Irv Da Phenom is one of the more recognized names in the Kansas City hip hop scene. He doesn’t have the name recognition of Tech N9ne, but if you’ve been to a few shows and generally stay up with the local scene, chances are you’ve seen Irv play somewhere, or at least heard his name batted around with some other up-and-comers. So it figures then, that Irv’s new project deserves at least a few listens. It’s called Who The F#@K Is Irv Da Phenom and it does indeed answer that question, but I’m not so sure it’s the answer Irv was looking for.
Irv clearly has a high opinion of himself. He calls himself a Phenom, which perhaps shows a basic misunderstanding of the concept of phenomenon. A phenom would be peculiar or special in some way, and while Who The F#@K Is Irv Da Phenom is certainly peculiar, it is in no way special. Thinking back on the album, not a single rhyme sticks out to me. There was never a moment where I enjoyed a turn of phrase, or felt a beat really catch me. No “wow” factor. Not even once. Well, not from Irv – GLC has a verse that’s pretty nice but when it’s done we’re right back to mediocre.
Let’s take track 3 for example. It’s called “Sex Appealin”, a phrase which is inexplicably turned into a verb by the ever eloquent and grammatically immaculate Irv (I’m no enemy of making up words and repurposing phrases, but that’s just not even close to good). The track is completely unimaginative. The hook is a straight rip from Ke$ha, the beat is the bastard stepchild of “Sexy Back” and the rhymes are predictable, mundane, and uninteresting. What makes it all a bit worse is how overhyped Irv gets about himself. It’s overhyped braggadocio, an inflated sense of worth, and absurd self-promotion.
That style isn’t always bad though, Watch The Throne being exhibit A. But the catch here is that before you can participate in brag rap, you must first prove that you have something to brag about. Jay and ‘Ye can talk about gold toilets and the MoMA because, well, they’re Jay and ‘Ye. They’ve done their time in the trenches of hip-hop, crafting legendary verses about relevant things and grinding out beats that have shaped a generation of artists. Irv’s big ego does not earn him a spot in the brag rap rotation, and neither does his overblown radio music. Who The F#@K Is Irv Da Phenom is a stripper anthem at its best, and a corner mixtape at it’s worst.