British Hip-Hop has generally had a strong sense of humor compared to its American counterpart, and for many it’s one of the best parts about the UK. There’s plenty of funny rappers on both sides of the Atlantic, the most memorable in recent years being Open Mike Eagle and YouTube sensation Dan Bull. Doc Brown is a unique individual however, in that he was largely a serious emcee who was a part of rap crew Poisonous Poets, whose most famous member was Lowkey. Despite bursting out on his own and releasing some solid albums himself, Doc Brown turned towards stand-up comedy after dabbling with writing spoof songs. He’s now (almost) a household name thanks to appearances on “Live From the Apollo”, children’s drama “4 o’Clock Club” and a key role in the British version of “Law & Order”.
Given how each track on “Empty Threats” is itself a comedy routine, it’s worth explaining each song’s value, particularly as they revolve around very British elements of everyday life.
- “In With a Bang” is a fiery intro track, but is purposefully hesitant and half-hearted in its delivery. It sees Doc bragging about his gun sound effects (as opposed to his guns) and dropping lines like “You can get killed out here, not by me, but still you should feel fear”.
- “Everybody’s Racist” takes ‘pulling the race card’ to the extreme, by blaming iPods for being racist for not picking reggae enough when they are on shuffle mode. Doc calls the clouds racist for raining on his birthday – you get the idea.
- “Directions (Skit)” is a funny skit where Doc asks for directions to the library and finds a gentleman delivering every word in slang, who then gets offended when Doc goes elsewhere for directions, as he was actually an intellectual guy.
- “Slang 101” is a useful translation exercise that actually highlights how silly a lot of rap slang really is.
- “Intermission (Skit)” is a mock-advert for rap music being promoted to women, promoting how effective it is if they wish to feel belittled.
- “One Track Mind” is an over-the-top, short song where Doc acts as an emcee so obsessed with sex that he only goes to places like Middlesex (an English county) because it’s got ‘sex’ in it.
- “Staring in the Fridge” is another minute long track that could have been expanded upon, even if it’s about a minuscule element of life – looking in the refrigerator and not actually eating anything.
- “Semi on the Dancefloor” is a full song dedicated to how guys try to think non-sexy thoughts when a girl is grinding against them on the dance-floor in a nightclub, so as to not having an obvious erection when they walk to the bar. It’s hilarious, particularly if you’ve been in that situation yourself.
- “You Are” is a brief skit piece with Doc rapping about the way a beautiful woman who is walking ahead of him in the street, turns out to be a man with a ponytail.
- “Grandpa Dave” sees Doc sharing how he wishes Sir David Attenborough was his grandad. It’s probably the most ‘normal’ song and something many a British person has talked about, considering how Sir David is a national treasure.
- “Jimmy Wiggz” is a track that is delivered in the manner of a gangsta-rap ode to a fallen soldier, that is actually about his dead guinea pig.
- “Real Balls” is a coward’s anthem, seeing Doc boasting how he’ll kick you in the balls and run away, which is a method that seems to work no matter if he’s being threatened or mugged.
- “Gangsta In Ya Village” sees Doc playing up to the stereotype of a black man being a gangsta rapper, in the rural, white villages around the UK. Except his “crimes” are walking on the grass when there’s signs saying not to, and stealing scones.
- “Warning (Skit)” is a brief, straight-faced introduction to the next track.
- “My Proper Tea” attempts to answer the age-old question on everybody’s lips – when making a cup of tea, do you put the teabag in first or the milk? (Teabag obv.)
- “Greenfingers (Skit)” is yet another skit, this time seeing Doc Brown caught talking to flowers.
- “Slipping” is all about styling out a trip or fall, taking the notion of a “straight up G with no emotion” to the extreme. Even the act of proposing to a woman is actually Doc preparing to headbutt her in the vagina. It’s a fun if disappointingly short track.
- “Mummy Daddy Time” is all about parents having sex, or more precisely, the clues you pick up on as a child that you wouldn’t notice at the time, but do now that you’re a parent yourself.
Many of the songs are short meaning they never outstay their welcome, but “My Proper Tea” and “Semi on the Dancefloor” are clearly the tracks with most longevity. They are funny throughout and are both tracks I can see connecting with many blokes across the UK. They are also the better produced moments, with many of the beats being nothing more than simplistic backing for the clownish short stories.
“Empty Threats” is the purest form of comedy rap I’ve heard, in that it is a full album’s worth of songs written to make you laugh. It’s essentially a collection of songs that have been heard/seen before in sketches as part of Doc’s routines he takes on tour, and that’s where the album succeeds and fails. As a whole LP, it isn’t strong enough (particularly musically) to be a great record, but it’s also a huge breath of fresh air. Full of fun concepts and genuinely hilarious moments, with guaranteed laughs for both rap fans and everybody else, “Empty Threats” is as entertaining a record as anything you’ll hear this year.