Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ruccus Roboticus - Playing with Scratches

Artist: Ruckus Roboticus

Album: Playing with Scratches

Released: Locally in Ohio on Nov. 10th, 2007; Worldwide on Jan. 8th, 2008

Label: Grease Records

Style: Including, but not limited to, mashups of hip-hop and children's music

Buy From: Amazon, Rucus' Online Store

01. Overture
02. The Birth of Ruckus
03. Baby's First Scratch
04. When I Grow Up
05. Never Play With Scratches
06. How To Handle Grown Ups
07. Intermission (Flee To The Playroom)
08. Here We Go
09. A Child's Introduction to Drums
10. Everlasting Ghettoblasting Gobstopper
11. Taking Turns (Feat. Skratchmatik)
12. Bedtime For Sleepyhead
13. Face The Music
14. The Rebirth of Ruckus
15. (Untitled)

Hailing from Dayton, Ohio, DJ Ruckus Roboticus is mashing up funky, sample-based, hiphop with the likes of Girl Talk and Kid Koala. Drawing primarily from old children's records, this album "tell(s) a semi-autobiographic story, about the birth of a kid, who learns to scratch on his See-N-Say toy, and who has to deal with growing up and facing pressures from the grown-up world."[1]

We begin the album with the needle dropping on track one, the Overture, setting the stage for us with samples of children talking over some funky beats. Moving on to The Birth of Rucus, Roboticus keeps the vibe up while getting us prepared already for the plethora of vintage hiphop and children's samples to come , covering everything from the act of mating to the point of conception, and his subsequent birth.

The real fun begins on Baby's First Scratch. Using a presumably-modified See-N-Say we hear reenactments of baby Ruckus' first electronic explorations, although I doubt baby's real first scratches ever sounded this good! And with this, the album really kicks off. The stage is set, the audience knows what it's in for and obviously hasn't turned off the stereo yet, so Roboticus ages himself a few years for When I Grow Up to give us a taste of his young aspirations of being a superstar drumming idol.

As the title track begins, it's obvious we're dealing with a full-grown, healthy, well-adjusted robot, doing as every good robot should and warning human kind of iminent danger. That is, the very real danger of..playing with scratches! Here's where the Kid Koala references really start hitting home for me. It's obvious this DJ has a lot of raw talent and tons of great ideas, not to mention a genuinely eclectic taste for beat progression, sample placement and funky flow in his songs.

How to Handle Grownups doesn't do much to advance the story of Roboticus, but it is a great concept for a song. And well executed, continuing on the theme of children's records and hiphop samples, scratched to perfection. The record endures like this in excellent taste, though as it continues we hear an increasing ammount of funk and drums taking the forefront of the album, with the scratching and samples taking the backburner momentarily. Until Everlasting Ghettoblasting Gobstopper. At this point the album takes a turn for the BOOM! The track starts off seemingly harmless, with a light xylophone and some drums, pretty catchy no doubt. Then it drops, an entirely unique track halfway through. Here we see Roboticus' aspirations to make big beats for hiphop artists coming into play...sort of =) It's not quite studio clean (obviously, given the vinyl samples), and it's a little crashy for the hippedy hop -towards the end, more notably- but the influence is definately present imo.

Then on the next track it's back to the kids, funk and scratching with a refreshing take on the situation by guest Skratchmatic, appropriately titled Taking Turns. All good things must end, however. Bedtime for Sleepyhead begins the wind down after a wild adventure into the robot playground. And if you shook the sleepy out of your eyses after that one get ready for round two, because Face the Music is sure to put you down for the night. Your last hope is the final track, The Rebirth of Ruckus, which is pretty mellow, but still revives the funky beat of the album, followed by a 3 minute Outro of a sound we're probably all too familiar with: a needle idling over the blank center of a record, though this is edited a little so if you forget to turn off the album by the middle of this 3-minute track you'll get to hear at least a little bit of manipulation, and the album ends with a closing sample.

Well done, I say. Very well done indeed. I'm expecting this to make my Year-End '08 list for sure. Before we close, here's some links to related content.

Impose Magazine Interview
Roboticus' Website
Roboticus' MurdockSpace

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