Houston's history is dotted with albums that, fairly or not, have been swept aside. We'll examine them here. Have an album that you think nobody knows about but should? Email email@example.com.
Kung Fu Banda Rock and Rap (Self-made, 2011)
This week's YMF is a special edition. Many of you are already aware of this, but in addition to making penis jokes and off-color generalizations about race here, Rocks Off also teaches at a middle school in Houston. You need to know that because the tape we're reviewing here is one that was actually made by a student.
Last year, we taught 7th grade, the level we'd taught for the three years before that. It was a good, productive year and many of the students showed substantial growth. So when the students moved on to 8th grade, we went with them (the thinking was that they'd continue that trend, we suspect).
One of the students who has been in our homeroom for two years now is a kid named Kung Fu Banda (his last name is Banda; that nickname pretty much came up with itself).
KFB is a wonderfully sincere kid. He has a nearly full-grown mustache, an impeachable attendance record and impeccably perfect teeth. He is happy most of the time and funny all of the time.
At the end of last year, he made a mixtape for us. It was pretty unbearable -all we specifically remember about it was that there were nine songs from Chingy's debut album on there.
Last week, KFB gave us this year's mixtape, and it is a marked improvement over the 2010 edition. There is some obscure rap on there, some death metal, two country songs(!), and more.
Y'allmustaforgotability: 100 percent
Naturally, KFB didn't know any of the names of the artists, nor any of the names of songs, making this the first time in the history of the YMF column a tape has scored a 100 percent. Kung Fu Banda, folks. We pulled KFB aside before class one morning to get his insight into the songs that made the cut this year.
Track 1: "I don't like this song. I gave it to you because I don't like. I think it's Mentallica."
Yep. "Mentallica." How can you not love a kid like that? This isn't Metallica; it's some distorted death metal. It starts out sounding entirely harmless - high keys on the keyboard, bells, tinks, etc - but quickly unravels into anarchy. It is a remarkable start to Rock and Rap. There was nothing this dexterous on 2010's tape.
Track 2: "I don't listen to those songs. My sister does. She put it on there."
KFB's sister played a big part in putting this tape together. He made it on her computer using her catalog of songs. This is another death-metal song. KFB isn't a fan of death metal. That he suspected we might be is both sweet and disconcerting.
Track 3: "Oh, this is rap. I like this. I think it's Military G. I think it's a band. I don't know."
Pretty standard rap stuff here; A-A-B-B rhyme flow, predictable cadence. It's easy to tell why an 8th grader would like this.
Track 4: "This, I think it's called 'Boot Camp.' Sometimes I play it. Sometimes I don't."
Bluesy, early-'90s street rap. This one is actually pretty tough. This is when we started taking the tape seriously. Lots of talk about guns and paying dues and so on.
Track 5: "I think this is Military G again. I don't know. I just picked them. I didn't write them down."
It's pretty obvious that this isn't the mythical Military G. It's likely made by the same guys who made track four. It's Autotuned trap rap, and is especially interesting when stood up next to the previous track. Five songs in, and Rock and Rap has hit on important sounds from the last two and a half decades.
Track 6: "Uhhh...."
This is a love song. It's clearly a love song. When it played, we had this conversation:
Us: Listen to it, what do you think it's about?
KFB: Love or something.
Us: So you made your science teacher a mixtape with a love song on it?
KFB: I don't know. Give it to your girlfriend. She'll prolly like it.
We've told KFB on countless occasions that we're married. He insists that the idea of marriage is ridiculous.
Track 7: "Sorry."
We had to cut this off one less than ten seconds in because the guy rapping took only that long before dropping a "motherfucker." Up until this point, the tape had managed to be curse-free, which is pretty remarkable.
Track 8: "Oh yeah, this is rock. I like this rock more than the last one."
Semi-compelling minstrel rock. While listening to it, KFB noted that it sounded "like nightmares." It's just about the smartest thing he's ever said.
Track 9: "This is a country song but it's a rock song."
Nope, it's just a country song. That it's included here is nothing short of miraculous. For three days we pondered why it was on here. Surely it meant something more than just that he liked country. We've had 700 days of talking to KFB and never once did he mention anything about country music.
There was a great mystery afoot. Is KFB a mixtape genius? Are there undiscovered layers of his personality? Has his whole aloof persona been some sort of wildly creative Andy Kaufmanization? What, what, what does it mean?
"Oh, I musta put it on there by accident."
Track 10: "I like this one a lot. It's rock. I like it."
This is some shoegaze rock. There is no better way to end this tape, this bumbledum of music, than with a shoegaze track. The key line comes in the second stanza, when the singer mourns, "Don't forget me. Don't cry when I'm away."
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That this line is so heartbreakingly applicable was possibly lost on KFB - he graduates from middle school in six weeks and we will likely never see him again - but that doesn't make it any less significant.
Rock and Rap, son. Easily the most interesting mixtape made by an 8th grade with a mustache nicknamed after an animated movie of all time.