The Hip Hop parody is a delicate venture. Great parody is great exaggeration and most rappers are already operating at the extremes of absurdity. The awkward rap hands and outdated slang of Mad TV skits and cinematic bombs like Malibu's Most Wanted might satisfy the clueless but are frequently lost on those actually aware of the endless and knowing self parody that the genre's biggest stars serve up daily. (Consider Kanye West's surreal hissy fits or that the beef du jour - 50 vs. Ricky - has already seen one jheri curl drenched wig donned as an intimidation tactic.) Lonely Island - best known for their weekly Saturday Night Live "Digital Shorts" - may be the first mainstream rap parodists to truly grasp the nuances of the genre.
Recognizing that Hip Hop is bulletproof to traditional exaggeration the trio instead turn its excesses inward on their debut LP. Take "I'm On A Boat," the T-Pain-assisted [click to read] lead single, which appropriates all the bombast of a DJ Khaled posse cut to remind you that they are, quite simply, riding on a boat. They aren't the best, they aren't taking over, they just never thought they'd be on a boat. Elsewhere front man Andy Sandberg adapts a Slim Thug's [click to read] "Like A Boss" mantra to the day to day minutiae of an actual corporate boss - "micromanage (like a boss) / promote synergy (like a boss)."
And even though their flows are a little too indebted to the melanin-deficient simplicity of early Beastie Boys, they usually sidestep the ease of the displaced white rapper punchline. The joke is never simply that they are rapping and they shouldn't be. Instead they deliver the strange - threatening punches in the jeans over DJ Numark's Jurassic 5 [click to read] throwaways or perpetuating a bizarre running gag about Carlos Santana's signature champagne line. "Santana DVX," appropriately produced by longtime underground rap prankster J-Zone [click to read], features E-40 [click to read] rhyming from the perspective of Santana himself, or at least a more pimped out facsimile of the icon ("won hella Grammys / batches throw me their panties / I'm probably your daddy / I probably nutted in your mammy.") It's a weirdly subtle nod to both 40's own long standing obsession with Carlos Rossi wine as well as the shared Northern California roots of Santana, 40 and Lonely Island themselves.
As a comedic display, Incredibad comes pretty close impeccable, as a proper album it's less rewarding. The replay value of this sort of humor is limited at best and it doesn't help that roughly half the album is merely a greatest hits compilation, revisiting near played out SNL birthed internet memes like "Dick In A Box" and "Jizz In Your Pants". But the presence of such filler is understandable in the sense that recognizable Justin Timberlake-fronted dick jokes will probably have the kids running up the soundscans more so than pitch perfect southern rap parodies. And that's the beauty of this record - E-40 and Slim Thug in jokes will surely be lost on Lonely Island's target audience as a whole and exist solely as a winking nod to fellow hip hop heads. It's nice that someone finally cares enough about rap music to mock it properly.