Music

Target Practice

Curt Muska is the Governor of Illa Noise

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Boise hip-hop artist Curt Muska has never been shot at, but he hopes the lyrics from his song badmouthing 50 Cent's teeth will provoke the famous rapper to fire a few rounds at him. Why? Because he figures taking a bullet will help him land a record deal.

Muska has recorded two CDs and Droppin' 50 Cent includes the song designed to get him pumped full of lead. It is heavily influenced by the style of deceased rapper ODB. "When ODB raps," Muska said, "his voice sticks out from all the other rappers. I was really interested in that." On the album, Muska imitates the voices of celebrities such as Christopher Walken and Katherine Hepburn, but creates a rap voice all his own. Staying true to ODB, the lyrics tend to be loud and nonsensical.

On his second album, The Gospel According to Johnny Depp, Muska concentrates on storytelling and manipulating the English language. "I'm a big nerd when it comes to playing with words," he said. The interest in wordplay also extends to the name of his band, The Governor of Illa Noise. It designates him the leader of ill (that is, fresh) noise, while capitalizing on the pun evoked by splitting the state's name into two words. Muska also points out the ironic twist, "There's nothing more un-hip-hop than a white politician." All the songs featured on The Gospel According to Johnny Depp refer to a story Muska created about the titular actor. They also provide a cryptic metaphor for the Bible. Muska believes people familiar with the gospel will understand the allusion and everyone else will simply take it at face value.

A born-again Christian, Muska insists the album is not for or against religion. "I don't really get into anyone's face or anything. I just think it's beautiful and fits in with hip-hop," he said. He credits the references to ancient writings found in songs of The Wu-Tang Clan as a major influence on his album. The Wu-Tang Clan is one of the 22-year-old's favorite rap groups. Muska used to work at the now-defunct Pi (he recently started a new job at The Reef), and proudly remembers his encounter there with the RZA, the Wu Tang's head producer/DJ. Muska records all his own beats, and often imitates the RZA's style. He says, "I might as well not lie about it. I just pretty much just try to sound like the RZA."

Muska dropped out of high school in 1998 to pursue his passion for skateboarding. Although not a professional, he filmed skateboarding videos in California until a serious knee injury sidelined him. He earned his GED in 2000 and is now a freshman at Boise State University.

When we sat down to talk, he impressed me with his vast knowledge of the current hip-hop scene and the myriad ways art, politics and history have shaped it. He readily discussed international hip-hop, noting the abundance of good Spanish rap. Muska also described the similarities between modern-day hip-hop and the techniques used by authors and visual artists in the 1950s. Sampling, recycling art and cut-up art applies to hip-hop," Muska said, "It just trickled down. William S. Burroughs wrote a lot about sampling and punk rock before it ever happened."

Despite Muska's deep affinity for hip-hop culture, 60s tunes are his first love. Tommy James, the Temptations, and Detroit's Motown music top his list. He started listening to jazz and classical at age 13, and has experimented with a variety of instruments. He admits listening to MC Hammer and Warrant as a kid, and credits his older brother Brian with introducing him to Jane's Addiction and other alternative groups.

Muska wants to take his show on the road someday away from his sporadic performances at the Neurolux and JD & Friends, but a lack of new material prevents him from playing more often. "It takes me a long time to memorize my stuff. Hip-hop is really wordy, obviously, so I try to put pop hooks in there to take up some space. But that doesn't necessarily help much," he conceded. Muska once dressed like a Mormon missionary while rapping gangster-style songs and wore a bicycle helmet the entire time he was onstage. The audience responded positively, but the singer/songwriter still prefers recording to performing. "I get super-amped while making an album," he said "and then as soon as it's over, I get depressed. The process is my favorite part."

At the end of our meeting, I asked permission to snap a few photos to sell to Vibe after 50 Cent shoots him. Muska answered by pulling silver caps from his bag, snapping them over his white teeth and smiling brightly for the camera.

Check out The Governor of Illa Noise this Thursday at JD & Friends, 1519 W Main St., 336-3982. Or listen to his music at www.myspace.com.

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