Mike Ladd’s mellow approach to hip-hop isn’t so much a weakness as it is knowing what makes a good old-school groove and sticking to it. “Apt. C2” is a somewhat ambient, airy track featuring a nice bassline that isn’t quite trip-hop but nears that territory. “Awful Raw” features harder, rapid-fire rhymes that are accented perfectly by a thick backbeat that is catchy and ominous at the same time. However, “Crooner Island” is an acquired taste of hip-hop with spacy synthesizers and keyboards veering in and out. The arrangement, which has a hint of Middle Eastern flavor to it, might be better suited for someone like Sean Paul. Ladd, with some assistance from Gymkhana and drummer Damali Young, isn’t into hardcore or gangster rap. Instead, as is the case with “Barney’s Girl,” he seems to have more in common with Parliament-Funkadelic than 50 Cent or the Game. The album’s hidden track, “Baptism by Radio,” is a bouncy rap with subtle keyboards and synthesizers. Fans of Snoop Dogg or K-Os would enjoy the radio-friendly pop of “Ike Turner Dub” with what sounds like steel drums used deep in the mix. The sleeper pick might be the heady and loose psychedelic-meets-dub instrumental “Little Red.” After fading out, the song returns with vengeance. It morphs into a wall of sound prior to changing into a slick retro-electro romp in the vein of “Axl F.” Another experiment gone right is “Murder Girl,” although is a bit brief. Overall Ladd has made a divine album indeed.
Review by Jason MacNeil