Artist: The CrestTitle: SkeptikRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Paine

Hip-hop markets in places like Minneapolis or Columbus have been created by underground artists like Oddjobs or Copywrite. Because of hard work, these cities are mandatory tour stops for any talent. Wisconsin may be the next nut to be cracked. While Coo Coo Cal turned radio’s heads to his projects in the Miller City a few years ago, The Crest may garner some more interest through their improvisational Hip-hop live shows, and new album, Skeptik (Uprising). While it flows along the Jam-Rock lines in the vein of Ugly Ducking or Ordinary Peoples, there are some likable qualities in this sophomore effort.

In terms of tone, this album is extremely playful. The group’s MC talent, A.D. and Jack Cracker prefer to showcase skills in verbal gymnastics such as the extended cadences on “Contageous”. The content in such places is very limited, and on a local scale may impress, but the punchlines and witticisms fail to contest with your average established MC. “Cruizin’ Chubby’s” is another ode, on much sillier terms. This song captures the essence of sexing big-boned women. While the deliveries lead one to believe that everybody in the studio was in stitches, it’s a forgettable novelty track. The one lyrical gem on the record is “L-Ascorbic Acid,” and the group knew-so because they invited Eyedea and Def Jux’s Carnage on board. The competition brings out the best in everyone, carrying wonderful variations in speed from MC to MC. Skeptik lacks any intimacy from MC to listener, thereby making it more of a party-album, if partiers enjoy relaxing over descriptions of a naked woman’s stretch-marks…

The pleasures of this album are tucked away in its production. Jayson Blare and DJ Skrabble keep things moving with a great knowledge of dusted and energetic records to sample. “L-Ascorbic Acid” is nicely built upon a notable groove from Hip-Hop’s beloved imported 60’s Pysche group, Can. The short chops and scratches add a new spin on things. “Big Wallet” also shows a great song-structure with a scratch-chorus and a nice vocal bridge from Jack Cracker. A nice “Cop Film” score sounding sample of strings brings out an eeriness that makes the presentation better as well. Other times, things feel senseless and rushed such as the loud, but lethargic “Independent” that pairs boom-bap drums with screaming at a not-existent crowd in the name of “Do you know Hip-hop?” At times, that question should be bounced back on the artists.

In the mid-90’s, Hip-hop probably wasn’t ready for an Atmosphere or even a C-Rayz-Walz. With strength in hard earned numbers, these acts walked over naysayers and changed minds forever. At this juncture, that’s what The Crest must do. With a Hip-hop functionality mixed with a Rock backbone, they are in limbo. It will take a large local population, and perhaps crossing into that Warped Tour, Punk market to really do their worst. Skeptik is certainly aptly titled, because there will be many. But for those looking for an aggressive, well-crafted blend of live-minded Hip-hop from a new place, The Crest has arrived.

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