Bang For The Buck

Artist: Ugly DucklingTitle: Bang For The BuckRating: 2 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Brandon Edwards

Relentlessly determined and optimistic, ugly ducklings are the ones that no one wants: the hideously unloved and underappreciated. As the tale goes, the ill regarded fowl eventually transforms into the beautiful swan, adored by all. This isn't the case for the Long Beach rap trio Ugly Duckling amidst the valiant effort they put forth on their latest full length Bang for the Buck (Fat Beats).

Diving in you feel instant Juice era, late eighties, early nineties rap music. Production sizzles and skates forward as the up-tempo opener and title track infuses bells with a hype snare and focused bass. The fingers behind the boards, Young Einstein, get busy on the majority of Ugly Duckling’s tracks employing everything from horns, high-hats and fancy key work to get the job done. The nostalgic experience and steady groove put you in a goofy party-boy mode, but the songs are still dressed to party by an average old-school tailor.

Andy and Dizzy know how to have fun with Hip-Hop. Life is definitely about not taking yourself too seriously and this pair of confident lyricists flash a friendly smile at the mic and let go a mockingly pathetic laugh at the entire industry. But their independence and unique sound is hard to grasp and even harder to listen to. Yeah, they got an old-school flavor but it’s the type of ingredient that makes jerk chicken inedible and gets a gin and tonic sent back for having 90% tonic. These guys definitely have a cool love for the music that sets the stage for a positive bond with the listener, but only if you're a wannabe skater and hippie backpacker. Lame hooks straight up ruin songs like “Yudee!,” “Smack,” and “Lower The Boom.” “Shoot Your Shot” says it all and fails to body anything, “There’s no competition, so I don't listen/ you think you're dope here’s a penny, go wishing.”

The rap scene today is in dire need of balance. Between the overbearing corporate shuffling of murderers, drug dealers and Trump imitations, California’s revolution is gearing up for round three in the rap game [NWA, Death Row would be one and two]. It feels like a breath of fresh air is on the horizon, unfortunately Young Einstein, Dizzy and Andy aren't sonically prepared to factor into that equation.