A few years ago Ugly Duckling begged us all to “Taste the Secret.” There wasn’t much secret about it really, since underground rap fans have been down with the group since they took us on a “Journey to Anywhere” way back in 2000. They have been consistantly regarded as a great many things to these fans, not the least of which is clever, insightful, witty, fun-loving, satirical, inspiring, and to top it all off they have a great reputation for live performances. So what’s the secret really? Name recognition – they’ve got all of it they could ever want among hardcore hip-hop heads and none whatsoever among the mainstream. Imagine Jurassic 5 without the large fanbase and you’ve got Ugly Duckling.

Well some would say that’s not the only difference. THOSE UGLY DUCKS ARE SOME CAUCASOID CAVE-DWELLING MELANIN-DEFICIENT SUBHUMAN WHITE BOYS! Oh get the fuck over it. Einstein can scratch his ass off, Andy and Dizzy can rap their ass off, and they’ve got nothing to apologize for in 2006 other than not releasing more than one record in the last three years. They might be ugly as sin but the last time I checked Biz Markie and Bubba Sparxx weren’t trying to win a beauty contest either. Can you make good music or not? That’s all I give a shit about.

“Bang for the Buck” is prove positive that in 2006, despite a long hiatus, Ugly Duckling hasn’t lost their spark or desire to be dope without “Grammys or platinum plaques, no chicks with fake noses or plastic racks” as they say on the up-tempo title track. The only thing holding them down at this point is better distribution – unless you order online this one might be harder to find than Jimmy Hoffa. Songs like the jazzy swinging “Left Behind” make it more than worth the effort – it’s like the UD’s flipped US3’s “Cantaloop” (which in turn flipped Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island”) and made it even more funky and groovy. The lyrics aren’t gangster or super-scientifical but they’re far from wishy-washy or weak, and come off even more impressive when delivered to such a high speed tempo:

“You better hurry up or get left behind
Like your hairy derriere where the sun don’t shine
Talk slick on the track so the streets are mine
And thanks to Einstein I got beats to rhyme (yup)
Designed like a porcupine, untouchable
I’m a full course meal, you’re a Lunchable (woo!)
This beat will self-destruct
in five, four, three… Diz, hold up!”

When the UD’s name a song the song tends to live up to it. “Smack” lyrically boasts that Ugly Duckling will be “kicking you around like a hackeysack/with the beats and the raps that be action packed” and the hard-hitting pianos, breaks and drums live up to that threat. Self-produced beats can often be hit or miss but in this case Ugly Duckling share the duties and sound like they each brought an element to the table – one part Bomb Squad, one part DJ Premier, and one part Chief Xcel – all parts working together in complete unity. “Let it Out” is a throwback to the 1980’s heyday of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince for all the right reasons, while “Slow the Flow” is a timeless classic for all seasons. “Shoot Your Shot” is a whimsical ode to rap battling, while “The Breakdown” takes the battling and narrates how Ugly Duckling struggled to even get the chance to represent. Well the struggle is over because after six years of consistantly wrecking it with every release, Ugly Duckling have earned their spot. It’s not too late to cop this one before the year’s out because there’s a good chance you’ll want to look back on 2006 and say you got more “Bang for the Buck” by copping this disc.

Ugly Duckling :: Bang for the Buck
8.5Overall Score