(Rounder Records, CD)
Possibly the hardest-working man in local hip-hop, Kyle Thompson -- a.k.a. Fattie Bumballattie, a.k.a. Fattie B. -- is a one-man industry. A legend in Vermont's "urban" music community, his 10-plus years on the scene have yielded a body of work that would be the envy of many national acts. Thompson's new 23-track retrospective CD, What's the Smelly Lelly?, features brand-new cuts as well as personal favorites hand-picked by the rapper.
Raised in Bristol, Thompson seems an unlikely candidate for hip-hop glory. White, rural and overweight, the MC and DJ nonetheless became a major force in the '90s Burlington-area music explosion. Work with acid-jazz titans Belizbeha brought Thompson to the top of the local music heap, giving him a chance to hone his distinctive baritone flow. Thompson's hip-hop combo Eye Oh You -- also featuring DJ A-Dog -- was a hugely popular college act, and his current group, Three the Hard Way, is on the rise. But Thompson hasn't been stingy with his success, giving other acts exposure through his seven-volume compilation series Hop.
Much more than a "best of," What's the Smelly has all the wit, style and attitude Fattie fans have come to expect. Guest appearances from Jennifer Hartswick, Nastee, Kat Goduco, Konflik and Craig Mitchell give the disc an all-in-the-Burlington-family feel. The disc's smooth-as silk-production goes down easy, but is never cheap or tacky. While the beats don't stray far from the hip-hop rulebook, they nonetheless sound fantastic.
"Never Say Never" is an edgy affair with gravelly production well-matched by Thompson's lyrical sparring. The hilarious "People Like Me" features a parade of commentators dissing the rapper over '70s cop show funk. Although a novelty track, it's still a priceless example of small-town shit-talking.
The coy, sexy "Sowing the Stone," featuring Kat Goduco, gets under your skin immediately. Gentle vinyl crackles and low-key funk vamps give the tune an understated chic, while Goduco's spoken word passages are sleek and feisty.
Thompson himself has developed a compelling mike style, bobbing and weaving with a confidence that can only come from experience. The Belizbeha tracks sound somewhat dated, but it's interesting to hear how much the rapper has evolved. Formerly a bit static, he's now fluid, rhythmic and tonally rich. He's also rebounded from serious health issues and has lost 115 pounds in the past year.
A solid slice of feel-good hip-hop, What's the Smelly is simply terrific. Join Thompson and a bevy of special guests Friday, January 28, for a CD release party at Nectar's.