10/26/2012 02:33 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

AfroPunk Album Review: The Dead Dumb Happy Life

The Dead Dumb Happy Life - Volumes I & II are a reflection of the life of songwriter and vocalist Xavier Dphrepaulezz, otherwise known as Blood Sugar X, formerly Blood Sugar, and his journey from his beginnings as a hip-hop/punk/alternative rock artist, through the music industry and the fantasy-like reality of achieving overnight success working with artists like The Times, Arrested Development and Al Jarreau, to his spiral into what he calls "the mentally damaging game of the music biz" that reached its culmination when he was in a near-fatal car accident that left him in a coma for three weeks, where he emerges out of the other side and into recovery, self-evaluation and the subsequent change in priorities that accompanies the lucky ones who don't die in the process.

Blood Sugar X "Stupid Expectations," from The Dead Dumb Happy Life, Volume I

Described by Malcolm Spellman, screenwriter and close friend of Dphrepaulezz, the albums come "from the perspective of a grown-up" and are "fucking honest." Cynical and self-deprecating, and an emotionally powerful transformation of life in the fast lane before it all comes crashing down, The Dead Dumb Happy Life - Volume I opens with the very apt song "Problems In My Head," which sounds in every way like screaming voices inside his head, where one can easily imagine him clutching his head in pain as the demons take over, sweeping him away and destroying his confidence, and his fight to get through rejection from an industry that once easily embraced him.

The second track "A Big Ass Rat" is a pit-friendly, straight-up punk rock song about politics, American life and the pursuit of happiness through success and making more money. "Have I Said Too Much," the third song on the album, is a funny story of a girl he's passionately attracted to and tired of masturbating over because she only has sex with herself in the mirror, as he asks if he's given too much information and if it's made people uncomfortable.

After his foray into the sound and style of punk rock, Blood Sugar X goes internal with the soulful fourth track "Pray." With lyrics like "Yesterday is gone forever" and "... this could be your last chance," it is slow, emotional, beautiful and reflective as he implores himself to "Take a little time to pray" and asks others "Can't you see me when I'm falling?" Clearly a song about his recovery from the car accident and subsequent coma and his battle overcoming his fall in the industry, he tells us "Medication works so well/Running through me can't you tell," as he pleads for help and understanding.

The fifth track on the album, "I Can See You" is another soulful "I'm okay/I'm okay" reminder he's barely getting through it. With lyrics like "I've traveled so far and now I need to rest" and "Brainwash. Exploitation," he's reassuring and cynical on the outside, while being ripped apart on the inside by an industry that betrayed him. This is the most powerful song on the album, his 40-something mid-life transition from youth into adulthood where there's no turning back. He sarcastically tells the ones who are left, "Don't wait up/Turn out the light" and finishes with the acknowledgement "I can see you laughing in my --" "I can see you standing in my... light."

And after that sobering bit of reality, "Stupid Expectations" steps in to lighten the mood. It is fast, punk, cynical, sarcastic and blunt about the stupid expectations we place on ourselves and others over someone else's version of a better life. "Everybody wants you to be what they want you to be" and "You should be what you want to be," while he basically says 'fuck you' to all of it, walking away to live life on his terms. The seventh track, "Attack Mode," is a funky, trippy, cool, instrumental with a 1960s vibe that sounds like a call to pass a joint and just chill out after the craziness.

With a disco-like sound of the late '70s, early '80s, the eighth track "Innocence" revs up the dance vibe again to lead us into the ninth track on the album, "Sleeping Disorder," a slow build-up to an emotional frenzy reflecting his turmoil that results in his insomnia. Slow, then fast, then slow again, it's a balanced ebb and flow of tension between half-sleep and mania.

Which leads to the final track on Volume I, "Use A Fucking Condom." Reminiscent of 1980s Prince, I mean, really reminiscent of Prince in the '80s, it's a fast dance pop song that's funny in its after-school-special truthfulness. With lyrics like, "And if you want to get some head/Use a fucking condom" and "Especially if you pay for it," it is a lighter, fun way to end the album before beginning the more serious music in Volume II.

I"m Sorry by Blood Sugar X

Blood Sugar X "I'm Sorry" from The Dead Dumb Happy Life, Volume II

The Dead Dumb Happy Life - Volume II is a darker, stronger, more emotionally powerful journey through the demons themselves. Where Volume I is more upbeat punk and alternative, Volume II is pure R&B and soul, with heavy bass, drums and guitar riffs.

Opening with the track "I'm Sorry," he apologizes for getting caught up in the rat race and being an asshole. Old school rap mixed with funk, punk and humor, it speaks the powerful lyrics, "I'm sorry I lost my soul/My self-respect/But baby things are complicated" as the black girls dismiss him as just "... another brother selling us out," until all he has left is his remorse and the lessons learned.

The second track, "Freaky Tales" is about the plight of America and the world and all the stories he could tell, from "... a back politician and a stripper from hell," to "People incarcerated," to the American bloodlust that leads to his frustrated acceptance and the declaration of "Let's kill someone/Let's kill someone/Let's kill someone" in the end. This is a funky dance tune with a cool rap and a scary underlying message to kill someone, anyone, whether it be their career, their reputation or their physical life, since that's what we [Americans] do best.

In the third track, "Line For The Confused," his girlfriend is breaking up with him while he's in the studio "... trying to lay some tracks down" and he's lost patience with "Another day of wasted time." Stepping away from the humor for a moment, the fourth track, "Jesus Help Me Now" opens with an a cappella rap just before a single guitar accompaniment. It is an emotional cry for help to get through the medication and recovery from his hospitalization. The plea is evident throughout the lyrics, music and tone, and the guitar riff at the end is insane in its intensity and power.

And then another funny, but truthful confession of the pressures surrounding him and the lifestyle he's outgrown, the fifth track, "Everybody Smokes Weed In Oakland" is about, well, smoking weed in Oakland, Calif., and his contempt for the entire scene. Reminiscent of early Beastie Boys, with a nod to Eminem, it combines rap and humor to ask the question "Tell me why everybody smokes weed in Oakland?" as he turns away from it.

Bringing us back to pure R&B and soul, the sixth track, "Honey Child" is the perfect date song. With its slow, sexy sound about love and the woman he longs for, and the anger and frustration of her rejection, at one point he admits "I even sent you an email saying fuck you." Yeah, I know, I said it was the perfect date song, if you don't actually think about the lyrics.

To bring us back to his journey now that he's removed all the toxic people and things from his former life and goes through his recovery from the bullshit of the music industry, he reflects on actually being in the coma with the seventh track on the album, "Lights Out." Fast rap, great beat, with a slower chorus, he tells the story of "... the tubes in my mouth/And I'm feeling lights out" and "Two weeks out/And I'm still lights out," as if he's still confused by the entire ordeal.

Closing out the album with "People Call Me Crazy," a mellow rock song with heavy guitar riffs about his emergence into his new life and the newfound knowledge he discovered the hard way, he flat-out tells us "I know what I'm talking about;" an appropriate ending for anyone going through a mid-life transition, struggle and recovery when life knocks him on his ass and he's determined to break through and try again.

Lights Out by Blood Sugar X

Blood Sugar X "Lights Out," from The Dead Dumb Happy Life, Volume II