"What's the difference between me and you?" asks Felix, Heiruspecs' MC, in "Two Fold". "About thirty-two books, a haircut, and some shoes...I don't hate on anyone, but I do have extremely high standards for art," he continues, thus setting up the bizarre contradiction that burns under A Tiger Dancing
. Felix and the rest of his St. Paul-based crew have joined a braggadocio rap style with organic instrumentation so successfully that you'd swear the two have always gone together.
In a twisted mobius strip line of logic, Heiruspecs, by taking hip-hop to the next evolutionary step of adding live instruments played to sound like computerized instruments, have actually devolved toward a time when people tried to figure out how to make computerized instruments sound like human players. Make sense? So when MC Muad'Dib makes his voice sound like a turntable bending a sampled countdown of the numbers five to zero on "5ves", little does he know that he's completing a circular timeline of a unique American art form, tucking its tail into its mouth like a snail shell that wraps into itself. This is all well and good, but it ain't worth a damn if the music sucks. Bonus: A Tiger Dancing is fucking excellent.
On title track, Felix and Muad'Dib spout, "Often we clown and get around like Tupac, but still find the time to rip the shit wide open like one of Hulk Hogan's tank tops." Beneath the lyrics, bassist Twinkie Jiggles, keyboardist dVRG and drummer Peter Leggett lay down an organic groove that's rigid enough to resemble a complex electronic loop, but they hold it in the pocket in a way no machine could. Like Felix's lyrics, the music has its feet in two musical camps at once; it's clichéd and derivative, but it also transcends the genre by re-imagining it, copying it or paying homage to it.
If Heiruspecs work as hard at promoting their art through touring and publicity as they do at creating it, their future will be very bright indeed. Songs like "32 Months" prove that there are still plenty of new ways to combine urban poetry with drums and bass. The superior "Lie to Me" structures itself after indie/emo rock more than hip-hop, using a restrained verse of incendiary lyrics to preface a huge chorus of melancholy strings and a ridiculous drum beat. It's powerful, clever, and you can dance to it.