206UP FIVE YEAR (2009-14): “Monday Nights at the Chop” by Ricky Pharoe

FIVE clear

206UP continues its run of special features in celebration of the blog’s five-year anniversary.

Today’s post is fairly significant because it marks the very first time the site has welcomed a piece by a guest contributor. Better still, the author of this post is one Ricky Pharoe, the MC from left-of-center groups Art Vandelay and Ricky and Mark.

You could call this piece a sort of coming-of-age Seattle hip-hop tale, blessed with the sort of acerbic wit and droll humor that colors the majority of Ricky’s lyrical bars.

We’re really happy to have him and think you should all read this — especially you down-and-out rappers who are considering ending it all by enrolling in community college.

Ricky’s life lesson begins after the jump.

206UP 5 Year Anniversary 206UP Exclusive 206UP Exclusives Features Guest Posts

VIDEO: “House Keys” – Ricky & Mark

Ricky Pharoe keeps getting locked out of his house (typical). Best to squat in an abandoned roller rink, he supposes. Lots to unpack here, psychologically, but I’m not a shrink and neither should you be. Why don’t we just enjoy the song, yes?

This is a new track from Ricky and Mark — where “Mark” is Gajamagic, who you already know from Champagne Champagne because you’re soooo fucking cool, aren’t you? — and “Ricky” is Ricky Pharoe formerly (currently?) of Art Vandelay. (Nice homage paid to that group with the exterior shot of Tom’s Diner in Morningside Heights, New York… Now who’s the cool one, jackass?)


VIDEO: “The Three Rules” – Art Vandelay (dir. by Ricky Pharoe)

“The Three Rules” music video by Art Vandelay. Take 2. Ricky Pharoe “hated” the first version, and if you go back to our original YouTube post of that clip, you get an ominous “This Video Does Not Exist”. I can’t think of a more fitting message when it comes to Ricky and his producer cohort Mack Formway, Seattle’s top professors of hip hop pessimism.

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VIDEO: “The Three Rules” – Art Vandelay (dir. by Ricky Pharoe)

“The Three Rules” is the opening track on Art Vandelay’s latest record, Eye 8 The Crow, which you can check for here and below. The video is a peek inside the tripped-out headspace of MC Ricky Pharoe and it’s a sight to behold (however: SEIZURE WARNING).

More interesting to me, though, are the rapper’s bars which seek to subvert the definition of what “success” means in the rap game. If a dope rapper spits a hot 16 in the woods, but no one is there to hear it, does he make a sound? Ricky Pharoe teeters on this sharp lyrical edge and production partner Mack Formway’s beat is wound appropriately tight.


VIDEO: “Ricky Pharoe is Bored – Episode #Two (Christopher Walken)”

Fuckin’ who gave Ricky Pharoe my email address? Until I find out, I definitely won’t be posting any more of his videos, least of all this series of one-offs where the rapper punches dope lines like you do clocks at your worthless day job. Fuckin’ amateurs (Walter Sobchak voice).


NEW MUSIC: Eye 8 The Crow – Art Vandelay

Click album cover to download.

Click album cover to download.

More laughter in the face of societal degradation by Art Vandelay. Eye 8 The Crow is the duo’s third album in as many years. We’re still breathing and listening, much to Ricky Pharoe and Mack Formway’s chagrin.

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VIDEO: “Eye 8 The Crow / So What?” – Art Vandelay

Resident purveyors of gloom Art Vandelay let loose with this dope drop from their upcoming Eye 8 The Crow (due April 2). The video for “Eye 8 The Crow / So What?” premiered over at shuckmeister central, VICE, which just goes to show there is more of an audience for the less-than-sunnier side of Seattle rap than you might have thought.


NEW MUSIC: “Walter White” – Art Vandelay

Just like the television show after which this track artwork is modeled, I haven’t actually heard “Walter White” yet — the new single from perpetual rainy-day’ers Art Vandelay — but I hear it’s really really good…

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REVIEW: Face Tattoo – Art Vandelay

Art Vandelay
Face Tattoo
Unimpressive Records; 2012

The strangely edifying thing about Art Vandelay’s grey-skied, tongue-only-partially-in-cheek, depress-o art-house rap, is that the MC responsible for setting the gloomy table (that would be one Ricky Pharoe) is loathe to admit the rock you — and all your fellow busy-body, oxygen-depleting friends — crawled out from under is probably the one located right next door to his own. In a musical genre where the primary goal of every MC is obtaining as much genuflection as is required to begin believing in one’s own hype, it’s nice to come across an outfit like Art Vandelay. One that relishes basking in a deafeningly melancholic solace, preaching to each empty and occupied space that everyone’s shit does, in fact, stink. Human nature is a motherfucker, isn’t it?

At least that’s what I took away from the crew’s most recent project, Face Tattoo, which can be had for freebies at the group’s Bandcamp page. Likewise their previous release, 2011’s They’ve Got My Number Down At The Post Office, which saw Ricky and production partner Mack Formway preaching to no choir in particular about dark days and wanton human nature from the comfort of their own raggedy sofas. Actually, “preaching” is probably the wrong word as those in religious affiliation often find themselves the victims of lyrical beatdowns (see here: “Vitiligo” and it’s blasphemously comedic video).

Then again, the degradation opined upon throughout Face Tattoo is not exclusive to human spirituality. Art Vandelay hesitate even in placing their faith in empirical evidence, concluding on “What Is Matter?” that the only sure thing in scientific experiment is the addition of further questions. Pharoe is an expert at deconstructing both the questions that drive human exploration and the minutiae of a daily stationary existence. And that’s before he even tackles the kinetic doomsday machinations of crooked government and broken social systems (“Presidents And Prime Ministers”). Ultimately, the man is revealed as an MC trapped inside his own head, the hip-hop medium being his only reliable form of release and, dare I say, salvation.

The dense and vital soundtrack to Pharoe’s firing synapses is Mack Formway’s well-executed production. Guitar-laden sonic frameworks, moody samples and rugged breakbeats are combined to darkly atmospheric (yet often traditional) effect. This is not top-down, cruising-in-the-ride summer music. It’s far more pensive than that. “Hey Zeus!”, for example, is a sort of post-Grunge futurist meets El-P dance track. That might mean little to nothing on paper but in execution it sounds unlike anything currently spinning in Seattle hip-hop.

Art Vandelay’s threat of branding us with face tattoos finds its genesis in Pharoe’s standard MC desire of blemishing rap marks with his proverbial dopeness (which he possesses in spades). But it also seems to reference the consigned shroud that we and our neighbors persist to carry on under. Beneath all of Face Tattoo’s spoiled ink lies the notion that the world has sadly vacated the strive for something better. That maybe if the human race just moved the hell out of its own way, things wouldn’t be so constantly fucked up.

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