Raps With Wolves

Uh-oh, another white-boy rapper on the loose. Before you jump to conclusions and blow this vanilla-ice-cream stand, though, you should know that Phil Crumar's primary reference point is more Beck than Kid Rock. Not that he comes close either to looking or sounding like the Beckster; it's just that Crumar was raised by musical wolves in the same pop-culture landscape that also nurtured Mr. Devils Haircut.

The four-song EP's title track sounds like a futuristic folk tune that could have been sung around the campfire in the fractured, po-mo enchanted land where Crumar lives. (Actually, this San Francisco transplant grew up in the predominantly black city of Washington D.C., where he listened to plenty of local go-go music and counted Trouble Funk as his first favorite group. "As It Goes" (RealAudio excerpt)opens with a picked acoustic guitar melody and looped hip-hop drums, providing a musical bed on which Crumar's rhymes skim over the bouncy beats and turntable scratches. "When I put the microphone to my mouth/ It's like separating light with a prism," he raps, "And when the music hits your ears into your brain/ You lose all sense of the materialism."

Fortunately, Crumar's flow is easygoing and playful, not laden with the sourpuss I've-got-skills-and-I'm-gonna-prove-it ethic that currently dominates the hip-hop underground. Nor does he care about trying to demonstrate his "realness"; he's just as likely to rhyme about his childhood soccer games or his Buster Brown shoes as how good he is at rockin' the mic.

The most straightforward hip-hop track here is "Wind It Back," (RealAudio excerpt) but it's not exactly what you'd call middle-of-the-road. "Too many Slurpees will give me the shakes/ For goodness sakes/ I would dream about the Land O' Lakes lady," rhymes Crumar over big beats, sampled synths and scratches. Crumar plays bass, drums, guitar and organ, and As It Goes is all over the map, veering from surreal acoustic hip-hop to wacky, funked-out instrumentals such as "Chucklehut." Filled with off-key warbling, "Cornerstore" (RealAudio excerpt) kitchen sinks loping breakbeats, lap steel guitar, organ and even telephone touch-tones, and it all works — a mixture of unidentifiable cacophonous ingredients that Crumar somehow turns into edible, fun musical baloney.

To pop aficionados, such eclecticism is familiar terrain, a road regularly traveled by SUV-driving listeners who've been un-self-consciously cranking Dr. Dre, the Ramones, AC/DC and No Doubt in their multi-disc changers for years. Like Beck and MC Paul Barman, Phil Crumar is a white boy who grew up listening to hip-hop, and rather than pretending he's something he's not (or pretending the music doesn't belong to him), he simply puts his own unique stamp on it. That wolf family would be proud.