What’s a pasty former emo-punk kid doing behind that laptop, raising the roof with his hands in the air like he’s onstage at a Jay-Z show? To respectfully borrow a line from Salt ‘n Pepa: “Let’s talk about Cex.” This wiry Baltimore-spawned 20-year-old, otherwise known as Rjyan Kidwell, is part of a young clique succeeding where the music industry failed by putting a new face on electronica. (Example: Please see Heatmiser-esque singer for Prodigy in the ’90s.) In Kidwell’s case, his equal love of breakbeat IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) and nasty hip hop gives a physicality to his performances that breaks out of the sterile stage presence of most computer artists.
Partner in the innovative Tigerbeat 6 label, along with luminary cohort Miguel Deprados (alias Kid 606), Cex’s scheme was apparent on releases like the Attitude compilation, wherein Powerbook punks assimilated NWA. Cex may try to dress it up (or dumb it down), but the fact is his heady compositions owe a lot to the important ambient/drill and bass work of such personal touchstones as Aphex Twin and Kidwell’s friends (and recent Bjork producers) Matmos. As evidenced on this, his second full-length, a cappella vocals (“Off the Food Chain”), acoustic guitar spliced with moody synth drones (“First for Wounds”), big-click heist film themes (“Eleven Million Dollars … “) and spoken-word comedy skits are all fair game. Look for Cex’s version of DMX’s “What’s my Name?” with his revamped answer: “C-E-X.”