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I first came upon this video:
in late 2007 while curating an "around the world in 80 days" kind of global music video trip for my previous blog. I think the phrase I typed into YouTube's search engine was either "Khmer rap" or "Cambodian rap," and I remember watching this thing, totally mesmerized. I loved the sound of it, right down to the Carly Simon sample (that is Carly Simon, no?), and I periodically checked YouTube and other places, hoping to hear more.
Well, several months ago, using Filetram, I finally found a whole album online, what I'm guessing to be the Khmer Rap Boyz's first, and possibly only, full-length recording.
I admit that I was disappointed at first that the songs I'd grown to love by them ("Baeuk Chak," in the video above, and "Sexy Sexy," which you can watch here) were completely remixed and had shed their raw funkiness for something more--golly--what? What's the hip hop word meaning "hardcore"? Well, let's put it this way: I listened to the album once and promptly forgot about it. The cover, with the KRBs in the most ridiculously "hip hop"-coded outfits, striking the most ludicrously "hip hop"-coded poses, says it all. (Word up, Boyz: What makes any particular example of international hip hop successful is not how properly coded the shit is; it's how awesome it rocks. And, really, if it's street cred you're gunning for on that cover, isn't your neighborhood--bombed by the U.S. and turned into one of the most horrific nightmares in Planet Earth's history by Pol Pot--far more "impressive" or whatever to have come from than, say, Compton?) Okay, where was I? Oh, right. Fast forward to a couple of months ago, back when I was putting together this mix. While looking for hidden gems to delight my visitors' ears, I went back to the Khmer Rap Boyz's album, no longer saddled with the expectation of hearing the older stuff, and could now hear the LP for what it was: A genuinely rock solid contemporary hip hop record. (Despite the lame-ass cover.) And, where the nature of hip hop in the hands of some international artists (think PSY) is to grow increasingly pop-y, the Khmer Rap Boyz went from a sort of bright, super-charming funkiness to a dark, chunky, pou-pounding oomph. (That is what the hip hop kids are calling it these days--"pou-pounding oomph"--right?) And you know what? I totally love it.