Evil Ebenezer Penguin

If you introduced yourself as Evil Ebenezer, the rapper, 25 years ago, the average Canadian would be like, "What's a rapper?" Nowadays, they'd probably just laugh. Which explains why this award-winning musician has assumed a disguise; he feels vulnerable. In cahoots with Camobear, Ebenezer aligns himself with a group of West Coast rappers, including Snak the Ripper, who apparently took Eminem's public pokerface to heart. He raps in an unforgiving hiss and, if you take his records just as seriously, laughs less than Bizarro Jerry. But that's okay, because he's pretty good. "Half Bird Half Man" imposes an aura of sin and perversion that's not explicitly stated, at least in words. Nato's relentless intergalactic beat provides a vehicle for Ebenezer to swerve in and out of character — sometimes all at once: "I've been down here working for so long, in the dark, in the cold, with my robe on." "Cold Inside" also relies on atmosphere, the beat gradually oozing under your earmuffs and drafting a synth-tingling dirge. The hook ("keep to my own, I guess, never been much to impress") proves a contradiction — not only does it impress, it possesses. Unfortunately, the other three tracks, despite their technical and lyrical competency, muddle together into a swampy blur that's indistinguishable from all the Madchild, La Coka Nostra, dark arts sounds. Perhaps it's smart to sound like "something," so you can say to those laughing Canucks, "Hold up, I make music like so and so." But at the cost of integrity? This is rap. Tell 'em to fuck off. (Camobear)