Cex, Tall, Dark and Handcuffed (2002)
Baltimore, Maryland’s Cex escapes classification. A magnetic live artist, he’s known for working himself and the audience into a libidinous sweat, flopping on the floor and spurting out rhymes in a breathy shout while electro-funk beats play in the background. Cex’s shows are more than mere musical performances: they’re an experience. Having said that, the most surprising thing about his sophomore album Tall, Dark and Handcuffed is that he squarely pigeonholes himself as a straight-up rapper, and a mediocre one at that. There are mere traces of the excitement he causes on stage, like when he concludes “Brutal Exposure” with the line, “If I’m going to fuck with this industry, it’ll be the way that I can feel it/Covered in her blood and my piss, fucking on her period/I’m serious.” Then, near the end of the next track “One Cex,” he leers, “I know you’re stressed because there’s only one Cex” in a righteously corrupt voice. Most of the hour-long album, however, finds him playing Edan (or is it MC Paul Barman?) over minimalist electronic beats with scant personality or surprises. Even a rare party track, “Cuts,” sounds limp and rote even as he alleges, “The underground needs a-changin.” When did Cex the party rapper give a fuck about the hip-hop underground? Tall, Dark and Handcuffed is reminiscent of another would-be indie rap monarch, Princess Superstar. But while Ms. Superstar delivers tongue-in-cheek satire with surprisingly skilled rhymes and a charismatic cadence, Cex speed raps, mumbling words and overrunning beats with lame complaints like, “We ain’t the type of lyricists whose big, boring words will pass through your system undigested, like corn kernels.” Tigerbeat6.