It's been two years since old-money rap duo Lord T. & Eloise became a local cause celebre via their genre-starting debut Aristocrunk . You'd think men of such wealth and power could meet demand for new product more quickly.
"It took so long because we were traveling. We had to check out some real estate in Dubai and definitely had to oversee some other projects," Eloise says. "As you know, we're not just musicians, we're capitalists and businessmen. We love music, but we do have other responsibilities."
Lord T. & Eloise's second album, Chairmen of the Bored , is set for official release this month. It's a more musically confident, stronger-sounding album, produced by vocalist sideman Myster-E along with Eloise, and featuring a dense collection of local hip-hop voices that includes 8Ball, Gangsta Boo, Kingpin Skinny Pimp, Kaz, and Free Sol.
For those unfamiliar with this high-concept hip-hop act, a little backstory is in order. According to legend, Lord T. (who appears in a powdered wig and regal attire) and Eloise (a gold-skinned mutant whose hair is perpetually in curlers) are fraternal twins born into old-world money and were summoned to "the new world" by friend Myster-E to "save the rap game," a goal that appears on a "to do" list on the liner notes of their debut album, along with "Trim the Hedge Funds" and "Work on Empathy Skills."
Though Lord T. & Eloise decline to confirm the rumor that they are really Memphians Cameron Mann and Robert Anthony, respectively, the duo has become one of the most popular acts on the local music scene.
"We're poet warriors here to take over the rap game," Eloise says, when asked about the group's background and mission.
"The poetry of the twenty-first century is rap," Lord T. says. "We felt that it was time to take the music in a new direction with our music and lifestyle: Aristocrunk."
After conquering the local music scene with Aristocrunk ("The first record was a new expression of rap music and poetry fusing together and was an enormous financial success, as is everything we endeavor," Eloise notes), the duo has spent much of this year spreading their message of lavish consumption and highbrow tastes outside the confines of Memphis, including appearances at the South By Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, and the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.
At SXSW in March, Lord T. made the scene in full aristocratic regalia, being accosted for photos by several curious passers by. The band closed the Memphis portion of SXSW with a chaotic, deliriously entertaining set at the Ninety Proof Lounge, a fortuitous choice of location in that the back of the stage was adjacent to a large open window, from which Eloise, in particular, taunted rapt curiosity seekers and petulantly tossed dollar bills. ("Recently, we've changed to Euros," he says.)
"It was a nice party," Eloise remembers. "Rooftop pool extravaganzas with scantily clad ladies and their sugar daddies. Late evenings with the hippest, freshest musical acts. We quite enjoyed it."
"They call it rock-and-roll Mardi Gras," Lord T. says. "We were blessed to be among a huge Memphis contingency and to be among some of our friends — Steve Selvidge, Amy LaVere, the North Mississippi Allstars, and Tim Regan."
You might think Lord T & Eloise's refined sensibilities wouldn't mesh with the hippies-and-mud environment of Bonnaroo, but Eloise instead spins a tale of triumph and necessity.
"We touched down in our Apache helicopter and rocked a very enthusiastic crowd of revelers and potential capitalists," Eloise says. "If there's anyone who needs a good lesson in cutthroat capitalism, it's 80,000 dirty hippies."
Lord T. says that the "epicurean aspect of the festival" was appealing — "the orgy of music and food and other indulgences of all kinds. As people who like to indulge, we enjoyed it thoroughly. And, as a longhair myself, I think the hippies welcomed me into their fold."
Back in Memphis, the duo is ready to unleash the second wave of their "Aristocrunk Revolution" with Chairmen of the Bored .
"We knew that some would have questions about our authenticity or legitimacy or passion and knowledge of the genre," Lord T. says of any resistance the duo might have gotten with their debut album. "So we wanted to cement in everyone's mind that we are serious about this in our music and our songwriting and our delivery. We wanted to take it to the next level."
On record, Lord T. & Eloise's concept loses its visual accompaniment, but the boisterous goofing on old-money excess still connects. Outlandish comic boasts are, of course, part of hip-hop tradition, and Lord T. & Eloise put their own novel spin on the basics, envisioning a lavish world of Palm Beach vacations, Mideast business trips, parties where they "do the foxtrot with El DeBarge," and sailing Cape Cod with Kenny Loggins bumpin' in the yacht.
Hip-hop is a very verbal form, and Lord T. & Eloise have lots of fun with the high-falutin' vernacular their characters make possible: "Yeah, you're the one whom I ignore as I cast my castigations on the ones I deem impure," Eloise sniffs on "High Horse."
Can this joke still work with an economy in trouble and gas prices on the rise? Might it even hit harder? Either way, Lord T. & Eloise are defiant.
"Well, we are to blame. So blame us," Eloise says when asked about the rocky global economy. "But, we did lower oil prices today, which I thought was generous."
"In troubled times, people are always looking for someone to blame," Lord. T says. "If we have to be scapegoats and shoulder that burden, then so be it."