Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mr. Lee: I Wanna Rock Right Now (1992)

(As published in the Illinois Entertainer ... )

Mr. Lee
I Wanna Rock Right Now (Jive)

One of the funnier elements of recent rap and New Jack Swing is how its practitioners get all horny on their albums then thank the "Almighty Creator God" in their liner notes. Prince is probably to thank for this, or maybe Madonna. But from them and Hammer to lesser-known hormonally hyper churchgoers like Guy and Kyper, the laughs evoked by this tension grease the skids of latter-day hip-hop better than the sampling and crooning.

Now add Mr. Lee (a.k.a. the Chicago native Lee Haggard) to this sacred-carnal crew. Bearing out his liner notes' religion, the lyrics on each of the fourteen tracks on this album, his second, fall short of the parental-warning standard by a few figurative inches at least.

But on workouts like "Do It to Me" (in two versions, no less), "Sex Thang," and "Get Off," he raps up a sweat over "hotties" and fantasizes about Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, just like Sonic Youth on Dirty. He even squeezes in a few more of those sampled moaning porno chicks that have graced so many audio artifacts of late.

In other words, Lee walks a fine line. So does his music. He calls it "New House Swing," by which he seems to mean that it touches on everything from rap and love-man balladry (courtesy of R. Kelly on both versions of Lee's semi-hit "Hey Love") to C&C Music Factory-styled pump-it-uppers.

Like most synthesists, however, Lee's broadmindedness can make him seem more like a dilettante than like a man with a vision. Why, for instance, is the instrumental version of "Do It to Me" the best track here if Lee's words and voice are so great?

Well, it's a political year, so covering all one's basses is in again. Maybe on his next album he'll hit a grand slam.

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