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Who's this chubby cartoon white guy packed like bulk sausage into a wife beater and blue du-rag, and what methadone clinic did he loiter away from? If you stuck around FX after last night's Archer premiere, you met Chozen, star of Chozen, the new animated show from Grant DeKernion. A rapper wrongly imprisoned, Chozen (voiced by Bobby Moynihan) is finally done with his bid when the premiere opens and seeking revenge on the rapper who set him up. While his plan bubbles, he's crashing with his sister Tracy (voiced by Kathryn Hahn) at a liberal arts college. But don't stress too much about the setting; regardless of where a particular scene is playing out, this is a show that makes time for a fisting joke.
Chozen is a weird one. On the one hand, it seeks to shock the viewer with the crass behavior of every single character at every possible turn. But at the same time it respects that Chozen is gay, and none of the characters ever knock him for his sexual preferences. Which is great. (Still, someone needs to talk to the show's writers for how they conflate prison rape with pleasurable consensual sex. Something's not right there.)
The first two episodes of Chozen feel like familiar white rapper territory. Let's break it down: Before going upstate, Chozen is a bland rapper in an even blander crew known as the Phresh Phriends. Cue the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze soundtrack, we're approaching the Vanilla Ice paddock.
Note the bright colors worn by Chozen and his crew:
Upon emerging from prison, Chozen dresses just like Jamie Kennedy in Malibu's Most Wanted. Only thing Chozen's missing is the chain.
A free man, Chozen flexes his homosexuality with joy. That he at one point mimics John Cena (also a rapper) and his famous "You can't see me" gesture is perhaps a nod to the homoerotic spectacle of wrestling. Or maybe not. This show paints in pretty broad strokes. It might just be a reference for those of us keeping track on our white rapper stereotypes scorecards.
Chozen wants to get back into music, and, taking a cue from rapper Miley Cyrus, he incorporates teddy bears and twerking into his (fantasy) routines. He loves spectacle.
All of this indicates that the writers did some of their homework, but aside from a Bell Biv Devoe joke, the show seems way more interested in puns about buttholes than making any kind of meaningful jokes/commentary about music. Thankfully this changes in the third episode, when Chozen finds himself squaring off against his rival, Phantasm (voiced by Method Man), his former phriend turned enemy (and also wildly successful rapper).
Chozen gets Phantasm to admit that he's sad (and therefore soft) but when Phantasm laughs off the voice recorder Chozen produces from his rectum (duh), things really get good. Chozen is a weird combination of rap Encino man and kinda/sorta liberated gay man. He's content to be out, but is still wrapped up in the hard/soft binary of trad rap. Phantasm laughs off the voice recorder and then plays a Drake-esque song called "Nuance," in which he details his own sadness. Chozen hasn't got shit on Phantasm. He's just revealed himself to be a dinosaur.
If the show wants to play it smart about rap, Chozen could develop into something genuinely fresh and worth your time. But if it's content to stick with riffs and variations on the phrase "turd cutter," it'll be about as tired as twerking bears in the year 2014.
Written by Ross Scarano (@RossScarano).