Although the Captain is most known for his cereal empire and nautical advancements, many would be surprised to hear about Cap’n Crunch’s unnoticed foray into the underground hip-hop scene. I myself only just discovered his 2015 single “Cer3al Killer,” but after extensive listens I can say with confidence that this is the wake-up call the world of Breakfast Cereal needed.
The song builds a tonal foundation with a simple yet effective loop of a drum kick and a satisfyingly percussive snare/clap combo. No doubt is the crunchiness of the offbeat meant to parallel the consistency of his famous breakfast cereal, and the trained ear can anticipate the upcoming lyrics to be equally as sharp and abrasive. The production ties itself together beautifully with a sparsely placed vocal sample as well as a harmonic group of guitar, bells, and other sound effects that invoke the atmosphere of the salty air on a midsea ship.
Almost immediately, Crunch comes in with a smooth and precise double-time flow, nostalgically invoking the feelings of when we, the listeners, first had Captain Crunch Breakfast Cereal:
“Now you’re sailing with the Captain
You remember me from back when
Things were simple
You were little
You didn’t even know about rappin”
Not only does this establish Crunch’s voice as passionate and confident, it crafts an ethos that allows our psyche to tap into our childhood pleasures while listening to his poignant lyrics. Soon after, he establishes his rap cred by juxtaposition, framed through his multifaceted Breakfast Cereal business achievements:
“But you do know one thing and that’s my name
Just like the roof of your mouth will never be the same
Selling cereal to kids is such an easy game
You know I’ll never go away ‘cause that would be a shame”
“Selling cereal to kids” is a really difficult line to rap at the speed he chose, but his enunciation is flawless. He also manages to throw humor in – he jokes about his cereal at his own expense to personify how unforgettable his cereal ventures are. Just as the sharp Crunch pieces have permanently scarred our mouths, his impact has truly scarred our hearts.
And here we get into the milk and cereal of the track – in what I am deeming the “Control Verse” of cold cereals, Crunch begins to call out his crunchy competitors, from the A-list Lucky Charms (an alleged alcoholic) to the unspoken Boo Berry (whose recreational drug abuse is called into question; was this the root of his sudden and violent public divorce from 2 years before?). Among those named include Snap, Crackle, and Pop of Rice Krispies fame, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Tony the Tiger.
From the targeted competitors, a few of the lines stood out to me as particularly crafted and insightful:
“Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs
What’s happened to Sonny, he’s gone totally nuts”
This, of course, is a well-inspired reference to the Cocoa Puffs Scandal of 2013, where 30,000 children were placed in the hospital due to the accidental inclusion of Pine Nuts in a batch of Cocoa Puffs. After the incident, Sonny made a public apology with a shaved head and has become the target of ridicule among the community.
“Frankenberry isn’t scary, but he’s down the hall”
At the time of the song’s release this line in particular seemed a simple shot, but it’s actually a rather complex reference to Frankenberry’s past, which has since been revealed publicly in 2017. Before his Cereal empire, Franklin Newton Berry worked a male escort in attempts to make ends meet during a rough period in his life. Anyone who was aware of his services could go to the local Holiday Inn and ask for “The Room Down the Hall” and be directed to the particular location of commencement. As Pusha T said in 2018: “If You Know You Know.”
I do, however, have an issue with a section of his disses. When discussing the pitfalls of fellow Cereal statistician Toucan Sam, he relies on low-rung insults to his sexuality, claiming him to be a “fruit” and blaming the way he chooses to dress and personify himself. Considering how well put together the rest of the disses were, the fact that he blew so low on the Toucan Sam pole is quite disappointing, and it doesn’t give me the same pleasure that a feathered friend could provide in a time of need.
Unfortunately, I also can’t help but think the track would have benefitted from a strong hook. There are two similar vocal interjections between verses, but they are too short and weak to serve as a suitable chorus. The vocals here are also hastily autotuned, which really takes the pertinence and passion out of the otherwise decisive delivery. This is a minor blemish in an otherwise flawless musical construction, as the effectiveness of the track overall delivers the promised acrid condemnation of the lacking Breakfast Cereal competition.
All in all, I regret not discovering this piece of art sooner. Through a carefully woven web of cleverly written disses, Cap’n Crunch whips the resting pot of his Breakfast Cereal competitors over a memorable and well-produced beat. I look forward to his major label debut – which I hear is set for some time in 2020 – with bated, milky breath.
~Sun Jang-Shib (선장씹), Professor of Urban Breakfast Culture at M.I.T.
About the author:
Sun Jang-Shib was born to Korean parents in Kansas City, Missouri, and spent a great deal of his childhood interested in Hip-Hop and Breakfast culture, inspired by the works of Tupac Shakur and the Trix Rabbit alike. He attended M.I.T. to receive his P.H.D. in Urban Breakfast Culture and Psychology, and now teaches courses about these two disciplines and their influence on each other across the years.
“Since the beginning, Breakfast Cereal has remained an important institution in the Hip-Hop environment. As the genre itself has its roots in generally low-income minority families, many famous artists have rapped about consistent foodstuffs that are affordable, yet desirable, especially by young, impressionable minds. Among the Koolaids and generic brand chips, the Cereal stands out as a diverse but patternized subsect. See Kenrick Lamar’s “Cartoon and Cereal” or LL Cool J’s “Milky Cereal” as prime examples.”Dr. Sun