GDP has put forth his strongest effort yet with Useless Eaters. What makes this album stand above previous work from the West Orange, NJ rapper, born _____, is a seeming realization: fast and loud better complements his dark and angry lyrics. GDP is at his best when he is rapping over beats with more noise than melody. Songs like opening track “Neural Circuitry” and “Little Boxes” spend most of the verses bashing out sounds and noises that only hint at chords, rather than actually name them.
“Little Boxes,” which to my dismay was not a Malvina Reynolds sample, demonstrates the dark space of GDP’s lyrical content. The overall message of “Little Boxes” is summed up in the final verse: “We’re all the same turning grey in the grave/ and they’ll bury us together just to save a little space.” This is signature GDP. An easily uplifting thought such as we’re all the same, is made divisively bleak by showing how we are all equally terrible. The song walks us through several characters including a lawyer, a junkie, and a student named Pam who fails an elective at Yale and ends up murdering her unwanted child.
The above example may seem shocking for the sake of being shocking, and I think often times that can be the case with GDP, as is clear with the video for “Neural Circuitry”. The video ironically belies the songs hook, “Too high to die”, as it depicts a slew of illegal activities culminating with the whole party being shot and killed. This splatter painting of such imagery can take away from the meaningful things GDP has to say, such as the beginning of “Neural Circuitry” when he states, “Stars aren’t shining on us/ Soldiers aren’t dying for us/ They’re risking their lives for the change/ A full ride to college or a meaningless grave”. The shocking yet poignant observation about why many Americans get involved in the armed services is cheapened by later declarations of “We fuck trashy girls and we don’t use condoms”.
But GDP also shows a tender side to his dark world. On “Oxypolycontin” he laments over the situation with his friend and original producer whose life has become too messed up from drugs that their friendship seems simply impossible. “Oxypolycontin” features one of the coolest sampled loops on the album and very much sounds in touch with why GDP got into hip hop in the first place.
The other wonderful thing about GDP is that he does not use pop hooks. Too many ‘indie’ rappers don’t embrace the fact that they don’t need to sound a certain way. GDP rejects making dance singles. He even addresses mainstream topics without losing his sound. On “Carbon Footprint” he indicts politicians, businessmen, and just about everyone for monetizing the planet’s health with the smart refrain “Bargain for carbon”.
Unfortunately this album has a quite a few snoozers. I find myself zoning out on slower tracks like “Don’t Worry About the Government”, “Holy Grail” or “Social Enema”. And then of course there is a song like “All My Friends are on Meds”. The subject matter does not really dig deeper than the title and at this point in the album it elicits a hearty ‘yeah we get it’. He and his crew do drugs – message received.
As stated earlier, GDP is at his best when his beats are racing. It’s just a fact about New Jersey musicians: even when they aren’t writing punk, they’re writing punk. This is a blessing and a curse. I certainly love a punk influence on music but lacing each track with such aggression runs the risk of them all sounding the same. At the end of the day there is not that much variety in sound and, when it comes down to it, my favorite track is the album closer, “Someday When Things Are Good”. This track has GDP rapping over a chill, jazzy beat. His voice steadily builds excitement until horns blast out the aggressive chorus.
Useless Eaters is far from perfect, but GDP has a lot of merit as an emcee. When this album is on its game it’s hard to shut out. If he doesn’t let up, the next album might be just be a game changer.