There's a lot to like about New York City-based rap trio Hangar 18.
There's the fact that they're signed to the always-entertaining Definitive Jux label, which means heavyweight hip-hop labelmates EL-P and Aesop Rock approve. There's the fact that they can rattle off a four-bar rhyme faster than you can intake and exhale a single breath. And then there's the endearing little fact that they don't take themselves too seriously.
That one's always fun. To wit: In 2004, with a self-deprecating faux bravado, the trio lyricists Ian "Windnbreeze" McMullin and Tim "Alaska" Baker, plus beat master Paul "DJ Pawl" Iannacchino titled its first Def Jux release The Multi-platinum Debut Album.
Funny (and hilariously inaccurate), it set a high bar for the band when it came to naming its second release.
"We were gonna name it The Follow-up to the Multi-platinum Debut Album or The Highly Anticipated Follow-up Album to the Debut Album," McMullin says between laughs.
Eventually, the group named its second disc, released Oct. 23, Sweep the Leg, after a line from one of the group's favorite movies, The Karate Kid.
"It's a cult, great movie," McMullin says.
Swap the word "group" for "movie" in McMullin's statement, and he might as well be describing Hangar 18.
In a hip-hop world recently diluted with Soulja Boys and Sean Kingstons, Hangar 18 is likely screwed. It'll never top the Billboard hip-hop charts, its songs don't come with YouTube dance clips, and its beats aren't ready-made as cell-phone ring tones. But hip-hop heads will likely appreciate the music itself.
Sweep the Leg shows Hangar 18 recalling the days of "Brass Monkey" and "Mama Said Knock You Out." The wordplay and positive vibes make Sweep the Leg a fun album, a party album meant to be played loud and danced to.
If that makes Hangar 18 an outcast in today's hip-hop world or on its own label, where it remains the lone party-anthem producer then so be it.
"The [other] folks on Jux, they seem to be dark emcees," McMullin says. "That's the thing with labels. Diversity is really important."
OK, but let's not ignore the similarities. Iannacchino's beats aren't too off from the others produced by Def Jux they're synth-heavy, just less doom-and-gloomy. And McMullin and Baker's flows have got the snake-like wind of their labelmates only theirs are faster, and less introspective. That the group is able to do this without alienating fans loyal to the Def Jux sound is impressive.
"Kids who are into darker music, you know, they want to have a good time [too]," McMullin says. "You don't want to be dark forever."
That awareness is just another reason to like Hangar 18. And, if McMullin is to be believed, you can add the act's live show to that list of reasons.
"It's gonna be songs off our record, so it's gonna be ripping," he says of Hangar 18's upcoming show at The Black Sheep, while again laughing at his own confidence.
"It's gonna be awesome."
Hangar 18 with Glue, Audio Input and Ecid
The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.
Monday, Nov. 12, 8 p.m
Tickets: $10; visit ticketweb.com or call 866/468-7621.