Okay, so it’s already been done before. Kind of.
In 1983, Shawn Brown, who went by the stage name “Rappin’ Duke,” produced a song like no other at the time. It became an instant parody classic of the ’80s, eventually peaking at 73 on the 1985 R&B/Hip Hop Billboard charts. His subject? John Wayne. The Rappin’ Duke had kids in school yards trying to cleverly emulate the cowboy’s infectious “da-ha” laugh and trying to mimic Shawn Brown’s corner store-near-my-hometown-Ponderosa rap style: “So you think you’re bad, with your rap / Well I’ll tell ya pilgrim I started the crap.”
Fast forward to 2018 and “John Wayne” rap is being taken to a new level on UK hip hop duo Rebel ACA and The French Monkey Wrench’s first album, Sunday’s Cool, off Buttercuts Records. The first single, “John Wayne,” with video below, is rip-roaring with variegated sights and symbols representing everything across the board like DIY rap, jangle pop, and indie-acoustic chivalry. Teeming with Banksy art references and cerebral verse stealers (Instant gratification the freshest coffee and the best shopping in the best locations / Paid by touch, but we’re still not civil enough to touch, and be considerate enough), it’s as if The Beatles and The Beastie Boys got together to put on a dada art show.
The most unique quality that this video possesses is it’s ability to imply much more than what lyrics and music represent on the surface. I haven’t watched Rebel ACA or the French Monkey Wrench live, but from this animation, I already know that they will go down in history as performance artists more than they will be remembered as “rappers” because of how they choose to live their lives. It is performance not just through art, but in the way they choose to personify themselves through private personae and open interpretation, something Daft Punk and Deadmau5 have mastered.
“John Wayne” is just the teaser for the rest of the album. Supple breaks carry our ears from one track to the next, and while not pressingly political, the album does tackle some hard-pressing issues and ideology, like in “Living in a Mad World,” a song remixed by Lil Rossco that discusses the emotions of young girls who are torn apart by family riffs, and “Swingaboo,” a song about how immigrants are unfairly edged out of this country and still rise up with dignity.
We think Sunday’s Cool is pure magic, but you should give it a listen for yourself: