words by Eamon Whalen
Corbin and Bobby Raps may not take themselves seriously, but don’t say the same about their music. The roll-out for the two artists’ newly released EP couch potato was remarkable in it’s lack of concern for PR conventions, especially for a duo that sold-out concerts across the country this fall as part of St. Paul supergroup thestand4rd, and for whose previous collaborations are in the Soundcloud two comma club. There was no press release, no single premiere and no exclusive interview, just a tweet from Corbin reading “hello fuck heads” posted with a link to a $0.00 budget music video for the EP’s first track welcome to the hell zone, followed shortly after with a bandcamp link to the full project.
Such a strategy has become familiar in the year and a half since Corbin and Bobby’s first two aforementioned collaborations, the shiny, dynamic Ready and the chilling angst of Motionless were met with rabid, if not undesired fanfare. Those two songs came right on the heels of Spooky Black -- Corbin’s former pseudonym -- becoming a full-on viral sensation. Since then, both Corbin and Bobby public personas have been decidedly tongue-in-cheek. Their song titles, social media, cover art and the like are presented with a facetiousness that seem they’re playing a joke, yet you’re not sure on who. It’s a sort of anti-image, a kind of self-humiliation that acts as a deflection from the absurdity of internet fame, so all you’re left to do is face the music.
“Corbin asks me if I’m scared of dying, the more I think about it I’m kind of excited,” raps Bobby on hell zone. To say the project is pre-occupied with darkness would be an understatement. Thoughts of death, loneliness and existential frustration permeate the seven tracks entirely produced by Bobby. Corbin’s voice has grown from the reserved, slightly flippant innocence of his pair of EPs as Spooky Black -- Black Silk and Leaving -- into a more assertive, damaged roughness. His songwriting is increasingly misanthropic, singing “fuck your money, fuck your fame too,” among several other one-liners that ring to a similar effect. They're the protests from a seventeen year old who got famous too soon, and who probably prefers a couch in a dark basement to a bright stage. Five years Corbin’s senior, Bobby’s reality-checking verses echo the same sentiment. “Work your whole life for something to realize you didn’t want it,” he raps on the project’s closer Burdened. His delivery moves from a laid-back free-associative flow to a momentous, emotionally charged tour de force, to a singing voice he’s become more and more comfortable exploring the range of.
The production, makes repeated, excellent use of the distorted vocal sample, which is more often than not his own voice recorded and flipped. Some are pitched up and some are warped all the way around and back again. Combine that with a careful ear for emotive synths, and --because it's a Bobby Raps project -- drums that knock, and you get a soundscape that still shimmers in all that darkness. You might say the same about Corbin and Bobby. Neither seems eager to show the other one up, but play off each other’s strengths with the same undeniable chemistry that drew them together, and us in, in the first place. So while their irreverence knows no bounds, and they may not be in the best of moods, we should at least be happy they have each other.
Following the release, the guys have announced shows in both Minneapolis (Varsity Theater) and New York City (Bowery Ballroom). Aside from those performances -- and a few festivals (Rock the Garden, Eaux Claires, Pemberton) -- the guys will also be performing at MoMA for its Summer Warm Up music series curated by Dean Bein (True Panther) and a variety of other music heads.