Criminals with Trouble in their Pockets

[rating: 8/10]

Thought Criminals was an influential Australian punk band that formed in 1977… oh wait… wrong Thought Criminals…

The Thought Criminals is a British electro… no that’s not it…

The ThoughtCriminals is not a punk band that formed in 1977. In fact, they are not Australian or British, are not punk or electro… rather, The ThoughtCriminals are a hip hop crew that sent me their CD a few weeks back after I saw them advertised as an opening act for MC Frontalot on a Facebook invite. When I messaged Mikal kHill, he immediately responded and asked my shirt size. When I responded, he apologized that they were out of stock on my t-shirt size, but he sent me the music to check out and continues to keep in touch with me promising that a shirt is on the way.

Well, first off, the shirt is unnecessary, as the album speaks for itself (though I am still welcoming the free swag, I’ll even post a pic of my fat ass rocking it once I get it). The 16 track self-title CD is chock full of intelligent lyrics, catchy hooks, good flow, and an overall fantastically constructed hip hop aesthetic. Sub-genre defying, the ThoughtCriminals are not a typical nerdcore act, despite having some ties to that scene; their sound is often very reminiscent of classic hip hop like A Tribe Called Quest and Boogie Down Productions, with some subtle and not-so-sublte influences from other hip hop artists ranging from Wu-Tang Clan to Frontalot himself.

Lyrically, some tracks are fun and uplifting, others are politically and social minded, and others yet are educational. Here are my notes on a few of my favorite tracks, taken directly from the notes I made on a back page of my planner while driving to and from work over the past few weeks. In no particular order:

Track 2 “Falling Apart”

Not what I expected… guess I was expecting something more obviously nerdy due to being an opener for Front. Great beat, talented band. Very Roots-esque, but fronted by a rapper more like Q-Tip or KRS rather than Thought.

Track 13 “Loud Enough”

Part Cornell West, part KRS, part Saul Williams… educational and entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable. Nice acoustic guitar work in the background. Homage to Leon Scott’s influence over 100 years ago. Works well enough on it’s own, but is perfect as the introductory track to “Corporate Sellout”

Track 5 “Pocket Full of Trouble”

Love the “Gin & Juice” references. In fact, the song sounds like it has a bit of that Chronic-era Dre feel besides just the lyrical references.

Track 3 “Things Change”

Synth reminds me of Double Ice Backfire, though that’s likely just because I’ve been obsessed with Songs from the Pit lately. Flow and synth together also bring to mind some of Beefy’s stuff on Rolling Doubles. The guy singing the line “just stay the same” in the chorus sounds very “radio rap”, can’t put my finger on who he is reminding me of, though.

Track 12 “Mile After Mile”

This track makes me feel happy from the door. Fun and happy music. Uplifting lyrics, references to everyday life, paying bills, and reading comics. All in all, the track most likely to be repeated over and over on my iPod. One last note… something about this track makes me think of Abdominal, not sure why though.

Track 4 “Pledge”

Beat is very Frontalot. I half expected Front to start rapping as the verse broke.

Track 8 “Economic Downturn”

Sounds like a video game as the song opens… so much so that it brought to mind Nerdrap Entertainment System. Lyrically, strong social conscience. Is it us or them? Our choices in life or the system? Interesting stuff.

A great album front to back, beginning to end, The ThoughtCriminals is a fantastic debut that this hip hop band can be proud of. Their page on cdbaby describes the CD as “Part live band, part hip hop crew, this group deftly hops across genres, mixing hip hop with a variety of styles and lyrical density unparalleled by anything you’ll hear in the mainstream.” This accurate description still does not do them justice, but it’s a start. If you like old school hip hop, bands like The Roots, underground hip hop like Sage Francis, The Coup, and Abdominal, or are a big fan of the nerdcore standouts like Front, YTC, and Beefy, then this is a must for your collection.


~ by thepaintedman on April 7, 2010.

2 Responses to “Criminals with Trouble in their Pockets”

  1. […] In closing, this is a darker and more intimate look into Mikal kHill. So, if you are interested in something more fun, start with The ThoughtCriminals… […]

  2. […] start with the latest ThoughtCriminals […]

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