MachineGunFunksNotes on… The Darkside Crooks

In Survivor: Panama – Exile Island, last year’s incarnation of the popular reality series, Bobby Mason, a 32-year-old contestant from Los Angeles, was known as something of a troublemaker in the Casaya tribe, doing everything from using the bathroom out-of-turn to secretly drinking wine to just being argumentative with and pissing off the other members of his tribe. He was voted out in the fifth episode, but don’t feel too bad for him, as he seems to have a pretty decent gig on which to fall back.

No, The Darkside Crooks—the L.A.-based hip-hop collective of which Mason is a member—won’t be invading Top 40 airwaves anytime soon, but a lot of the material on their 2006 album, The Wino, The Warlock & The Shogun is considerably better than the stuff that currently is. The four men known as The Darkside Crooks form what seems to be a sort of tongue-in-cheek fantasy group. Their Web page breaks down the lineup as such:

The Darkside Crooks are a rap group made up of three wicked South Central MCs and one crazy smoker/skater/DJ.

BobDawgsta the Darkside Wino, who “don’t do @%@! unless he’s tipsy”, was a contestant on the past season of SURVIVOR on CBS and is known across the 9 plains as a drunken lyrical maniac, long ago corrupted by the sinister vapors of the mysterious Black Cube. BobDawg is the deadliest disciple of the mythical 3 Headed Whiskey Beast and is known for “killin 9 killaz with one swing” of his granite battle axe. Bob Dawg is the Prime-Bearer of the “Darkside Chalice” and Chief Defender of the “Darkside Flag.”

Stik Figya the Darkside Warlock, last survivor of the “Twelve Thousand Dark Monks,” is the high and exalted “Ill Nicest on Mic Devices” and is a cunning lyrical spellcaster capable of turning his “body matter into evil shadow currents” and is known for “packing lyrics/ like dogs and rips/ pack gats and clips.” Stik Fig is the bearer of the “Potion of Patience” and is cultivator of the “Dark Chonic Leaves.”

Snook Dawgsta the Darkside Shogun, long lost brother of BobDawgsta the Darkside Wino, is an invincible rhyme fighter skilled in all disciplines of combat and is known to “process all disciplines of fighting quick like Matrix, time for battle/systematically sever the tongues of students so no one could tattle.” Snook Dawgsta is the Undefeated “Defender of the Dark Belt.” Known for the “2 Finger Death Grip” (which he taught to dat foo’ Darth Vader back in the days), Snook Dawg travels the cosmos collecting the heads and title belts of opponents dumb enough to battle him.

Last but not least, the Almighty DJ Frane, who’s turn-table spell casting allowed him to assemble these time-traveling wino-warrior rhyme fighters to assist him in his eternal quest to unravel the secrets of the “Black Cube” and defeat the forces of the annoying Lightside.

Join the Darkside Crooks, under the guidance of The Enigmatic DJ Frane, on their mythical journey as they travel throughout time and space fighting battles for the fate of hip-hop, smashin’ foos mercilessly and leaving light-side heathens in their wake.

Yes, I was very, very scared, and as Murtz can tell you, I took my sweet-ass time reviewing this, but I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised.

The trio of emcees BobDawgsta, Stik Figya and Snook Dawgsta form a nice trifecta of lyrical goodness. Bob sounds similar to Tash, Stik Figya to Big Boi and Snook is sort of a mix between Defari and Keith Murray (that’s a terrible comparison, but that’s the best I can do right now). They are backed up by DJ Frane on the decks, who looks like one of the creepy stoners who works as a janitor at your local mall, but he does, indeed, craft some fantastic old-school electro funk beats, most notably on tracks like “Nuthin’ But the DSC”, “Beats & Rhymes” and “Whiskey, Weed & Sex”. Seriously. The guy’s better than Pharrell, and could sell more records, too, if only he got the chance. Somebody sign this guy right now. He also does some early-Dr. Dre type beats on “Orange & Blue” and “Neva Comin’ Down”, and I’m liking it very much.

“Drankazoid” combines lyrical prowess over a minimal beat which blows up into a full-on Roland TR-808 assault, combined with a nice sample of/nod to “Don’t Stop the Rock”, released back in 1985 by the aptly named Freestyle. Being a Mexican, I can certainly dig it. And seeing as a whole litany of DJs have tried to remix and/or sample the track, and many have failed miserably, chalk this up as one of the better ones. Please do believe it.

“Wanna Battle?” samples the Darth Vader theme, as I’m really hoping that these lads can get sample clearance on all of this stuff, because this is damn good stuff. “Smoke, Drank” and “Prophets of the Black Cube” are mediocre at best, but luckily the funk is one again brought following those two songs on “Darkside Anthem”, and I think the album would flow a lot better without the aforementioned two mediocre tracks. The 9-minute swan song, which is also the title track, is a sort of narrative that samples some more John Williams and explains the legacy of “The Wino, The Warlock & The Shogun”.

If you are a fan of hip-hop (especially Tha Alkaholiks, Def Squad and the like) this is definitely worth your money, and it comes with a DVD to boot. Memo to Mike Eagle: Get these guys to play a show with you. That would kick ass.

The Darkside Crooks – The Wino, The Warlock & The Shogun
44 DAWGS (2006)
Rap / Hip-hop

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