The Kneehighs' new album, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction, opens as many hip-hop records do, with an introductory skit. A series of voice mail messages read by a robot voice reflect the dysfunction in the album's title and the silliness inherent in the local hip-hop trio's music: "Wow, John, let me guess, you're still trying to find your teeny-weeny zucchini to stroke," "Jesus, John, don't bother coming in, you're never fucking ready," "I don't understand why we always have to go through this shit," between coordinating tee times for a golf game.
A little background: The Kneehighs aren't spring chickens or newcomers to the San Diego scene. They released their debut album in 2005, and second album Rise & Shine in 2007. That was the last full-length the group released, and in music, nine years might as well be 90. So this album has been a long time coming, and while the silly voice-mail recordings of "dysFUNction" don't necessarily explain why the album took so long to materialize, it at least shows they're willing to laugh about it.
"Get There Soon" finds emcees DayDay, Talls and Dalton taking a slightly less jocular tone while addressing their long-awaited return, delivering a series of weirdly ironic high-speed verses about patience and short attention spans before landing on the hook: "I been waiting this long, I can wait another few." We Put the Fun in Dysfunction is here, however, and though I can't speak to the dysfunction, it's most certainly fun. With a style that leans heavily on í90s-era g-funk and backpacker tropes, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction isn't a nostalgia trip, but there's a breeziness about it that makes the record a delight throughout its 12 tracks.
The upbeat funk of "Let It Go Bye" recalls the surrealist wordplay of Aesop Rock, while "Slingshot" is stunt rapping of the highest order, the kind of head-spinning lyrical showcase that'll take a couple replays to fully absorb. "Future Speak," meanwhile, is the kind of jam worth cranking up with the windows down on a roast-y summer afternoon. I can't necessarily speak to any actual dysfunction that this team of hip-hop pranksters is guilty of, but I'm glad the album's here after all these years. It's light-hearted, good-natured rap mischief, the kind that's impossible to feel bad listening to.
The Kneehighs play at The Casbah on July 29.