Hip-hop has always been a curious sort. With an existence that has become clouded by tragedy, paper chasin’ and misogyny, it’s easy to lose sight of how much fun hip-hop used to be. Remember when Sugarhill Gang, Run D.M.C., and Big Daddy Kane graced the landscape. Words like “fresh” and “dope” were used to describe an MC’s skill or a DJ’s precise cuts and it was more important to get on the mic and move the crowd than to debut number one on the Billboard charts. Break dancing and graffitti art were thought to be an odd, yet innocent way of self-expression. Sometime within a 20-year stretch most artists lost sight of the simple pleasures of the hip-hop culture.
STOP THE PRESSES and enter Ugly Duckling and their EP Fresh Mode, an eight song 27 minute throw back to the “good ole’ days”. Ugly Duckling is here to remind the hip-hop community of the sanctity of the music. The album is laced with jazzy rifts and cleverly chosen samples creating a vibe that whisks you back to the mid-‘80s and forces you to contemplate rockin’ those old, shell top Adidas with no laces. The group consists of DJ Young Einstein and MC’s Dizzy Dustin and AndyCat (even the names are old school). While AndyCat and Dizzy trade playful lyrics about their skills, braggin’ about how they’ve “gone through stacks and stacks of old wax to bring it back,” Young Einstein delivers punctilious cuts.
On “Do You Know What I’m Sayin’” each MC takes turns cleverly weavin old school lyrics together creating an ultimate tribute to the pioneers of hip-hop. Check this cut out and you’re guaranteed to reminisce. The group also shows how they’re not afraid to get abysmal. On “Everything’s Alright,” Andycat proclaims “If you really want to know how much longer time will last / Tune into your local TV simulcast”. And in the spirit of old school hip-hop there’s even the tribute to the DJ who holds the group together. On “Einstein’s Takin’ Off,” the tablist earns his stripes on the wheel s of steel as each MC takes turns giving credit to their man behind the scenes. The only downside to this album is its length, in which you’re left feeling like a hip-hop junkie, either digging through your old albums to catch that vibe again or waiting for the next Ugly Duckling fix.