Rutgers New Brunswick-formed psychedelic rap group Cook Thugless’s third album “Money” dropped on April 20: a 17-track LP that built on their past works in maturity and vision while staying true to their Thugless style.
The seven-man group’s first full-length after graduating from university focused on the idea of what consumers really want to hear in a cynical portrayal of consumerism as a structure based on desires for sex, materialistic things and, of course, money. Musically, Cook Thugless balanced the integrity of each individual song while working with a theatre-influenced storytelling framework that’s also present on their other full-lengths “Space” and “Time.”
“Money” starts in traditional Thugless fashion with an introductory track sung by co-frontman Jerry Sanchez, aka Jack Blerry, mixed with experimental hip-hop- and jazz-influenced music. “Wants and Need” focuses on “JC living,” mentioning several neighborhoods in Jersey City, N.J. and life after college.
Thugless fans are then comforted by the love ballad of the album “Wekkabakka.” This single was first released in early 2016, then again in late-2016 on the “Vacation Blend II” EP, and now in its final version on “Money.”
However, Wekkabakka is where familiarity starts and ends on the album: partially because more than half the songs were written within two months of the album’s release date and partially because the album then takes a turn toward co-vocalists Sanchez and Jean Louis Droulers’s alter-egos.
Sanchez and Droulers play off of each other throughout the rest of the album in a Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde fashion, beginning from track 6 “Rebranding.”
During “Rebranding,” listeners met the narrator, a voice who’s ready to literally rebrand Cook Thugless into a more marketable product. Droulers specifically is targeted by the narrator, and is encouraged (or forced) to change his artist name from apst4akt (pronounced abstract), which “doesn’t sell,” into Fatty Puss. The new rapper name was the perfect alter-ego to delve into a satirization of consumerism, capitalism and what sells in the hip-hop industry, Droulers said, just masculine and ridiculous enough for the character development in the remaining tracks.
The narrator also suggests that Blerry’s heartfelt style is useless to the new goal of monetary success, and an emphasis should be put on “star power.” This creates a narrative segway to introduce drummer Jahmar Beaubrun as another vocalist in the group. Beaubrun just started rapping in the group on the album and goes by J-Titty.
The three vocalists then continue to struggle with each other until Fatty Puss’s death suggested in the chorus of the final track, “Lucky 27.”
An exemplary track that juxtaposes the contrast between the contrasting goals between heartfelt Blerry and materialistic Fatty Puss is “Pu$$y Money Bling.” The name speaks for itself, teasing rap songs that seriously only mention women, money, and materialism; and how far from the complexities of real life those “meaningless concepts” are.
PMB is followed by “Gucci in My Kitchen,” which is the first track on the album that all three vocalists collaborate on, and (unsurprisingly) keeps with the theme of satire.
Just a few tracks away though in “Net Worthless,” Droulers looks further than his satirical storyline for inspiration and turns to the daily struggles of those in Venezuela.
Droulers, born in Venezuela but raised in the U.S., addresses corruption, starvation and prevalence of drugs in the country directly. Singing in both Spanish and English, with a few lines in French, Droulers creates an audible representation of his cultural ties and his consciousness of issues in his home country despite having the privileges that come with living in the States. Droulers said this track was the most important to him in the album.
“Money” should be listened to straight through (unshuffled) to get the full effects of the narrative, from life before Fatty Puss to his birth and finally his young death. But the band was aware of keeping each song’s individual integrity so they could stand on their own as well.