Going against the flow

Minneapolis-based group Ruthless combine rock and hip-hop unsuccessfully

Megan Kadrmas

Ruthless, a hip-hop hybrid group out of the Twin Cities, created a sound not often heard in the world of rap.

The band uses bass-heavy beats and predictable rhyme patterns to create the hip-hop feel, but also incorporates stinging guitar riffs and vocals that boarder on yelling, reflecting the sound popular in current hard rock music.

On their sophomore album, “Strawberry,” the group shows that they still have to work to incorporate these two diverse pools of music into a smooth sound.

This brand of rock and hip-hop fusion has been dubbed by outsiders as a Midwest creation. But what does this say about the Midwest and its thriving and diverse hip-hop community?

“Strawberry” CD Release Party
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Foundation nightclub
TICKETS: $7, all ages, www.foundationmpls.com

Ruthless sounds aggressive, using electric guitars and melodies more common to hard rock music. They are reminiscent of Limp Bizkit, but missed the popularity of that and other bands by about six years.

They sound angry, with song titles like “Eat Shit, Bitch.” The chorus on this song basically consists of this line being yelled by their deep-voiced vocalist, again resembling Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, over and over. As catchy as it may sound, Ruthless relies on the noise and anger they are projecting through the guitars and yelling, rather than using their lyrics to express this angst.

The Midwestern hip-hop scene, in contrast, is characterized by its intelligent rappers and unique beats. Producers work hard to find samples

of common and obscure sounds to incorporate into their beats, turning hip-hop instrumentals into their own art form. Rappers strain their brains to use a

wide range of vocabulary to

eloquently express their ideas.

By no means is all hip-hop eloquent. Turn on the radio and there are thousands of examples of rappers using thinly-veiled pop songs with prefabricated beats and trite rhymes to inflate their images.

However, at the pure and original core of the hip-hop culture, rap is supposed to eloquently and intelligently relate a story or idea.

The problem with Ruthless is not that they are using expletive language and are therefore not being eloquent. Sometimes emotions are best expressed by dropping a few four-letter-words.

The problem is that Ruthless uses swear words to mask that their lyrics fail at relating emotions. The four-letter words on “Strawberry” sound hollow and fake because the emotions behind them are not being accurately expressed.

When the hip-hop community began to take shape and gain force during the late 1970s and early 1980s, rap was literally an acronym for rhythm and poetry.

“Strawberry” has rhythm, but the guitar and rock theme seems to detract from the music rather than to add anything constructive to it. There are many hip-hop groups on the local scene right now attempting to incorporate live band aspects into their music. Ruthless has not figured out how to effortlessly blend the increasingly distant worlds of rap and rock yet. The rock aspects of their music sound like a painstaking effort to differentiate themselves from the rest of the community.

Ruthless’ rhymes fall far short of poetry. There are a few points on “Strawberry” where their lyrics almost hit a poetic and eloquent level. Again, however, the aggressiveness of the rock sound detracts from the impact of these graceful moments and they miss the poetic mark. Rap’s intelligence does not come so much from what is trying to be said, but from how it is being related.