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Gold Chains

As we all know, the "blond MC" issue in hip-hop has gotten a little ponderous. So, an announcement: To all you indie boys who disown Eminem's objectionable (or objectionably lousy) lyrical themes but defend his supposed "skills," you now have an out with whom you can identify: San Francisco-based rhymer Topher Lafata, who does his business as Gold Chains. On his debut album, Young Miss America, Lafata (a computer programmer originally from Reading, Pennsylvania) throws down as a rapper who simply ignores hip-hop orthodoxy. As Gold Chains, he calls himself "the punk-rock MC," but his irresistibly wise/wise-ass style splices in equal parts absurdist bling-ism, emo political insight, and glam attitude. Rather than Em-style beefs with relatives and celebrities, this guy is concerned with both the state of the world and with keeping the party rocked. Over arrangements he coproduced with Frisco laptop wonderboy Kit Clayton that encompass everything from indie punk-funk to '60s garage and broken-beat, Chains calls "code red on society" and lectures on the orchestral "Much Currency Flows": "You thought you had such a nice university education/Well, welcome to the first rule of Western civilization/Make money make money make." But "The Game" finds him also with a playful, refreshingly non-misogynist grip on his libido: "Here's my calling card/Meet me at the phone booth/Put your ass on the glass/And call Dr. Ruth."

In terms of vocal tone and lyrical character, Lafata faces no contest for hip-hop's hepster audience: shuffle Young Miss America in your player with The Marshall Mathers Show and you picture Em the pesky bird, nasally chirping his crowded lines around the head of the lion Chains, who luxuriously stretches out his wry rhymes in a husky, Ian Dury-ish grain. Thankfully, Gold Chains doesn't come off as a hustling would-be star, which will make him twinkle brightly in the eyes of former Slim Shady apologists.

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