It will probably take the most hardcore RapReviews.com visitor to remember that this record has already been covered on this site, by this very reviewer at that. The review was published early April 2003. Then it suddenly disappeared from the archive. And now they’re putting up a revised version? You’re right to wonder what the hell is going on and especially regular readers deserve an explanation. But where to start?
Remember “Blaze”? This short-lived hip-hop mag was well aware of the backlash hip-hop writers sometimes receive from artists who feel treated unfairly. To avoid some of the hassles their big cousin, “The Source”, had gone through, they decided to offer rappers a platform to respond to a review in the very issue it was published in. While “Blaze” didn’t last very long, this journalistic experiment had an even shorter lifespan. Not many acts felt like defending their work, and in some cases they didn’t seem really able to. And rightfully so. It’s not the artist’s task to argue it out with his critics. The two may depend on each other, they may make the same artform the center of their life, but they’re ultimately speaking different languages.
Still, something is wrong if they fail to understand where the other is coming from. Ideally, the critic comprehends the art, and the artist accepts the criticism. Yet sometimes the communication between the two can be severly disturbed. Artists just can’t see why they’re being criticized, and critics don’t seem to get what an artist is trying to get across. There are ways to handle these misunderstandings, without having to resort to intimidation and humiliation. Consider the following review an attempt to overcome such a misunderstanding. In an exchange of e-mails, Mr. Scrillion AKA Adam Thick was able to argue that the reviewer lacked some of the basic knowledge neccessary to treat his record fairly.
Like what? There were several misconceptions. Some minor, some relatively major. When Mr. Scrillion AKA Adam Thick throws in a “gee”, the letter actually stands for another one of his aliases, Goldfinger. He vehemently rejects the notion of being a ‘gangsta rapper’. According to him, he represents a different movement in rap music. While maintaining that he “ain’t no hip-hop clone”, Scrillion insists on being viewed within the larger scope of the Detroit rap scene. As far as hip-hop goes, the D has brought forth a quartet of notable acts who, as far apart as they now seem to be, all started out with a reputation for being bizarre, and they all showed an inclination for incorporating rock into their rap. Two of them, Kid Rock and Eminem, developped mass appeal, the other two, Esham and Insane Clown Posse, have a strong cult following.
You’ve seen D-12’s Bizarre with his shower cap, you’ve seen ICP and their Kiss-like masquerade. Well get this, Mr. Scrillion likes to drape an octopus over his head. Not some kind of plastic wig, mind you, but real octopi. For obvious reasons, the reviewer interpreted the tentacles hanging down to Scrillion’s shoulders as a comical take on braids or rasta locks. From there it was only a small step to typecasting Mr. Scrillion as a parody of a certain longlasting genre of rap, given his repeated claims to “stack that scrilla.” Wrong again. This self-described ‘comic supervillain’ isn’t supposed to be a parody. But he should be taken with humor. Difficult, eh?
Usually, if you’re uncertain where to place a certain phenomenon, you’re looking for a clue. If I got an album with a title track, I’m inclined to start looking there. “Anti-Hero” is not only one of the album’s better tracks (with something of spy movie groove supporting Scrillion’s flow), it’s also one of the lyrically more adventurous:
“Some try to front, I just flip ’em the bird
You gotta visualize your plan, don’t follow the herd
and conform your sorry ass to societal standards
My inner De Sade bitch-slapped Ann Landers
Yellin’ ‘Take it, you hoe!’ – I got a poison pen
I fucked Barbie in the ass and I pissed on Ken
and jacked his Porsche and bombed the Barbie Dreamhouse
but before I left I double-clicked her mouse
Man, that’s how I’m rollin’ in the two-triple-zero
I ain’t no role model, hoe, I’m a anti-hero”
Maybe it’s a ‘Detroit thing’ indeed… In the end, we might see much clearer about this Mr. Scrillion guy if he had anything substantial to say. Unfortunately, he doesn’t say or do anything that would make you really love him or hate him. Most of the time he’s jut telling us how he’s stacking dough and macking hoes in a by all standards unimaginative manner.
He spends the opening “The Usual Suspect” escaping the long arm of the law. But throughout the album the exact nature of his wrongdoings remains undisclosed. There are a couple of references to smoking and selling marijuana, but the most accurate description might be that of a ‘rhyming hero’ (or in this case ‘anti-hero’) in the tradition of characters created by Redman (“A Day of Sooperman Lover”) and Jimmy Spicer (“Adventures of Super Rhymes”). Not to take that comparsion too far, though, because Thick lacks the storytelling ability (as well as breath control, timing, and eloquence) of the aforementioned gentlemen. You’ll more likely see him drag on with bland self-descriptions like “stick-man player that’s hung like a horse” and “son of a bitch with a wicked persona.”
Listeners reared on gangsta rap might recognize the hustling theme, older folks the old school flow and rhyme schemes, but for either of these Mr. Scrillion is too simplistic at what they recognize and too far gone with what they don’t recognize. Yet despite his limitations as a narrator and rapper, Adam Thick is a somewhat unique figure. There surely ain’t too many of his kind. That alone, however, doesn’t make him interesting. In our little back-and-forth we had after the first review was published, Thick pointed out that one online source described him as “Eminem meets Weird Al [Yankovic]”. If you’re a lazy critic, maybe. Adam Thick may have very, very small traits of both these artists in him, but he’s nowhere near their level of artistic expression.
He’s the least painful when he’s in full just-got-out-of-bed mode, his vocal cords loosely vibrating. He rarely goes beyond that style, but it works best on an uneventful song like “Rollin Down Dixie”. To his credit, he actually SOUNDS kind of ‘shady’ and ‘neurotic’ on “Shady N Neurotic (Remix)”, but how exactly these characteristics manifest themselves in the Scrillion persona remains a mystery. What makes him shady and neurotic? It looks like he doesn’t know himself, or else he’d tell us. On two occasions he gets, for lack of a better word, serious. The first is the closing “Diary of a Goldfinger” where a line like “check it out, my reality / dealin’ with my conscience and morality” is bound to catch your attention only because there are no deeper-reaching emotions expressed anywhere else – except for “Trails”, which talks of the new roads one has to occasionally take in life.
For all its off-kilter charm, “Anti-Hero” remains a severly limited rap record. There are some serious sound quality issues that put it in the strictly homemade category. Rock guitars abound, but none of them really rock, 13 minutes of phone messages… At one point, our anti-hero says: “Adam Thick is like your next door neighbor / always into something, neurotic like Kramer.” The problem is you actually wish he was a little more like the eccentric character from “Seinfeld”. A little more inventive, a little more surprising. Qualities ironically needed in another business venture of his, Extreme Kidnapping, where thrill-seeking folks can arrange their own abduction.