Pittsburgh rap duo Grand Buffet mixes it up, serving witty lyricism

On the tongue-in-cheek paean, “Americus (Religious Right Rock),” irrepressible, wiseass rap duo Grand Buffet suggests that, “We think abortion is pretty messed-up / If you don’t want a kid, then don’t be a slut.”

Whether heralding that child labor or wondering “who tried to rid the woods of free-thinking dudes who cuss too much and do no good,” Jarrod Weeks ” aka Lord Grunge ” and emcee Jackson O’Connell-Barlow ” aka Grape-a-Don ” will not abide.

Lacking the self-serious gene carried by most of its kind, Pittsburgh’s Grand Buffet clowns and busts caps with lighthearted mien and loose-limbed lyricism. Drawn to rap by old-school pioneers Public Enemy, Run-DMC, The Fat Boys and Beastie Boys, the pair alternates between science and the silly. For example of the latter, “Stocking Stuffer” imagines Santa Claus as a back-door man with an “Indecent Proposal.”

FOURTH WALL
Even when the subject matter isn’t jumping in your face, they are, getting close and personal, breaking the fourth wall and directly engaging their audience, one-on-one.

“We’ve been a band for so long, I don’t remember exactly why we started doing a more ‘in-your-face’ style of performance,” Weeks said. “When we started out, we were always playing with rock bands and metal bands and shit, in these insane dive bars in and around Pittsburgh. This was before white rappers were a commonplace thing. We had to do something to get through to the crowd without just getting hated on or assaulted. So we started busting balls. It seemed to work. It still does. Mostly.”

Weeks, who fashions the synth-heavy, dance floor-flavored beats, met O’Connell-Barlow while they were in high school, and have worked together ever since. Said O’Connell-Barlow, “We don’t have the finances to execute a proper ‘creative differences’ period in our career.”

Although they began making music together in 1996, the pair’s first official release didn’t come until 2000’s “Sparkle Classic.” A self-released trio of EPs followed, as did 2008’s full-length, “King Vision.”

Rife with mirth and deprecation, Grand Buffet occasionally steps up on the soapbox. “Total Control,” with its gangsta groove, savages subservience to The Man, suggesting “You think it can’t be changed / It’s what keeps you in your fucking cage.”

While O’Connell-Barlow and Weeks have been working on solo material much of the past year, they recently returned to a co-op mode to prepare for their next release.

“I’ve been learning new tricks outside of music for the last year, and also learning new recording software,” O’Connell-Barlow said. “Bits and pieces of new music are starting to accumulate. As far as subject matter, I definitely don’t want to make another ‘King Vision,’ but sonically, it will be the logical evolution.”

Grand Buffet with Balthazar performs at 9 p.m. Tuesday at The Conservatory, 8911 N. Western. “Chris Parker

Chris Parker

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