I bought this EP on the same day that I bought the Aesop Rock album. The person who sold me this CD didn't seem to want to be black.
There are seven songs in toto, excluding the obligatory hip hop intro, and the EP lasts about 28 minutes. Edan, Fakts One, Lif and El-P take care of the production duties, providing freewheeling—if in fact I can use terms like "freewheeling" —old school beats.
Emergency Rations is the polar opposite of Labor Days, trading the latter's dense production and enigmatic lyrics for sparser beats and direct socio-political commentary.
When it comes to political lyrics you'd be hard pressed to find someone as forthright as Mr. Lif. When he wants you to know that he believes that Bush stole the 2000 election, he doesn't hide it behind abstract poetics, he'll just say: "Bush steals the presidency."
It was pretty brave of Mr. Lif to release this album given that it was a severe condemnation of United States foreign and domestic policy and that it was released so soon after September 11. It must have been daunting to talk about the "piece of shit flag" when the climate in the US was overwhelmingly patriotic.
Incidentally, it is exactly this forthrightness which sets the scene for this EP.
See: Mr. Lif has a thing for concept albums and Emergency Rations is no different. The story goes (loosely) that Mr. Lif, after one too many outspoken performances, has gone missing, and the EP traces the story of Lif and his current whereabouts. Unfortunately, to drive the story, Mr. Lif has to rely on skits. Oh, Lordy, do I hate skits!
Interestingly, this EP ends with a call and response section involving Mr. Lif and a group of people, described in the liner notes as "hard working U.S. citizens," who respond to his questions with "I Phantom." So my guess is that the records aren't merely stand-alone concept albums but are probably sections of an over-arching story.
My only complaint about this EP is the skits.
Fortunately, the EP came with a little bonus, which, by the by, did scads to mollify me, two QuickTime videos. One video is a videoclip of a song called Because They Made it That Way and the other is live footage of a song called Home of the Brave, the latter which appears on the EP proper.
The videoclip is pretty amazing and features black and white footage of Mr. Lif walking down the street rapping. The live footage is equally amazing and I'm glad to have a record of Mr. Lif's incendiary live performance.
Incidentally, when I saw Mr. Lif live he performed Home of the Brave, he did so without musical accompaniment.
Emergency Rations was good enough, I think, to warrant me picking up Lif's other EP. I say that not because I would normally hesititate doing so given how good this CD is but, because they happen to be imports, I generally end up paying $30 for what is essentially only half an album.
Still, having said that, Emergency Rations was well worth any money I spent, especially what with the bonus videos.
Also of note, I guess, maybe, is that Mr. Lif—and this is from a hazy recollection from the concert—is an atheist. I only mention it because, for the most part, hip hoppers are either Christian or Muslim. Lif's more like a punk in that sense, I guess.
Reviewed on Tuesday, 2 September 2003