While “The Scroobious Pip” might be a nonsensical poem by Edward Lear, Scroobius Pip is Britain’s newest hip-hop poet. His rhymes flow naturally in a near poetry-slam style. Scroobius Pip’s style is conversational, even moreso than other British rhymers, like his predecessors Andy Carthy (Mr. Scruff) or Mike Skinner (The Streets).
Scroobius Pip is making quite the name for himself across the Atlantic, securing radio play and performances. And after hearing his 2006 album, "No Commercial Breaks," anyone can see why. Scroob appeals to a broad range of music enthusiasts, from jazz-lovers to street poetry heroes. And word-crafting aside, the beats are just plain catchy.
Scroobius Pip could easily be likened to the British hip-hop mixes of The Streets. And with a slight frame and a full beard, he also looks about as well-suited to the world of hip-hop as well as Matisyahu is suited for reggae. However, Scroob is still loyal to a very raw, simplistic sound. He stays away from excessive layering of backbeats and effects, showcasing his lyrics. The music that accompanies him is dainty and nonintrusive. For example, in “1,000 Words,” his lyrics are followed along by a very simple, repetitive, yet jazzy, piano melody. Finally, an artist who still cares about the complexity and cadence of words.
Not every track on the album is great, though. Track 6, “At All,” goes against the grain of his other songs. The mix is not fun to listen to – the treble is turned up too high, Scroob’s voice is turned down too low. His voice is lost in the screeching, erratic beat. The track “Development,” which is the first song Pip actually crafted, sounds like the end result of They Might Be Giants turning into a rap group. The lyrics turn into a somewhat educational list of gases on the period table of elements. However this song is a great jumping point for future work, and his other tracks help listeners to realize he has, indeed, “come a long way, man.”
My favorite track on the album would have to be “Rat Race.” The music is jazzy and passionate, and rather than true rapping, Scroobius Pip speaks like he is reading poetry. The lyrics are so simple, but are fit together so masterfully: “As I wake up with the previous night still ringing in my fragile head,/ trying to piece together any shitty things I might have done or might have said,/ I drag my lifeless carcass to its feet and out of bed/ and clock into another day.” His thick accent is so animated and easy on the ear, so this is a great track for lyric-centric folks.
For those of us who are more interested in old-school hip-hop, there is track 2, “Muses.” Scroob partners up with Emonomy, a UK DJ, and Emonomy gets back to the basics of fundamental vinyl-scratching. It is really basic, so for vinyl purists, this track is where you want to go. Even as someone who skipped over the hip-hop movement a couple decades ago, I love the rawness Emonomy brings to this track.
And I really can’t say enough about the first track, which I mentioned earlier, “1,000 Words.” The lyrics feel deeply personal, as Scroob describes his own story. And the analogies are gorgeously crafted: “’The pen is far mightier than the sword,’ he said,/ as he stabbed his pen in my leg and the ink mixed with the red.” This track is truly the strongest example of what Scroobius Pip is capable of. Because it is the first track, it might set expectations a little high for the rest of the album, but on the other hand, it sets a lyrical precedent that listeners can follow throughout the other not-so-sophisticated tracks.
Overall recommendation: "No Commercial Breaks" is a great debut album for Scroobius Pip. Hip-hop fans and poetry fans alike can all appreciate this album. It is entirely worth dropping a few bucks to be able to catch Scroob at the beginning of his musical career and follow him throughout his future endeavors. Also, keep an eye out for Scroobius Pip's work with Dan Le Sac... it's not something you'll want to miss.
Reviewed by: Karalee