We could argue all night about whether or not MC 900 Ft. Jesus (who got his name from Oral Roberts's infamous yarn about seeing a gigantic Christ) truly is a rap artist. I vote yes, but not without noting that his album Hell With the Lid Off is to rap roughly what Captain Beefheart's Strictly Personal was to 60s blues-rock: namely, a strange and unexpected extension of an established genre. The album is weird--much weirder than, for instance, De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising, which I once considered the weirdest of rap LPs. Jesus (whose face is always obscured in promotional photos) and his cohort, DJ Zero, are exploring some very disturbing areas of the human subconscious, and their album--like Jad Fair's LP Best Wishes, or David Lynch's film Eraserhead--precisely evokes the feeling of a dream. I'm still trying to figure out just how they accomplish this. Jesus doesn't always rap over a track, but when he does, he favors heavy electronic vocal distortion. Elsewhere, he does things like mixing the strangely poetic ramblings of a genuine psychotic together with a Fela Kuti rhythm track. It's sometimes scary, but the crucial difference between these guys and such cheaply melodramatic acts as My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult is that Jesus and Zero are motivated not by a desire to shock, but by a sincere, even compassionate, curiosity about the potential for psychosis in all of us. Saturday, 7 PM, Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Karen Shalom.