Signor Benedick the Moor

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El Negro (2013), 7.5/10
MNFST.dstnii (2017), 5.5/10
Spirit Realm.Final (2019),

Signor Benedick the Moor, the project of Los Angeles' rapper and producer Christian McLaurin, incorporated wildly different genres, from industrial music to punk-rock, on his hip-hop opera El Negro (2013). The set of 17 songs runs the gamut from The Tragic tale of Bisen Fransisco, that sounds like a deranged Danny Brown rapping on industrial music, to the orchestral grandeur of All Revere (the album's standout), from the neoclassical Stravinsky-ian instrumental interlude Aristotelian Reptilian Pavilion to the breathless rap over heavy-metal guitar riffs of Existential Humanitarianism as a Fashion Choice, from the macabre monastery atmosphere of Mouth of the Beast, pierced by a lacerating guitar line, to the melancholy and sinister collage of found voices A Life in the Zoo of Christian Andrew.
Songs change while in transit, like in the multiple split personalities of Belladonna, a song that morphs from oppressing brass and violin drones to Caribbean dance. The six-minute Call of the Wild begins rather innocently as a laid-back shuffle but continues to pile up instruments (piano, horns) while the rapping gets more visceral, and the second half is another instrumental delight, a duet between a distorted heavy-metal guitar and a booming syncopated drum-machine. Bisen Fransisco In - The Iconic Chronic Colonic is an eight-minute hip-hop opera inside the hip-hop opera, somewhere between Frank Zappa and a musichall skit.
The rapping, far from being a mere decoration for the instrumentals, often steals the show, especially in the tragic theater of Whomp A Tale by Charlse Dodgson and Audio Manslaughter, and the album ends with a dramatic crescendo of screaming in .//End. And there's even top-quality singing, like in the melodic rock song Poeticism as an Extrinsic Finality with a languid fatalistic chorus that could be from languid David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust. One of the great hip-hop albums of all time.

Garage Raps Vol.1 (2015), recorded in his parents' garage, collects some finished songs in a variety of genres (the savage garage-rock of Garage, the power-pop ditty Have u Seen the Man of Light and the nocturnal jazz shuffle Turnips) and unfinished experiments.

The eleven-minute piece of the EP Maiden Voyage (2016) is another experiment to bridge different genres in one song (pop melodies, orchestral soundtracks, rap and rock).

After the eight-song mini-album Toybox (2017), that ranges from the poppy Pillows to the punkish Home @ Nite, and the brief nine-song mixtape CYBR.pnk (2017), on which he experimented a variety of singing and rapping styles, the album MNFST.dstnii (2017) introduced a different artist, a creative digital singer-songwriter, capable of the melodramatic neosoul autotuned ballad I Think, of the horror punk-industrial atmosphere of $lipknot$, and of the visceral emo-punk dirge In the .//End, three powerful songs. But most of the album feels unfinished.

Spirit Realm.Final (2019) abandons the most glaring industrial and metal contaminations for a more thoughtful expansion of the hip-hop vocabulary. Far from returning to the standard format of hip-hop music, McLaurin indulges in Dada-psychedelic hip-hop gibberish like Hidden Temple, Ul 2 Spirit Realm, Omg, but without steering too far from the path of hip-hop music. Even the heavy-metal touches in Pain are marginal. His melodic skills enable his ventures into pop and neosoul (Feelns 4, Elephant) and into indie-folk (Feels Right :O, Goddamn i Love you Honey). Highlights come from surrealistic instrumental interludes like Through the Portal and from the fantastic cross-ethnic oxymoron of Lilith Moon.

The seven-song EP Aries Venus (2020) contains mostly humble indie-pop songs, notably the elegiac Venus in Spurs over hip-hop beats, and the swampy glitch-pop of 1ft Mem'ry.

McLaurin also contributed to Ruby Yacht's debut album 37 Gems (2019), Ruby Yacht being a collective formed by rapper and producer R.A.P. (Rory Allen Philip) Ferreira (aka Milo).

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