Me Phi Me...Too Smart for His Thyme

My sudden interest in Me Phi Me came directly from this article from the AV Club regarding novelty hip-hop bands (mostly from the ‘90s, the era of most Bo Jackson entries) – many of these novelty acts were purchased and neatly tucked away in the shoebox. The shocking thing is that back then, when a teenager’s music catalogue was limited to FM radio and a shoebox, I would listen to many of these tapes from front to back repeatedly. Imagine trying your best to listen to Candyman’s debut repeatedly – that may or may not attribute to my onset adult ADD or blurry judgment when it comes to my perception of hip-hop nostalgia. Maybe it was basic training, played out on Justin Smith’s mammoth boombox (it was 3 feet high and rising, I was infinitely jealous of it)? Regardless, I hold a soft-spot in my heart for the first time I heard Me Phi Me’s “Sad New Day.” Blame it on De La Soul initially – the flower children of the Native Tongue era – or P.M. Dawn’s daisy romantics, or how much I appreciated Arrested Development’s entry into thinking man’s rap-pop (“Tennessee” has stood the test of time).

I think it was more my eventual transition to ditch the Starter hats and jackets and assimilating into an aesthetic of “alternativeness.” Classics, Punk, and Metal (all teenage touchstones) had been a part of me for some time, but somewhere between 9th and 10th grade it all changed. I was fully acceptant of folkies and poetry geeks, vegans and revolutionaries, French New Wave and Public Enemy-esque anti-politics (forcing me to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X at a very young age). So Me Phi Me’s adherence to an individual spirit was magnetic. Seriously, no one in hip-hop was using smooth jazz pioneer Michael Franks in their recordings (though the guy is almost directly responsible for over 75% of chillwave) and no one was referring to themselves as a “fraternity of one.” The existential “sun brotherhood” is the overriding concept of Me Phi Me’s One, his debut in 1992 -- there are more than a few full-fledged chants for this fraternity all over the album – and by the time you make it through the whole record (I can guarantee you won’t) you’ll have a sense of the direct inspiration of Me Phi Me’s left-field curveball here. It stems from the escalation of an artist like Tracy Chapman or the aforementioned paisley coalition.

Meditate at your own risk.

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