album reviews: Mr. Scruff & Wildchild apply the “less is more” formula to beats

Secondary Protocol

Wildchild’s debut solo album, Secondary Protocol, is an album that shows signs of brilliant potential but never follows through. The timid beats coupled with uninspired, generic subject matter make for a boring rap album from an artist who never quite made the impact he should have. Wildchild is not new to the hip-hop scene. He’s one third of the group, the Lootpack, who achieved kudos from critics with their 1999 debut album Soundpieces: Da Antidote. Wildchild comes off as a typical west coast MC who tries so hard to avoid rapping about gang banging and partying that his lyrics actually suffer as a result.
Don’t get me wrong, Wildchild is a talented MC but the production almost seem to confine his talents. Wildchild’s flow is fast, and the beats here seem to come off as if they were made for a Jay Dee swag smoke session. His skills definitely shine through on numerous tracks, such as “The Movement Part 2,” where he spits about the impact of hip-hop over a guitar-laced track courtesy of producer Oh No. On “Knickknack 2002,” Wildchild invites Medaphoar and underground legend Percee P to trade verses with him on a track locked up in old school detention.
Ironically, the song’s lyrics express frustration with the current state of hip-hop. On “Operation Radio Raid” he takes aim at the payola tactics of mainstream radio. He seems as frustrated with the critics as they are with him. On “Puttin in Work” he burns off a tangent about society and critics rhyming “words of remorse will get you knocked off course. Regret it. Take negative criticism, cock back and watch me embed it.” He is no doubt defiant enough to achieve what he wants artistically. So, why is this intelligent rapper holding back? Secondary Protocol is merely a mid-1990s party album that won’t find play at any decent party this year.

– Kevin Jaeger

Mr. Scruff
Trouser Jazz

So, you’re sitting around with nothing on your mind (not even the lyrics to “Many Men”) but you’re still looking for something to bob your head to…you may be in luck. Trouser Jazz, the third album from Manchester crate raider Mr. Scruff, has enough daydream loops for the chronic hummer to entertain pretty girls in elevators for weeks on end. Take note that there’s rap with an English accent on “Vibrate,” but that’s the only transatlantic hip-hop lint you’ll discover in these pants.
The rest of the songs provide fitting background music for activities ranging from…well, it’s background music, figure it out. Each track is stunningly uncomplicated and does little to offend and a lot more to keep you moving, but the back-to-back break beat format wears a little thin after a bit. Most of the tracks tend to sway away from full compositions, instead relying on a few loops to keep the beat going.
Tracks like “Sweet Smoke” and “Shrimp” start off with a kind of “call waiting” tune that quickly turns from a melody you’d hang up on into one the fools at Talking Fingers needs to intercept. The dreamlike “Valley of the Sausages” is a sublime departure from the light, bouncy, but equally enjoyable “Ug” and “Giffin.” There’s a sort, “Who is this?” response from unacquainted ears when they hear this disc – not because it’s annoying and people only desire sounds from mouths that they see everyday on every channel and every billboard, but because it’s different.
As I’m sure you’ve been notified by via a billboard or TV: “Different is Good.” If you’re not familiar with trip hop or you think Tricky is a weird little elf, then maybe this is the ideal kind of vessel to cruise on.

– Sven Barth

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