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Album Review: New Boyz, 'Skinny Jeanz and a Mic'

September 15, 2009 | 11:50 am
NewBoyz240 “New Boyz do new things,” so goes the mantra of 17-year-old jerk-rap kingpins New Boyz, who catapulted to nationwide fame earlier this year with the smash single “You’re a Jerk." The song began as a viral Internet sensation among the high school set, and ended with the Victorville, Calif.,  duo earning a deal with Asylum Records, ultimately emerging as avatars for the biggest dance trend since Soulja Boy’s “Crank That,” all before graduating high school.

“Skinny Jeanz and a Mic,” the first full-length the jerkin’ movement has yielded, successfully strikes a balance between introducing a new sound (the minimalist bass-heavy bounce of jerk music) and style (skinny jeans, Vans and “colors that ain’t even on the rainbow”), with traditional teenage themes (girls, the desire for self-expression, adults who don’t understand, girls). The result is a West Coast antidote to the South’s veritable monopoly on homeroom rap -- a relentlessly breezy and fun ride through the lives of a pair of class clowns bent on enjoying the face cards that fate dealt.

Over the last 18 months, the rap ancien régime led by Jay-Z has inveighed against the younger generation’s tight pants and blindingly bright sartorial schemes, and opening track “Crickets” fires an immediate salvo back. Ben J and Legacy taunt their elders the way only brash teenagers can, sneering “Yeah, I rock skinnies, so what?” While “Dot Com” finds the duo labeling themselves “jerks” and “rejects,” both a double-entendre for the dance moves spurring the craze, and illustrative of their generation’s reclamation of formerly nerdy archetypes.

The album begins to lose circulation toward its end, when the pair lose their lambent wit in favor of mawkish lover-boy ballads better left to Sean Kingston albums. Meanwhile, the equation Ray J + Auto-Tune (the artist appears on “Tie Me Down”) would cause you to fail most math classes, thanks to a saccharine sappiness and contrived tone that feels at odds with the otherwise organic-sounding album. But absorbed holistically, “Skinny Jeanz and a Mic” is a catchy and charismatic debut that should engender pleasant teen nostalgia in anyone old enough to vote and help explain why for the last six months, the kids have been saying out with the old, in with the New Boyz.

-- Jeff Weiss

New Boyz
“Skinny Jeanz and a Mic”
Three stars