Alcohol and hip-hop. They go together like E-Swift, J-Ro and Tash. But ever since Tha Alkaholiks finally gave in and dropped a substantial part of their name by calling themselves merely Tha Liks, and someone began holding Ol’ Dirty Bastard captive until he sobers up for good, it ain’t quite the same for those who consider “Hip Hop Drunkies” not just a party anthem but a way of life. Maybe Kirk Dubb has the remedy with “Booze & Madness”?
Obviously, you’ll have to bring your own booze in case the madness of this album is too much for you to bear. But, as any social worker will tell you, you don’t need drugs to have fun – just like you don’t have to be drunk to appreciate this album. Yes, it caters to a certain audience, one that is familiar with getting high (and coming down), but its ingredients are the same as on any hip-hop album – beats and rhymes. The former come courtesy of Dynomite D, a name some may have noticed circling the outer Beastie Boys orbit. He was on the wheels of steel on their 1994 collaboration with Hurricane, “Four Fly Guys”, remixed Money Mark and worked with Mario Caldato Jr. and Kid Koala.
For this Kirk Dubb album, he sticks to a mixture that has been marinating in the vaults for nearly a decade. With its thumping basslines, time-tested breakbeats, obscure funk ornaments and a variety of vocal samples, “Booze & Madness” is a throwback to the days when life and hip-hop were much more simpler. Free of the dramatic effects and the larger-than-life sound today’s rappers often like to present themselves in, this is all about good grooves that get you going. Tracks like “Booze & Madness”, “In the Pocket” and “Boozehound” should make any stiff neck loosen up. The producer and the rapper harmonize well throughout, but one highlight is without a doubt “Dubb vs. D”, a unique MC/DJ collaboration where every line Dubb drops is answered by a quote thrown in by Dynomite.
The beats are simple enough, the rhymes are even simpler. Kirk Dubb comes with references and rhyme schemes that make him look +really+ old, but in this particular case, this is actually a good thing. In fact, isn’t drinking alcohol supposed to make your life look simpler, if only for one short evening? Kirk Dubb’s got the rhymes for this very occasion. After a hard day’s work, this guy just wants to clown around: “Workin’ like a bricklayer, Kirk Dubb for mayor.” I bet everybody who’s ever been drunk has felt similarly. Or like this: “Not till I drink all the fuckin’ beer / am I gonna get my ass outta here.” Or this: “I’d rather throw up than fuckin’ grow up.”
You should, however, be willing to let yourself intoxicate by the music that carries this dubious message. It will make the lyrics go down much more smoothly. Lyrics that don’t exactly beg to be analyzed, to be chewed, swallowed and digested. Consider “Booze & Madness” to be a drink. When you order a Margarita, you don’t expect tequila, triple sec and lime juice to be served separately, you don’t wait for them to mix in your stomach, you drink them together, as a Margarita. Each element compliments the other, and together they generate the flavor of this particular drink. That’s the whole point. As Alkaholik J-Ro once put it: “I’m all in the mix / like snares and kicks.” Kirk Dubb is all in the mix WITH the snares and the kicks, and he definitely doesn’t feel out of place.
But sometimes the mix this “ex-bartender” serves could be a little more refined. There is no reason to distort his voice, yet they do it on several tracks (“Rock the Scene”, “Chugalug”, “In the Pocket”, “Boozehound”). While the Beastie Boys comparison may be hanging in the air, Dynomite and Dubb are able to avoid it for the greater part of the CD. Only on the final “This Is It” his flow and voice are too much Beasties-like, yet lack both craziness and charisma. With a solid flow of his own, there’s no need for Kirk Dubb to go that route. Also, nearly four minutes of phone messages (“206-994-9690”) should not be placed as the third track on any album. Among all the alcohol-induced songs, the western saga “Shootin’ From the Hip” seems more like an excuse by the self-described “Seattle featherweight” for his one-dimensional act. That’s why the lift-your-shirt-up antics of “Show ‘Em” are relatively easy to stomach – because isn’t that what alcohol makes men do?
In a country that forgives a presidential candidate with a history of drunk driving, “Booze & Madness” should have no problem finding at least a live audience. Because that’s what this album ultimately is: ace live material. Music critics may call it retro, but with his special brand of hip-hop Kirk Dubb is guaranteed to rock a crowd or two. With or without Jack Daniels acting as hypeman.