Afroholic..The Even Better Times

by: Afroman

The novelty success of Afroman's "Because I Got High" in 2001 was a commercial blessing for the underground rapper, but it wasn't a lasting success. When he returned in 2004 with his follow-up, Afroholic... The Even Better Times, he was no longer signed to Universal and enjoyed none of the benefits provided by major-label backing. He was an independent artist again, which is perhaps for the better (for both the artist and his fans). You see, Afroman is a one-man phenomenon: he writes his own songs, produces and engineers them, and markets them with his own website. He doesn't really need a major label. He can do it all himself, from the studio work to the live touring band he leads, and though he may not get a mass-market media push, he doesn't have to deal with major-label bureaucracy. He can release whatever music he likes, and he gets a much greater slice of the revenues. Such independence is the essence of Afroman and his music -- listening to Afroholic is like stepping into his own private world of warped West Coast rap parody. Since there is a whopping total of 33 songs here, and since they all sound fairly similar because they're all produced and rapped by Afroman, you can really get caught up in his little world, which seems to be shaped greatly by the similarly sly, rhetorically playful influences of E-40 and Too Short. Each of the songs here is like an extended skit. Afroman first lays down one of his patented aquatic basslines and some click-clattering drum programming, and then he delves into his comedy raps, many of which are plays on common topics (cars, weed, 40s, women, hustling, California, saggy pants) and many of which are interpolations (including those of "Where Everybody Knows Your Name," "Just My Imagination [Running Away with Me]," and "No Thing on Me"). Granted, the production is lo-fi and sparse, sounding not unlike mid- to late-'80s hip-hop (mostly 808 and synth in conjunction), and the humor can drag on, given the enormity of the album and its lack of guests (the appearance of E-40 on "What If" stands out refreshingly). Everything considered, however, Afroholic is an impressive accomplishment. Like a West Coast Biz Markie, Afroman is often clownish, but it's easy to see him for the diverse talent that he is. Plus, it's nice to hear the rare rapper who doesn't take himself too seriously. ~ Jason Birchmeier

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