Sharkey & C-Rayz Walz: Monster Maker

There is a very good chance that Gnarls Barkley, the commercially successful pairing of Goodie Mob’s Cee-Lo and DJ Danger Mouse, created a monster. That is, when the group’s eclectic album proved that audiences are open to cross-genre experimentation, the group essentially opened a door for other artists to jump on the bandwagon and fuse Hip-Hop with rock, funk, techno and electronica.At the height of Gnarls Barkley’s run at the charts, veteran Bronx emcee C-Rayz Walz—of the MTV Made fame—and Washington, D.C.-based producer Sharkey undoubtedly saw an opportunity. So they got together and began recording what has amounted to Monster Maker (Babygrande), an album that is part Gnarls Barkley’s St. Elsewhere and part the Roots’ Game Theory. Still, although the Stronghold collective’s Walz, who’s got mutliple albums under his belt for Def Jux, and Sharkey are Hip-Hop, to say they’ve made just a Hip-Hop album would be simply inaccurate.Sonically, Monster Maker pulls in from James Brown and Coldplay as much as it does from the Roots and Gnarls Barkley. Sharkey’s beats are a cacophony of rock riffs and frenetic electronica drums that challenge the ear on every song. This is definitely not snap music or even boom-bap. However, C-Rayz Walz’ lyrics are often secondary, if not drowned altogether in the process. With Walz’ rhymes being abstract (think O.D.B.) as it is, it’ll take a discerning ear to grasp what he is saying. The standout songs on Monster Maker are “This Ol’ Twisted World,” an uptempo cut with a sing-along hook that’ll lend itself perfectly to close a live show. On “That Moment Before Crazy,” which features Vast Aire, the tempo slows down drastically and sung vocals imitate Coldplay’s Chris Martin's.What Monster Maker amounts to, ultimately, is an experimental album that will appeal to cultured Hip-Hoppers whose musical palate is open to such a thing. It takes a certain level of open-mindedness to appreciate what it’s trying to bring forth.