Mike Ladd

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As a recording artist, Mike Ladd’s work has always been daring and left-of-center. The Infesticons project on Big Dada examined a battle between rugged hip-hop torchbearers and the slick sound of the Majesticons. (Expect the third installment of this trilogy in the fall of 2008.) As a social critic, Ladd’s views have been equally eyebrow-raising. Go back to his 1997 debut album, Easy Listening For Armageddon, and listen to “I’m Building a Bodacious Bodega For The Race War”. Think about lines like “The I.R.S. is trying to bill us because they couldn’t kill us with crack.” Such theorizing could possibly get your phones tapped these days.

With that in mind, there is the temptation to compare Ladd’s move from Boston to France to former expatriates like James Baldwin and Richard Wright, who did the same. “I actually moved for personal reasons,” said Ladd via email. “What made Paris exciting in the 20th Century for all artists was the combustion of very old ways mixing with new technologies and shifting modes of thinking. That is happening elsewhere now, but Paris [is] a good place to raise kids.”

The Definitive Jux label has released his 2004 album Nostalgialator stateside, previously only available as a European import. “Though once an enormously cumbersome household appliance,” Ladd explained, “you can now get Nostalgialator in the form [of] a prescription pill.” This concept of coping mechanisms for an increasingly stressful world is the album’s undercurrent. It’s a blinding fusion of emotions and genres, from the sexy funk of “Housewives At Play” and spoken word reflections on “How Electricity Really Works” to the Bollywood-peppered punk of “Wild Out Day” and “Afrotastic”. Meanwhile, “Off To Mars” could translate just as easily in today’s political climate, reading as a jaded nation’s bon voyage to a lame duck President. “I suppose we should close with congratulations for your achievements,” Ladd sings. “All the war and pestilence, now you found new residence – gonna stay here with the rest. No please, just leave… we’ll clean up the mess.”

When asked if he’s surprised that Nostalgialator is as relevant now as when it was four years ago, he simply replied, “Unfortunately, no. My grandmother lived to 100, 1906-2006. In her 99th year, she told me there's a lot of window dressing, but deep down not that much changes, especially with people.” Regarding the current Presidential race, Ladd spoke positively of Barack Obama. “He's the best shot we have, I hope he wins. His winning would not be a miracle but finally something logical. Any incoming President surviving the total shit storm that Bush has created — and the avalanche of problems we have only seen the tip of — will be a miracle.”