Label: Anticon Release date: 06/12/10 Link: Official Site At this point in his career, Tobacco seems pretty stable. Already riding the coast of his last full length (the underrated Maniac Meat) and the tour that followed as well as sporadic DJ sets, Mr. Tom Fec has reached a level of creative homeostasis reserved for that rare echelon of underground musician who actually devotes each aspect of their life to their creative forms. Then there’s the kind of remix work that is present on LA UTI (Los Angeles Urinary Tract Infection? As an Angelino I’m offended), an EP that is as seemingly unnecessary as it is interesting; the kind of release that sees its high water mark on blogs then ends up in cutout bins where shit’s arranged by label name. Ay, there’s the rub! Despite the well wishing of the Anticon artists and their efforts, LA UTI is a decidedly uneven release, an issue that manages to re-contextualize some previously standout tracks as lesser entities in some cases. Then again, the blame isn’t all on Tobacco here… The good news first: the Tobacco backings are still great. Yeah, the lack of the vocoded voice tends to remove most of the interesting shit here (‘Sweatmother’ flounders without that base) instead leaving a giant gaping hole for varied rappers to fill. And that’s where this EP has the tendency to fall flat on its face – the verses. Before bashing this and feeling bad for badmouthing a musician I appreciate, here are the good things about this lopsided offering. ‘The Injury (feat. Doseone)’ is as twisted and warped as need be, an inspired jaunt of lunacy from Doseone’s voice and some great overall timing really manage to make the backing snap into place, revealing Fec’s prowess behind production as an underground hip-hop instrumentalist. Similarly, Rob Sonic’s delivery and writing on ‘Lick The Witch’ are, to be blunt, fucking amazing. It’s been a while since Sonic has been this enlivened with his writing, and Tobacco manages to remove the right elements to turn ‘Witch’ into a banger of a song. ‘Unholy Demon Rhythms (feat. Icicle Frog)’ also manages to conjure up some particularly fitting matches for the warped je ne sais quoi du sinister of the original despite (or is it because of?) the severely mangled voice of Frog, somewhere between a chipmunk and a Lynchian nightmare on mushrooms. What was once a somewhat dull track that served its place as a break from the flow of the album (and a showcase of Tobacco’s great synth work) now stands out as the highlight of the second half of the EP. Of course, there are flaws abound in all these tracks with ‘Unholy’ suffering from too little voice at times and ‘Lick The Witch’ losing some power with the muffled vocals that can sometimes seep into the ether too easily. Then there’s the remainder of the EP, a disappointing (at best) muddling of Tobacco and uninspired raps that reminds me of that time I thought it would be a good idea to put rap music over ambient music…oh wait, Lil B did that. It’s not to say that these things can’t work, it’s that they almost refuse to in this context, a violent rebellion against itself imploding the worst offenders and slashing the tires of the lesser ones. I can see the methodology behind choosing ‘TV All Greasy (feat. Anti-Pop Consortium)’ as the opener, especially given how it’s an undoubtedly good Tobacco song on its own. It works well as a beat, thick and nasty with the right amount of high end snap, but when the rap over it is banal and delivered half-heartedly, everything just seems hollow. The Consortium try their best to be entertaining and even manage to pull a Count Bass D/Potholderz self-reference style line about how “I produce and engineer but this time I’m here to rhyme,” here said as if he didn’t want to do any of those three things, a defiant contrast to D’s “I make music every weekend” confessional. When stood next to the syruped out Serengeti verse on ‘2 Thick Scoops,’ however, Anti-Pop sounds like a fucking genius. I actually had to look and make sure it wasn’t some shitty Salem vocal that was taken here given how uninspired, bored, and drugged out Serengeti sounds here. The issue at hand with both of these songs is how neither guest manages to live up to the backing’s raw energy, spinning half-baked lines around before drawing and quartering them. It’s as if they don’t care about the material, as if there was nothing better to do on a Friday night than rap over a Tobacco song. And then there’s the ‘Lamborghini Meltdown’ atrocity. Oh how can I express how much of a failed song this is? The blame is only partially on Tobacco, who creates an enjoyable song that is only a little annoyingly dull (a rarity), so the rest falls on Zackey Force Funk who manage to deliver one of the worst vocals possible for this song. The lyrics, or at least what I could clearly discern, include such epic displays of writing prowess and inspired genius as “Pussy pop” and “Blazin’ hot…sextacy…” and “Don’t mess with me [dramatic pause] MAN!” Seriously, do you even care about this, man? I don’t care what kind of hard life you had or what your weird ass shows in Tuscon are like, you have to fucking believe this shit instead of just delivering it like some bored male waif. There’s what sabotages the EP – a general malaise from the lesser performances, a sense of near-exhaustion and musical ennui that manages to somehow take away the home grown intimacy of Tobacco’s songs – an aspect of his music that has come through even in the heaviest of tracks, mainly due to his home recording techniques. This is something to get digitally at best unless you don’t mind carving in scratches on a nice picture disc to force your needle to skip over tracks. Nothing here meets the standards of Tobacco’s last full length and most of the contributors’ last releases, instead finding a happy middle ground for both parties. The moments where this EP manages to transcend the fact that these are mostly reissues of songs without much remixing is when the rapper(s) on the tracks sound like they’re having fun or genuinely crafting good verses (see above). And while I had to take a long time to sort out these ambivalent feelings, it’s good to be able to step away from Maniac Meat and see the other uses of the songs. However, as a longtime Tobacco and Anticon fan, this is only good half the time and tolerable as a release concept. Given how I purposely avoided reading other opinions on this release, I can only hope that people won’t fall, starry eyed and high hoped, for the allure of underground rap over underground beats. With heavy heart and knowledge that whatever’s next has to be better I must rate now. Photobucket