I used to love rap-rock. LOVED IT. Limp Bizkit, POD, Linkin Park, Papa Roach; Anything that was vaguely hard rock and vaguely rapping was decidedly my shit from ages 11 to 15 (ESPECIALLY Papa Roach. I think I saw Papa Roach five times between ages 13 and 14. I can remember being in the lunch room at my high school and having a conversation about how the second Papa Roach album wasn’t as good as the first one because there was less rapping. I kicked ass).
I moved on from the genre and it seemed like most people moved on with me, but I’ve always assumed that rap-rock was still be out there somewhere. I mean, over six million people bought a copy of Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. Fan bases like that don’t just disappear. It isn’t like Twenty One Pilots aren’t out here.
It is through this specific, limited perspective that I come to A Better Class of Criminal, a decidedly throwback rap-rock outfit from Philadelphia. Its 2014 ep, The Here and Now, is closer to the Chronic Future / Incubus end of the rap-rock spectrum in that its songs are more about technicality than brutality, and its perspective is more positive than certain other hallmarks of the genre. It does some interesting things with the form, too; “The Unexcused” head-fakes like it’s going to be a ballad before kicking into some Seether-style hard rock. “Brittle” has the guitar wanking and group harmonies of an 80s pop-metal outfit. At all turns, it balances out its harder instincts with well-executed pop sensibilities (it’s catchy, is what I’m saying).
Generally speaking, The Here and Now delivers a little more on the “rock” than the “rap” aspect of its genre, but there’s nothing here that would sound of out place on the hard rock stations of yesterday (or today, for that matter). A Better Class of Criminal is an interesting trip into a rock genre that, at least in my limited experience, has gone completely underground despite its wide-arm aspirations.
A Better Class of Criminal is on Bandcamp.