June 20, 2012

Admittedly, Evan Nabavian has yelled “samples, baby” at the employees of Cosco.

In 2007, I was immersed in a golden age revival characterized by swooning nostalgia and hyperbolic praise. It was a good time, but I started to realize how smug and obnoxious we all were when I was at a DJ Premier set and some guy yelled, “Samples, baby!” I vowed then and there to be less of a tool than that guy.

I’d like to think the scene has matured since then. ASAP Rocky, Roc Marciano, and Action Bronson do right by the city without slavishly referencing its legacy. Scram Jones is another one, though he’s more prankster than poster boy. His roots are deep: he’s DJed for Raekwon, produced for Tragedy Khadafi, and rapped beside Alchemist. He approached his November mixtape The Hat Trick as a rapper/producer with an appetite for punchlines and a Stretch & Bob-worthy flow. 90s sensibilities permeate his music and yet recent tracks demonstrate that he’s not the regressive curmudgeon you’d expect.

“Let Me Show You (Pussy Works)” with N.O.R.E. is advanced buffoon rap where Scram turns a choice Brian McKnight clip into the funniest thing a rap song has done on purpose since “Baracka Flacka Flames.” The best part is that Scram’s beat hits with an immediately satisfying handclap and 808 combo; rocket fuel for N.O.R.E., who carries the torch for Akinyele.

But Scram gets even weirder. “Used to Know” is a soberly recounted lover’s spat that doesn’t take itself entirely seriously either. Scram and his lady go back and forth over a relationship corroded by time and alcohol – heavy stuff, except he voices his lady by chipmunking his voice and he samples Gotye without a mind for the people who will jump down his throat for sampling Gotye. It’s touching in spite of itself, on some Wes Anderson shit (Moonrise Kingdom is legit, by the way) and all of the elements work together better than they should.

“Voices in The Attic” is one that comes straight out of the throwback rapper’s handbook, where Scram and guest tally dead entertainers. Game would approach this song as an acolyte, raising up everyone from Isaac Hayes to Slim Dunkin as an apostle, but Scram treats it more like a gimmick-based lyrical exercise ala “Alphabetical Slaughter.” Still plenty of fun.

Today, throwback rappers are the dregs of 2dopeboyz and the surviving legends serve a shrinking niche audience. Scram Jones is the curious artifact who’s just now finding a preternatural stride.


MP3: N.O.R.E. – “Let Me Show You How the Pussy Works” (prod. by Scram Jones) (Left-Click)

MP3: Scram Jones ft. Swigga – “Voices in the Attic”

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