Though they've only played two live gigs, emerging local rap duo Lord T & Eloise seem more like a musical performance-art act than recording artists. Visuals are intrinsic to the appeal of this high-concept act -- white blue-bloods rapping about their old-money wealth, with Lord T in Victorian garb and Eloise's skin plated in gold -- whether it's in the theatrical aspects of their live performance or the packaging of their debut album, which includes a future mock encyclopedia entry on the rise of the "Aristocrunk" movement and a "to do" list that includes such items as "Doubles vs. William & Harry," "Work on Empathy Skills," and, of course, "Save Rap Game."
On Aristocrunk, Lord T & Eloise come across as something of a hip-hop equivalent of Jack Black's and Kyle Gass' heavy-metal comedy band Tenacious D: The attitude is too approving to be satire, with the result being more self-consciously distanced appropriation of the conspicuous consumption of hip-hop proper than a comic critique. Despite a funny Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five reference ("Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge/I'm trying not to lose my hedge fund"), you get the sense that the people involved don't love hip-hop quite enough to kill it or to be disappointed by the spoof-worthy material the genre provides.
Rather, the intentional unintentional self-deprecation is more a spoof of the upper-crust world the characters purport to come from than of a certain sphere of hip-hop culture, with titles such as "I'm Rich," "Make Dat Monet," and "Goin' Shopping" hitting their targets. (Sample lyric: "Cashmere head to toe/How many cashmeres had to die for this?/I don't know.")
Musically, it's a confident, impressive record, but more atmospheric than head-bobbing. Deploying renowned Memphis opera singer Kallen Esperian for background vocals on "Penthouse Suite" and "Make Dat Monet" is an especially witty touch. And as good as the overall concept is, there's one even more novel idea: an anti-Bush song from the perspective of a disappointed blue-blood. Lying in their marble tub watching the Iraq war go sour on CNN, Lord T & Eloise pick up their red phone to reprimand G-Dub for "gross mismanagement," even if they are "living lax on these tax cuts." -- Chris Herrington