The Fishtown rapper Yikes The Zero’s playing Tetris at Barcade. He drops a yellow backward L alongside a blue square, slips a red column into the left side of one of those green zig-zag things. He’s killing time before his security guard shift at Union Transfer. When not clocked in, Yikes raps and make beats. Friday night, he’s performing at Kung Fu Necktie (where he also barbacks) to celebrate his new self-released album, A Kid and His Monsters.
“I was the weirdo of the family,” says Yikes, strategically lowering a magenta L Tetrimino. “I used to hide my rhymes ’cause my brother would make fun of me. As I got older, me and my friends would drive around in the whip, drink 40s and freestyle. Then we’d freestyle at parties, and I stopped being afraid to rhyme.”
The name Yikes comes from others rappers doubting him, as in, “Yikes! No way this dude raps!”
“I’d walk into a cypher, and cats were skeptical,” Yikes recalls. “Maybe I didn’t look menacing enough, didn’t look like a typical rapper. I was always the underdog. Eventually, I just had to snatch that shit, then everybody liked my style. But I still haven’t really proven myself. Sometimes I tell people about my music, and they just walk away.”
This self-criticism appears throughout Monsters, often comically, in the different characters Yikes embodies. “This fuckin’ Yikes,” he says in a high-pitched voice at the end of “They Don’t Rock.” “Fucking jerk bag. Is he still around? Is he still doing that stupid shit? Fucking rapping all over the place?”
“I try to be anamorphic and switch it up,” Yikes says about his vocal style. Like the Madlib alter-ego Quasimoto, he sometimes raps like he’s been sucking helium. Then, on “Cassette Euphony,” he spits bizarro bars with a monotone flow: “Lunging, here come the dragons from out the dungeon, it’s a hundred to one, if they keep coming, let it rain, couldn’t fuck with Yikey when venom is in the brain.”
“I’m the kid, and I’m walking down the street with a bag full of madness,” he says about Monsters, slipping a quarter into the machine to start a game of Double Dragon. “It’s Brothers Grimm-type shit—weird fairytales that are playful and dark, depending on how deep you dig.”
The beats Yikes crafted for Monsters use samples from whatever caught his ears: movies, TV shows, operas, symphonies, Afrofunk choruses, Black Sabbath riffs, shattering glass. And an unidentifiable, monstrous noise lingers across the 14 tracks—some sort of howling, rumbling, clamoring, crashing distortion.
“If I catch a bus driving by my house or a kid saying something, I’ll record it,” he says, delivering a spin-kick to the Double Dragon Level 2 boss’ head. “Sometimes, accidents happen. Sometimes they don’t mean shit; other times they’re beautiful. I’ve had whole songs that were accidents that work out perfectly. I guess I’m lucky.”
Fri., July 27, 7:30pm. $5. Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St. 215.291.4919. kungfunecktie.com.
Rusted Root's eclectic mix hits Coda