Musical costumes are nothing new in Portland. Just ask the folks doing Clash of the Titans, who don a couple of new bands every week.
This Halloween, though, Spose wears a costume only to subsume it into the Preposterously Dank empire with the release of Dankonia, whereby Wells, Maine’s most famous rapper lays it down on top of production originally used by Outkast, though not only Stankonia.
Which gives him something of a head start. Obviously, he’s got some great stuff to work with (he’ll tell you all about CeeLo’s contributions), and Spose is a lyricist and rapper who shines even when there isn’t much to work with at all.
Just don’t tell him he sounds like Coolio, as did his booking agent, Peter Schwartz, when Spose finally told him things weren’t working out. “Coolio,” out for just about a year as a preview of the second free album to be released by Spose this year thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, is everything he does well: tight rhymes, personally oriented and self-effacing, breaking down at the finish into what essentially becomes an intimate conversation.
“Three albums, two mixtapes, dense-ass verses and I sound like Coolio? C’mon.” No, not hardly.
Spose does his best over the 20 tracks here, actually, to sound like no one else, succeeding most when he’s residing squarely within the Maine we all know and love. “16 Counties” is tremendous, incorporating not only a chorus of voices singing the Maine counties song, scratched and crabbed, but also more smart references to Maine political figures and celebrities than should reasonably fit into less than four minutes.
My favorite? “They didn’t think the kid he could flow/Now I look like a man, like Olympia Snowe.” Or maybe: “Fuck Paul LePage/There’s no way he could be from where we’ve all been raised/He needs to shut his fat face and lick the balls for days/While I’m robbing every Marden’s until we all get paid.”
But even a very selective list of great rhymes from Dankonia would take up too much space to undertake. The record is a clinic in simile. If it weren’t that so many were on the order of “This is second coming, like redoing a porn take,” from “Twerking at a Funeral,” I’d recommend it for high-school English.
As it is, “Bombs over Syria” is a must-listen for just about anyone. With early electro-clash production, and a chorus that’s impossible to shake, this is Spose at his most dead serious even in a concise 1:20. “Cure for cancer, cure for AIDS, you know they got that shit locked away,” he clips, nearly breathless, “they’ll give it to you man, just not today/Pharmaceutical companies say you got to pay.”
And it’s hard to argue with this: “Every time they make a bomb you know they’re getting paid/Let me sell you fear, cuz money’s made when you’re afraid.”
Money, and how it’s made, is a recurring theme here. If you’re interested in Spose’s journey to major-label-land and back, there’s plenty to gnaw on, including “Elevators,” where he delineates the moment he found out he’d been dropped, while grabbing an iced coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, and “Broke as Me,” where you learn all you need to know about the cutthroat nature of the business: “They don’t give a fuck if I eat lunch or tonight I die.”