It doesn't get much more low-budget than this - a Memorex CD-R, hand written liner notes, and a record label website whose only words are "Under Construction." If ever there was an indie DIY ethic at work in hip-hop, the Deadly Scribes epitomize it to a tee. This Pittsburgh rap crew's biggest claim to fame (such as it is) may be that local club DJ Yamez provides some funky scratching on the album's introductory cut "Yamez Says So."
Still, there is hope for the Deadly Scribes. While their braggadocious name may be heavier than a previously unknown crew can hold down nationally, they show potential to be worthy of the name. The beats by Snuff are somewhat above the average of your typical demo CD. Rappers Mic Language and Ambush have Project Blowidian style vocal flows; the former best showcased on "Taste Buds" and the latter on the solo song "Next Lifetime." "Next Lifetime" in particular gets props for a wickedly funny conceptual track where "Native Americans invent the first compass/ discovering the Old World, they rape Columbus" and historical roles are completely reversed. Dos Noun raps to a smooth xylophone sample on "Irony" and may in fact be the standout rapper among this crew by virtue of his clear ennunciation and witty self-deprecating raps like "I'm a grand dragon's son murdered in a hate crime/I'm an artist representing a culture that ain't even mine."
Then again, the same stumbling blocks that get in the way of any up and coming rap crew are present here. Pointless "Yinzer" and "Zoning" skits need to be quickly skipped through, as well as mediocre conceptually yearning songs like "I'm Searching" (for hip-hop) with a simple piano loop that is effective but unexciting. "Flipping Syllables" is another one of those "I'm the greatest rapper you never heard of" cuts where all of the Deadly Scribes are trying to one-up each other but really don't say anything worth writing home about. The scratching and samples provided by DJ Seag save it from pure monotony. The audio levels tend to jump from track to track too; causing you to constantly fiddle with your volume control to make the quiet tracks hit harder and then turning it back down when it gets too loud. On the plus side, the vocals are recorded cleanly and mixed well with the audio - neither one drowning out the other.
For being about as cheap and shoddy a presentation as you could possibly hope for in packaging, the Deadly Scribes do prove that judging this book by it's cover would be a serious error. The Deadly Scribes may need a serious infusion of cash flow and some time to fine tune the stronger elements of their music, but they're already off to a good start. If you're interested in hearing more of this low budget dopeness, my only recommendation is to contact fellow RapReviews writer Noixe since he sent me this CD himself, as you probably won't be seeing it in stores anytime soon. Eventually, the Scribes MAY get there.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10
Originally posted: August 28, 2001