The Notorious MSG are back on the streets with their third album, Heavy Ghetto. Chinatown NYC is the setting; hard-hitting raps and meaty guitar riffs are the soundtrack. The players are Hong Kong Fever “The Ringleader,” Down-Lo Mein “The Yello Gigolo,” and The Hunan Bomb “Killing Machine.” Together they make up the heavily accented, well-muscled trio of Original Chinatown Bad Boys that will “make your ass hairs sizzle.” Think NWA meets biker gang, but sporting bowl cuts and Asian perms.
Mixed by Joel Hamilton (Blakroc, Matisyahu, Dub Trio) and mastered by “Big Bass” Brian Gardner (Beck, 50 Cent, Queens of the Stone Age), Heavy Ghetto remains true to MSG’s trademark energetic style but integrates heavier rock ingredients, realizing a fuller, more developed sound. Lyrically, Notorious MSG doesn’t stray far from rhymes about food, swag, and street cred (pretty much anything eschewing the model minority image is fair game).
Here's a subject many a listener will relate to: “Red Tonight” is a celebratory anthem to extreme Asian glow, and a rallying cry for crimson comrades to lift their flushed faces high.
There is some softer fare as a counterpoint to often aggressive tracks, including “Lonely G” (a love ballad in similar spirit to fan-favorite “Dim Sum Girl”), and “Chinese Jeans” -- an ode to elasticity and fit done in the style of a Chinese folk song.
Notorious MSG risks being seen as offensive or a schtick act, but the group steamrolls over caricature by taking the stereotypical Asian male script and flipping it upside down and into overdrive. Going on the offensive, their musical delivery is testosterone-fueled and unapologetically irreverent, which feels energizing. What makes MSG more than a gimmick is that they are accessibly political, funny as hell, and their music is good -- as in head-nodding and danceable.
Whether you interpret Heavy Ghetto as a sociopolitical reclamation of fobby accents and bowl cuts in service to Asian male empowerment, or just want to rock out to big pimpin’ party music, MSG knows how to bring the noise.
A true test of any group’s mettle is their on-stage presence, and Notorious MSG is a package deal. To fully appreciate their modus operandi, one may have to experience a live show (where you can scream along after memorizing the album). Check out the Heavy Ghetto release party on June 10 at Brooklyn Bowl, only five bucks. Did I mention a standard MSG performance comes with coordinated dance moves and shirt-ripping? More details and tickets here.