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I-45 Lost Between the Lines

I-45

Lost Between the LinesFuzzgun Records

I-45's latest album, Lost Between the Lines, is simply the best rap album of the year to get your buzz on to.

Fucked-up, stoned, ripped, blasted, wasted, blown, baked, toasted, marinated -- whatever the hell you wanna call it -- Lost Between the Lines is a fairly effective album for those who want to listen to something good while they sit around, pass that bong made out of an empty Schlitz can and a Pixie Stick and wax philosophical about who would give the best knob shine, Buffy or Sabrina.

Chances are the boys in I-45 -- front men Tripp Von Slipp, Tech Ron B. and trusted DJ Rudy Martinez 2000 -- would prefer it if the listener were blotto while taking in this album, since it sounds like the trio was mentally jacked up while recording it. It's like that joke the late, great Bill Hicks made about Sgt. Pepper: "Man, they were so high, they let Ringo sing a couple of tunes. Tell me they weren't partying!"

Although Lost lacks the smooth, lackadaisical cool of De La Soul's or A Tribe Called Quest's quintessential blunt-passing rap, or even a homemade, low-quality screw tape, it does capture the fidgety, paranoid verve music for weed abusers. The first two tracks, the brief but bumping "Twitchin" and "2 or 3 Steps" -- the latter of which has the rolling keyboards, agitating turntable cuts and loopy lyricism that'll have you wondering if you smell like smoke -- bring that verve to life.

Lost isn't all smoke rings and smirky non sequiturs. These slip-hoppers, along with producer Dan Workman, want to show how flashy and dazzling they can be in the studio. When the boys aren't rapping about how out-there they are as MCs, Tripp and Tech indulge in their own rock-star fantasies. "Paul Leary's Wife" and "Universe" are guitar-soaked, heavy-metal digressions. There's also a "hidden" track at the end that features the trio all unplugged and folksy, momentarily dipping into its sensitive side. But for the most part, I-45 basically gets its nutty on.

Like most peach-colored rappers, I-45 is a band of self-deprecating smart-asses at heart. Unlike most badass, ghettorific, H-town rappers, Tripp and Tech have no qualms about making themselves the butt of a joke, as when Tech delves into his sexual past on "Caribou." ("I got nervous and threw up the first time I saw a girl naked.") This eccentric charm, this appeal, this NYPD Blue honesty, if you will, is the thing that most immediately draws you to I-45's weird, wild world. But these former Houstonians (now Angelinos) also know how quickly the appeal can fade, as evidenced by their somewhat serious track, "Cumininsubtle," in which the rappers address the clichés of the music biz and assure fans that I-45 is working hard for your money. ("We some broke muthafuckas, and we don't have to worry.")

It should be duly noted that I-45's most popular tune, "Bike Song," gets remixed on this session. Once again testing out its hard-rock skills, the group adds driving guitars and live back-up to its hilarious tale of two-wheeled, ten-speed bliss. Hearing that memorably uncouth chorus -- "Bitch, I got a bike / So don't ask me for a ride" -- uttered against wailing axes makes you wonder just how fucked-up these guys were when they did this. But it's all gravy.

 
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