"Audacity" by Ugly Duckling

Ugly Duckling
Audacity

Fat Beats Records
2008

Review

For me, UD have always been about the raw basics of Hip-Hop coupled with the desire to just have fun that was so much a part of the music. It seems that so often now that desire to have fun is missing from a lot of modern Hip-Hop records. With UD you get a very talented producer/DJ and two MC's that aren't concerned with being flashy or hardcore (if you've never seen them live, you need to check out this UD staple where a gigantic gold chain is unveiled). UD is just profanity-free party lyrics that generally do not take themselves too seriously over ridiculous samples, drum breaks, and samples. This album keeps to that formula and while perhaps not their strongest release (that honor would have to go to their fantastic concept album Taste The Secret) is still worth checking out for people looking for less aggression and more fun in their Hip-Hop.

There is a trend going on with rappers wanting sing their own choruses rather than getting an R&B singer to do it on their behalf and UD has embraced it here. They have done this sparingly in the past but on this album Andy Cooper is singing the hook on nearly all of the tracks (Einstein adds some color here and there as well). Thankfully it works as he seems to be well aware of his limits as a singer.

The album opens with UD's response to Nas's proclaimation that "Hip-Hop is Dead" (that really got to people, didn't it?) and proclaim why they won't let it die. The first thing you'll notice is that Dizzy has stepped it up a bit (for him) on this album. I felt that there were moments in the last UD record that he kind of mailed it in. The opener does a good job of establishing what the album is going to be about and right away you get a taste of Andy's sining of the hooks. Einstein's production and DJ'ing are on point as well with playful samples and clever use of horns. The rest of the album follows suit.

Einstein sets the tone for UD and there are a few places on the album where the beat that Einstein serves up for UD to rapper over doesn't suit the MC-styles of Andy and Dizzy. A prime example of this is "The Takedown" where you can see how the MC's are so much more comfortable over the horn interpolation that weaves in and out of the track as opposed to how stiff they sound during the parts of the song where there is only a drum sample.

The standout moments on the album for me are the opener "I Won't Let It Die", the dedication to self-respect anthem "I Want To Believe", and the album closer "Oh Yeah". For me, these tracks represent the pinnacle of what UD was trying to achieve as the sing-along choruses manage to mesh well with the fundamentals of the UD sound.

I commend UD for continuing to represent the spirit of early Hip-Hop and for staying true to themselves. The title of the album may be "Audacity" but I would ask how audacious is it really to want to have fun with MC'ing and DJ'ing and do it in a way that is literally accessible to all due to its total lack of malice or profanity? UD say You can't spell "Audacity" without UD but I say I can't see Hip-Hop without the spirit that these guys represent.

4.364 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. I Won't Let It Die (04:15) 4
2. The Takedown (03:52) 3
3. Audacity, Parts 1 & 2 (05:03) 5
4. Falling Again (04:22) 5
5. It's Gone (03:47) 3
6. I Want to Believe (04:52) 5
7. Einstein Do It (Night on Scratch Mountain) (04:30) 5
8. The Lonely Ones (04:11) 4
9. Pay or Quit (01:34)
10. Right Now (04:27) 4
11. It Never Mattered (04:36) 5
12. Oh Yeah (03:54) 5