It was 1986. Run-DMC was hard at work on ‘Raising Hell’. At some point, producer Rick Rubin pulled out a copy of Aerosmith’s ‘Toys in the Attic’ and had the emcees rap over it, despite Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels not even knowing at the time who Aerosmith were. The rest is history. The rap version of “Walk This Way” broke down walls for hip-hop, but as the years have come and gone, the progress that this rap/rock mash-up initially signaled has slowed considerably. Social stigmas and the bothersome need for some to still focus on race has pushed things to the point where similar collaborations these days come off as awkward…and really bad (Brad Paisley & LL Cool J for instance).
The White Mandingos, comprised of Murs, Darryl Jenifer, and Sacha Jenkins, have come together to speak out against this problem. Murs and Darryl Jenifer especially have dealt with such close-mindedness extensively. Murs being the well-spoken, west-coast rapper who has seen the demographics of his fan base constantly change over the years (sometimes to his displeasure) and Jenifer of the rock band Bad Brains hardly seeing much support from the black community at all. ‘The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me’ is their response to being alienated due to their desire to branch out musically. The album plays out in a Public Enemy type fashion, taking a stern tone at times,containing a large amount of racial commentary, though with a Flavor Flav-like element of not taking itself too seriously. The White Mandingos (you can sort of tell from the band name) are interested in letting you know that they don’t appreciate feeling ostracized by any part of society, but they’d like to entertain you at the same time.
The titular track starts things off, with Murs trying his hand at the typical tough-guy, drug dealer rap. It’s a strong start to the album because it feels like Murs is letting listeners know why he’s had the career he has up to this point. It sounds silly coming from the same guy that just adopted two kids last month in an effort to improve lives, and he knows it. Darryl Jenifer chiming in with shouts of “Swag!” sounds equally ridiculous. You’re shown right away how they feel about conforming as this brief, sarcastic-sounding track sets things in motion. As the album plays out, the previously mentioned racial commentary dominates the subject matter, hitting on topics such as interracial dating (which The White Mandingos fully support,) hypocrisy from more successful artists (calling out John Mayer for his racist remarks following his hit song “Waiting on the World to Change” for example), and what’s expected of them musically based on something as insignificant as their skin color.
The message the album presents is welcome and appreciated because they look at these situations from all sides. Where Public Enemy has rubbed some listeners the wrong way, The White Mandingos are all-inclusiv,e taking any and all injustice to task. This is as much a rap album as it is a rock album and an earnest attempt to invite as many as possible to find something relatable in its 16 songs. Dealing with a Bad Brains member, of course you can expect some strong guitar play over every track. With Punk Rock being anti-establishment based, The White Mandingos have an angle with their subject matter that offers them a lot to work with. As a long time listener of both Murs and Bad Brains, I wasn’t the least bit surprised that they’d come together to record. Even though Murs is a rapper, he’s always had a bit of “Rock” in his cadence. Sound-wise, everything going on here fits. I haven’t been able to pull myself away from this record since its release. It’s socially relevant, informative, and has enough depth musically and lyrically to stand the test of time. Expand your horizons. Give this one a spin.