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Year of the Weerdo: Hollyweerd

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If Hollyweerd spent the majority of 2008 trying to convince Atlanta that its immediate underground success was justified, '09 figures to be the second coming of the Weerdos.

The eclectic combo of Dreamer, Tuki, the Love Crusader, and sax man Staggo Lee has gelled over the past six months, and their newly released mixtape, Electricity Showroom, showcases that emerging identity.

"Karl Tutymer," the last track on Hollyweerd's fall 2008 mixtape, Edible Phat, features Dreamer's near-perfect parody of '80s R&B star Alexander O'Neal in parking lot pimpin' mode.

With a voice wavering between faux baritone and testosterone, Dreamer sings, "I ain't got time, I can keep it movin'/you got my number text me if you wanna do it." The song did more to separate the group from the city's pack of new wave acts than anything released prior.

On the new Electricity Showroom mixtape, they seem to pick up in the spirit of "Karl Tutymer," expounding on their mainstream sound with an arty collage of film clip interludes, '80s-inspired R&B/funk, and stank-love literally rapped around catchy-as-hell hooks.

From the outset, Tuki re-establishes his nothing-to-lose-something-to-prove, breathless flow on "Violet." Staggo Lee extends his jazzy contribution beyond the limitations of his alto sax with an expanded vocal role ("Carnivale Et Stag"). Even the Love Crusader seems less like a fifth wheel than the quiet, mysterious guy in a boy band full of brashness.

Meanwhile, the Dreamer continues to show off his range of influences with "Kodack," – his lo-fi, melodic take on indie-rocker fare.

They're still big flirts, attending to the ladies on such cuts as "Spend the Night pt. 2" and "All in Your Smile." But for all the OutKast comparisons they received early on, Hollyweerd has seemingly discovered its own HOV lane. And from the sounds of it, they're sandwiched somewhere between the Pharcyde and Rick James.

"Just think, a year ago we were considered music infants," Tuki raps on "Mandatory Mandate," the standout track on Electricity Showroom. Needless to say, the babies of Atlanta's new wave underground have come a long way.

The guys themselves seem conspicuously aware of their growing prowess on "Day N Nite (Wiimix)" when one raps: "'Cause in '09/there shouldn't be a reason why we ain't signed." Whether that happens amid the insufferable industry climate is anyone's guess, but Hollyweerd should be a thrill to watch in 2009, regardless.

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