The Majesticons

I’ve only listened to it twice so far, but Beauty Party by The Majesticons is the best new album I have heard in some time. Mike Ladd is a genius…

I’ve only listened to it twice so far, but Beauty Party by The Majesticons is the best new album I have heard in some time. Mike Ladd is a genius…

Beauty Party is the sequel to Gun Hill Road, by The Infesticons, which came out a couple of years ago. Both albums are really by Mike Ladd–who I believe lives in the Bronx, perhaps even near Gun Hill Road (which is where I grew up).

Anyway, the battle between Infesticons and Majesticons is an epic one. The Infesticons represent the hiphop underground, and life on the streets; the Majesticons stand for the “good life”–that is to say, the conspicuous consumption and flaunting of wealth that has been such a central part of mainstream hiphop.

Gun Hill Road chronicled the succesful rebellion of the Infestcons against the oppression of the Beautiful People. Beauty Party, however, is the Majesticons’ revenge–the Empire Strikes Back, as Ladd says in an interview I can’t seem to find any more. The album’s lyrics are all about making money, displaying wealth, making more money, throwing more decadent parties than anyone else, and so on ad infinitum. It’s satire, but not as moralistic as you might think–a twisted glee runs through the album, as if to say, ‘this is what P Diddy and Busta Rhymes and all those other stage gangstas would be like, if only they had the courage of their decadent convictions, the will to not cloak their desires in hypocrisy, and as much wit as they have gold chains and Courvoisier.’

Beauty Party also ends with the reminder that the real rich don’t wear gold chains and throw decadent parties, because they are too busy carefully investing their wealth so that it will multiply even more. The Majesticons will always only be junior partners, at best, of this elite–both their consumption habits and their skin color exclude them from actual membership in the ruling class.

What makes the album really soar, in addition to the brittily witty and sarcastic lyrics, is Mike Ladd’s sense of the beat. His music is dissonant, often playing in different keys simultaneously, with surprising off rhythms, and odd timbres leaping to the fore at the strangest times. But it’s also really funky, in the way underground hiphop frequently forgets to be. Beauty Party is not as rough and raucous as Gun Hill Road was–which is only thematically appropriate. Not that Beauty Party could ever be mistaken for The Roots, let alone Jay-Z; but, despite all the clashes in the music, the album has an infectiousness that well-nigh seduces you into becoming a Majesticon yourself–which of course is precisely the point.

Ladd is not one to skimp on giving the devil his due; Gun Hill Road concluded ruefully with the reflection by Infesticon #1, after his force had defeated the Majesticons, “I guess I lost, since I’m still mad at you.” Beauty Party embodies, even as it satirizes, the way that others’ excesses can be an object of envy. I hope and expect to see the Infesticons come back in the future third part of Ladd’s trilogy, but I don’t expect the victory to be easy.