Long before it was customary to title songs after random celebrities, RA the Rugged Man released a tune called "Stanley Kubrick." It was a bit of a mess, like most of his material before he got his act together in the new millennium. Most observers were in agreement that the reference was at least ill-advised. You cannot evoke one of the most revered film directors just because you have a vague penchant for the graphic and the drastic as well. Enters UK MC Stig of the Dump in 2015 with an entire album called "Kubrick" (with the '2001: A Space Odyssey' poster artwork to go along). Kubrick aside, Stig and RA share some similarities, a certain counter-cultural attitude that pervades their music, and they have in fact collaborated at least once, on the 2007 track "Braindead."
Both have since proven that they are capable wordsmiths. For "Kubrick," Stig of the Dump hasn't called on the Rugged Man to make good on the Kubrick theme, but he does enlist the production talents of Jehst, himself an accomplished hip-hop artist. Accomplished is perhaps the proper cue. Stig opens up the album with the "Standard Procedure" of filling up on THC and CBD. "I woke up... rolled a smoke up / Fingers still sticky from the last bud I broke up," he begins, detailing his smoking habits for the entire song, not exactly a groundbreaking concept. Early on Stig takes pride in his underachievements, bluntly rhyming, "I did the same shit I always do / which in turn turned into the track that you're listenin' to."
The lack of drive of the chronic smoker is contrasted by the urge to get in the ring with opponents. On "Bom-Ba-Dang-Diggy-Iggy" Stig's hip-hop heartburn erupts in acidic spurts: "I keeps it gritty, fuck the high brow / You little jokers need to pipe down / I got a short fuse - talk rude, I knock your lights out." Here he draws a clear line between himself and rappers aiming to please: "Hardcore how I'm rollin' / The attitude stink, and the ego - swollen." Later on the hubris is balanced by self-depreciation. "All in Blind" is the connecting piece between the album's grandstanding and its reflective part, Stig finessing his natural arrogance with a more conceptual and at the same time more free-form approach. Nevertheless his train of thought stays clean and clear, whether in philosophical posies like "I'll retire when the wig's thin / Until then I keep a thick skin" or simple but effective slick talk:
"Sunlight dancin' on the water
Pockets always shallow but I'm flossin' like a baller
Shorty tryina talk to me as if I can afford her
Till an hour later baby girl was sweatin' like a sauna"
The second half of "Kubrick" aims higher. "What a Life" sees him meditating on the lyrical aspects of emceeing and expressing yourself as an emcee. "She" laments a lost love, rather reminiscent of Essa's recent work, resulting in the album's most mature track. "Broken" deals intelligently with setbacks and self-doubt. And there's "Kubrick," a fairly subliminal song that circles the issue of perception. With Stig projecting a progression that reaches a climax that he describes as "...till it's all gone Kubrick," the title track would (following the standouts "She" and "Broken") positively be a fitting finale. Especially since the closing "End Credits" don't add anything of relevance apart from revealing that in his current state Stig cannot muster the patience, let alone the obsession the famed filmmaker possessed when he ponders, "Is the glass half empty or half full? / Who cares as long as the bar's stocked up because the picture's less harsh when the edges blur."
Evidently that statement simultaneously shows that Stig is all too familiar with human nature. Unfortunately, for the most part "Kubrick" doesn't manage to draw outsiders into his world. There's much to be said for honesty in rap, but if there's such a thing as being too honest, it's Stig of the Dump rapping, "I still pen the stupid bars first / cause real life feels like real hard work."
Stig tries, but not hard enough for an opus called "Kubrick." He earns points for admitting failure, for creating an arc that spans from apathetic to ambitious, but the look in the mirror is regularly deflected by typical rapper mannerisms and the effortless rhyming ever so often ends up in basic lyricism. Thankfully, the solid production doesn't drag him further down. Jehst delivers a polished underground piece with "All in Blind," provides "King Grizzly" with a whiff of wildlife and keeps the title track as sonically translucent as possible. Bagul laces "Standard Procedure" with appropriately dubby sounds and offers the most soul-soothing track with "What a Life." Pierre Green armors "Bom-Ba-Dang-Diggy-Iggy" with big grinding basslines against Stig's threat to "treat a beat like a punchbag," while Wayne Ross forecasts future soul on "Broken." Yet musically the potential of Stig of the Dump remains also unexhausted. And what he lacks in vision, he only halfway compensates for in craft. Overall "Kubrick" is just not that Kubrickian.
Music Vibes: 6.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: November 10, 2015