Can someone with no knowledge of Borderlands enjoy Rock, Paper, Genocide? Let’s find out.
I know! My nerd cred is shook every time I have to write about anything based on a video game younger than fifteen years old, and so it is that RPG-Unit’s debut EP is based on Borderlands. I’ll be drawing a blank when it comes to references then, so this review will be based solely on a musical foundation.
RPG-Unit are a self proclaimed Nerdcore ‘Super group’ consisting of some familiar names from the genre. The powerhouse King Pheenix and the much less powerhouse Starf will be familiar to fans of the Scrub Club Records label, as should producer DJ RoboRob who appears to be on a mission to rival Adam Warrock’s constant output with a prolific number of tracks being released lately both with RPG-Unit and with another project Crayondroids. The group is completed by Eye-Q and Starby, a ‘concious’ and ‘sassy’ combination respectively.
Already Rock, Paper, Genocide has received high praise making a post on Kotaku amongst other acclaim. But then, they know all about Borderlands I expect.
We’re off to a promising start with opening track Vault Hunters presenting fluid flows over a guitar based groove that bubbles along with an immense sense of cool. A catchy sung chorus adds to the laid back feel. This is good in a way that comes across as effortless.
The tone gains an edge with the raucously titled I Shoot People. A darker, bleaker track musically there’s a sense of theatre to proceedings with a resonant base note and minimal instrumentation. The vocals are less dynamic but fitting with the sentiment of… shooting people. Loot Slut maintains a darker feel with an elevated sense of energy. A strong kick drum and busy synths create a wall of sound that doesn’t allow for intricate vocals but still provides a decent flow maintained by each of the emcees.
Probably the stand out of the release and certainly more in-keeping of what I had expected from DJ RoboRob is the comedically tinged Claptrap’s Dubstep Song He Wrote. A skit of sorts is embedded into a dubstep track with an amusing drop that tickles me even though I fail to appreciate the reference.
Guns, Guns, Guns brings a heightened sense of energy and drama with complex drums and a cinematic string arrangement forming a bed for tight, intricate lyrics before dropping seamlessly into the theme from… THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE! Wait! Did I just fall into some strange bizarre dream? No! No I did not. This is brilliant and unexpected.
This six track EP concludes with Handsome Jackass featuring Scub Club Records’s illustrious leader Madhatter as the titular character. It’s another track with a full and busy sound incorporating elements you might find in dubstep as well as a hint of that orchestral bed giving dramatic undertones. The lyrics get a little lost in the track but it doesn’t really matter as the release draws to a satisfying conclusion.
At a little under twenty minutes Rock, Paper, Genocide offers incredible entertainment bursting with plenty to enjoy. Fans of Borderlands will no doubt gain a lot from the narrative and references within the songs. If like me you’re not familiar with the source material then fear not. There’s so much to take from these six tracks for any fan of nerdcore, or hip-hop in general.