Mr. Complex
Twisted Mister


o you miss Rawkus? I know I do. Firstly, I find it a shame that there’s one less avenue of income available for Rupert Murdoch nowadays. Secondly, post-Rawkus, rappers may actually be receiving the royalty cheques they’re owed, which can only lead to them becoming bloated and complacent. And, thirdly, it was nice to have some good underground hip-hop around, wasn’t it?

For our younger readers, it may be weird to think of a time when the non-major label rapping landscape wasn’t dominated by white guys in trucker hats rapping about Carl Sagan over euphonium samples. But there was. So where are the old songs of Rawkus nowadays, ready to reclaim the non-mainstream? They’re all too busy “acting” alongside Jason Steatham, or doing whatever it is the Cocoa Brovaz are doing nowadays.

Mr. Complex released on Rawkus. In fact, the boy’s had more labels than Office World, but he still represents that Rawkus sound, the kind of straight spitting, occasional raised eyebrow, beats more concerned with rocking the body than stroking the chin ish that we all fell in love with for a few years at the arse-end of the 20th century. Complex is an apt name for the kid as well, a man who likes to chase his own tail through his rhymes, and ends up knocking you on your backside whilst doing it. A long-standing friendship with Pharoahe Monch has obviously seen Mr. C borrow more from him than just his lawnmower and the occasional cup of sugar.

Monch, inevitably, turns up on the album, and there’s guest spots for, amongst others, Dave from De La, Vast Aire, Biz Markie and Latoya King. For his day job Complex fiddles around in the film industry, which even leads to the vaguely surreal moment of Will Ferrell dropping a small degree of science on one of the skits (“Ill Will, that’s what they call me on the block”), and William Shatner kicks a couple of verses on “No Brainer”, doing that weird “long, random pauses between each word, talking really slowly” kinda thing that he does… oh, sorry, it’s actually Dilated Peoples.

For an album with a Gandhi funeral scene style cast of extras (in addition to ten guest spots, production duties are handled by another ten figures, including Evidence, Large Professor, and, cough, Morcheeba), you’d think that Complex was in danger of losing his way. However, dude’s obviously read the A to Z of hip-hop, and turns up in position with the mosh-pit inciting “Bouncin’ Off The Walls”, the laid-back beef handling of “Calm Down” or the filmic monologue of “Directors’ Cut”. UK production team Beyond There (if they aren’t massive in two year’s time, this will prove there is no God) drop two in a row as Mr. gets his fuck on, with the singles “Scrape Your Back Out” and the Biz Markie croon featuring a paean to the adhesive properties of his semen “Glue”. If a) De La Soul still cared about us and b) we still cared about De La Soul, this is the kind of album, and those two tracks especially, that they’d be making nowadays.

Even the skits fail to drag. Alongside the aforementioned Ferrellarity, we get a lie-detector test, mind reading and the calling out of Lil Bow Wow. All of which are the roffle.

Simply, in an age where underground rappers are too busy spending their advances on old comic books and boasting in interviews that they’re really “digging” Lil Jon nowadays (make some fucking music that sounds like him then), Mr. Complex comes across as the man who can save the entire genre from being played solely by students waiting for their dealer to come around. Witty, well-made, and banging. Recommended.

Reviewed by: Dom Passantino

Reviewed on: 2004-10-15

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