MC Extra Cheese: Hardest Working Man in Hip-Hop
It can be difficult to know exactly what to make of MC Extra Cheese. The title of his latest effort sardonically proclaims him The 40-Year-Old-Rapper, but the album’s no joke. The apotheosis of smart-ass, weed-addicted man-children, MCEC is just as likely to rap about his financial woes (“don’t own a home, my car is mad old!”) and unrealistic sexual fantasies (“I’d love to get cozy, with Parker Posey”) as he is the usual rigmarole of self-aggrandizing bombast (“Oh shit! I shit another hit!”). It’s the latter category, of course, that should register as a gag—only it’s sufficiently alloyed by an older white guy’s self-consciousness that it doesn’t. Even when he’s inventorying all the indie actresses he’d like to seduce, Extra Cheese apologizes by way of a chorus that insists: “I’m just playin.” It’s this kind of touch that makes his material more interesting than the usual homeboy schtick. Recently, I got a chance to talk with Cheese about his new record, television show, and various side-projects. For an artist who raps about being fueled by “the power of weed,” he’s an uncanny dervish of activity.
I’ve always wondered about your name. Are you willing to divulge where it came from?
From the back of a bum’s tee-shirt back in 1986. It was at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon, where some sort of festival was going on. I was sitting on the grass, thinking I needed a rap name, and up stood this wino with EXTRA CHEESE printed across his back.
By the way, thanks for not using my government name. This will save my mother the embarrassment of having to publicly acknowledge her son as “the 40-year-old rapper,” and will spare both her and me a lot of heavy discussions about sex and drugs.
Your last album was the massive, 53-track ’86 GL. I expect that felt like a tough act to follow?
It actually has 52 tracks. My tag line for that album is: “52 tracks, 75 minutes, feels like 3 hours.” There are so many bombastic beats and prophetic lines on that record, but in retrospect I’m not sure it’s the masterpiece I thought it was at the time. Making that record was kind of like a colonic irrigation for me and my producer Nappy G. We were just getting a lot of beats and miscellaneous rhymes—mostly written while driving my 1986 Subaru GL hatchback—out of our systems.
After the scattered buckshot of ’86 GL, I wanted to do an album of concise, Internet-radio-friendly songs. So the new CD has just 14 tracks – all killer, no filler.
“IFC” is of course the track that grabbed my attention first. As a film critic I was impressed by your knowledge of contemporary actresses.
I’m glad you asked about that song. It is actually a parody of the early Notorious B.I.G. classic “Just Playin (Dreams),” which features Biggie Smalls name-checking all the “sexy singers” he wants to “sex”. I got the idea of doing an indie film take on it from my friend Kesime Bernard, who directed the video for “Very Lazy.” Per usual, Nappy G produced the track, and I provided the rhymes, but I should mention that Kesime also coined one of the best lines in the song – “Swell as I spread béchamel on Zoey Deschanel.” Thankfully, she’s also signed on to direct the video as well. Kesime, that is, not Zoey.
Speaking of which, the album is accompanied by some fourteen music videos and a TV pilot. How is it that you’re so prolific in that department?
Get suckers to work for free. We have a motto at my company, American Cheese Hole Enterprises, and it’s printed on my business cards: “We don’t pay talent.”
But seriously, a lot of very talented people have been very generous with their time and expertise. I get a great thrill from collaborating with other people, and I have been fortunate in somehow convincing a lot of incredible artists to get on board the Extra Cheese train.
Are you deliberately going for that Beastie-Boys-ca.-1987 look? There tend to be a lot of deliberately lo-fi visual effects and an all around sense of rowdy, gleeful partying.
I guess I’m just old school. I’m not going for any specific look or sound. I’m just being me. Who put this together? Me! Me and Nappy G!
But speaking of the Beastie Boys, I was at a bowling party last year, and MCA bit my bowling style. He didn’t stick with it, but he did try to bite for a minute. It’s true. This really happened. I got witnesses.
How about your side projects? I’ve seen you play with jazz group The Dred Scott Trio, and I understand you’ve got still another band as well.
The Dred Scott guys have had a weekly gig at the Rockwood Music Hall for years, and at least once a month I’ll perform a couple songs with them. In fact, we are about the release a live album, Prepare For Blast Off, that includes songs from those performances.
My other latest and perhaps greatest project is Tit-n-Twat. It’s a 2-person band consisting of me and my dear friend Sasha Dobson, who is well-known as a solo performer and is currently on tour with Norah Jones. She plays drums and I rap. We also sorta sing some harmonies together, which is something I’ve never done before. It’s awesome being in a band with a chick, especially when performing songs like “My Wife’s a Slut.” And Sasha is one of the most gifted and talented and fucking coolest musicians I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.
Any parting words for aspiring MC’s?
To quote my anthemic song, “When You’re on the Mic” from ’86 GL: “You shouldn’t be rapping.”
MC Extra Cheese plays Rose Live Music, Thursday, 9/30 @ 9pm. MCEC & The Dred Scott Trio will drop “Prepare for Blast Off” on 10/19 and play a midnight show at Rockwood Music Hall (photo courtesy of Johnny Shah)