Best Of The Batch: DJ Monkey
3RD World War
Artist: DJ Monkey
Title: 3RD World War
Label: Squid Music
Most bands, well indie bands any way, strive to evolve and keep things fresh by trying out new sounds, concepts, and lyrics in an effort to mature right along with their listeners. DJ Monkey is one of those rare breeds, a hybrid rap band that has carefully carved out their own unique place in music.
3rd World War is a tremendous statement for the band, both musically and lyrically. Joey Alkes, whom I have come to know through his music and email communication, puts together some powerful and prolific spoken word rap in several of the tracks. One in particular that got my attention was “Love Has No Color,” when Joey says "My baby granddaughter, she is black and she is white, she's a Navajo with green eyes; and my heart goes out to her no matter which one she is when she cries.”
How can you get more poignant and moving than that and be so simplistic and direct at the same time? The other element, the music, is a key factor in pushing the lyrics along so you get in a groove and really feel the emotion behind the meaning of the words.
The McMains name is all over the place on this recording. Mick, who is Mr. Everything, plays guitar, bass, keys, drum programming, and when he sings, he sounds remarkably like Bowie. And his brothers, Ian and Moose, add their parts to the mix. LiL TipToe and MR1 are back again to give the raps an original and authentic sound to accentuate everything else that is happening in a song. Michael Schnieder’s sax is beautiful as usual; it adds the smooth ambiance of jazz tones to the atmosphere making the overall sound more worldly and listenable.
The other side of this band is their NYC street smarts that are touched upon in the rocking opener, “Hard Times NYC.” Do not let this decidedly rock workout throw you off. It is a step away from the norm and it is very good, but not the DJ Monkey that I have become accustomed to hearing. When I heard the driving guitar and rhythm section accompanied by the background vocals of Cynthia Contreras, who has the ability to sing lead or background, saying, “New, new, new, New York City,” all I could think see was Lou Reed singing “Walk On The Wild Side.”
The rest of the album reverts to the rap and jazz grooves that they always seem to find their zone in. What I really love about this band, and the fact that I can enjoy their raps, is the simple fact that it is not negative gangsta rap. Everyone knows how it connects to drugs, killings, or alcohol, the kind that tends to deviate beyond anything intelligible or meaningful. You can count on this band to deliver music that has a world ambiance with lyrics that pack a punch, that really make you think about your existence on this planet, how you are living your life, and treating your fellow man.
The other strong message that supports the title track and part of theme running through this album is where Joey raps, “We are going to war, on the backs of the poor.” It is amazing how a phrase like that repeated throughout a track can be so mesmerizing. It holds the truth about our history of war, and it totally made sense to me.
“G-d Is An Underachiever” may raise some red flags for the title alone; however, if you stop and listen to the words and process everything logically, it is applicable to daily life. To be perfectly honest about my assessment of this recording, I truly enjoyed every track because each one offered a musical variation that was different from the previous track while always engaging my intellect and feelings. For me, that is the entire package.
DJ Monkey is a special band and anyone that enjoys a melting pot of music with lyrics that make you think- they should consider listening to this band.
01. Hard Times NYC
02. 3rd World War
03. All Else Is Shadow
04. Love Knows No Color
05. The Hum
06. G-d Is An Underachiever
07. In The Future
08. No Place Like This Place
09. Everybody Died Last Week
10. Hip Hop Be Bop
Vocals & Spoken Word: Joey Alkes, Mick McMains, Cynthia Contreras
Raps: LiL TipToe, MR1
Back up vocals: Cynthia Contreras, Joey Alkes, Mick McMains, LiL TipToe
Keyboards and Piano: Mick McMains, Ray Lewis on "No Place Like This Place"
Guitars: Mick McMains, Ian McMains
Bass: Moose McMains, Mick McMains, Ian McMains. Sharon Ray & Gary
Putnam on "All Else Is Shadow"
Sax: Michael Schneider
Drums: Mick McMains on Programming, Francisco Patallo on all
Percussion, Jared Oppenheim drums on "No Place Like This Place"
Violin: Lita Neumann
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