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The Have Nots
Artist: Scribbling Idiots
Label: Illect Recordings
Length: 15 Tracks / 55:58
Add Scribbling Idiots to your shortlist of "Supercrews Worth Listening To," alongside such mainstays as Deepspace5 and the Tunnel Rats.
Their debut, 2008's The Have Nots on Illect Recordings, is a well-conceived introduction to this posse. Featuring such up-and-coming emcees as JustMe, Wonder Brown, Cas Metah, Mouth Warren, and Theory Hazit as the core of the group - this bunch of "Idiots" brings heaps of talent, imagination, and passion to this record. Others involved, as members of the extended crew, include such folks as MattmaN, MotionPlus, Elias, Ruffian, Kaboose, and Re:Flex. There are also guest appearances by Griffin from the Tunnel Rats, as well as LMNO and Masta Ace.
So what does it sound like? Summarizing the sound of a hip-hop record, especially a quality one, is always a daunting task. The Have Nots features some great instrumentation, and I think the best way to assess it is to talk about some of the common "themes" in the beats. First, plenty of the songs feature really brilliant piano work - seriously. Best of all, with very few exceptions, the loops, piano or otherwise, aren't just thrown on repeat and walked away from. There's some great fills, breakdowns, and bridges scattered in the progression of each beat to keep it fresh. The second "theme" to the music, is the presence of soulful, impassioned sung choruses. A lot of the time, you can bank on rap records featuring choruses that number among either the boring or the annoying. Not so on The Have Nots - this stuff gets stuck in your head and you don't feel guilty for having it there.
Speaking of annoying, the final audio "theme" of the record that must be mentioned is the Idiots' apparent taste for "Chipmunked" vocal samples - where the sample has been sped up, resulting in the sample sounding like Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers. There's a few of them on the record, and I'll be honest - most of them fall flat. There's at least one exception - the chorus of "Where I'm Going". Taking that into consideration, I was surprised that Chipmunked vocals can ever sound remotely interesting... after we all grew up and got over Alvin & his buddies. Yet, for the most part, I can't really "get" why they thought it was a good call. Thankfully, with only a couple of exceptions, these Chipmunked samples don't really do much damage.
Long story short, the "music" portion of The Have Nots is stellar. Outside of the piano, singing, and Chipmunked stuff, there's a lot of generous instrumentation slathered on the tracks, which range from some really grimy, grungy sounds to much more poppy, light fare and most places in-between. Expect to hear some good, jazzy acoustic bass ("Publicity Stunt Doubles"), effective harmonica ("Is That You?"), and what seems to be harpsichord ("Residual"), among many others.
So that's the beats. Let's talk about the rhymes.
Every emcee in this crew is considered "up-and-coming." All of them have basically showed up on the scene within the latter part of this decade - at least, showed up enough for a kid from Canada to have heard them on some projects, compilations, and guest spots. Most of them have at least one solo joint out, some a couple more. None have really been around long enough to be considered highly experienced or old-school, per-se. Most likely, the vast majority of those reading this review won't have heard of any of these guys (except perhaps some of the guests on the record, like Griffin and LMNO).
With that being said, you can't tell that they're fresh to the game. Every emcee displays upright skill consistently throughout _The Have Nots_.
One of my favorite examples is the track "Residual," in which each verse captures what we might call a 'moment of clarity and repentance'. I'm not sure if the stories told in the verses are personal or fictional, but they are definitely impactful. The third verse in particular resonated with me:
My 9 to 5 residual wins
with a few more than 40 hours a week
God, I'm crawling, on
the verge of falling-
Revive with me with love
The song also features one of the most soulful and stick-in-your-head, worshipful choruses on the disc:
This life that I live
every day for the weekend and the payday, maybe
That's just one example of the care and heart that the Idiots have loaded this record with. The overall tone of the record is positive, or at very least encouraging. Scribbling Idiots don't shy away from being transparent about who they are, what they've been through (good and bad), or who their Boss is.
Yeah, I'm from America
From lighthearted reflection ("Start Livin'") to paying homage to their wives ("Easily A Muse"), the lyrical content in _The Have Nots_ is well-conceived and presented effectively. The best way to summarize my impressions of the Scribbling Idiots' skills in rhyme is just to say that "if _The Have Nots_ is their debut, we have the makings of a rap dynasty up in this piece". Sound good?
Here's the bottom line:
Choruses, soulful. Raps,
meaningful. Beats, an 'earful'.
Scribbling Idiots' debut? Make sure it isn't something you "Have Not."
Standout Tracks: That's Life, Where I'm Going, Is That You?, Publicity Stunt Doubles, Residual, Told You So.