmars.com for more info.
Sam Devine is a contributor to Oh Dang! and will eat your children for a nominal fee.