First impressions of … Sims’ ‘Bad Time Zoo’A track-by-track preview of the latest Doomtree product: Sims’ “Bad Time Zoo,” which was produced by the Twin Cities rap crew’s in-house super producer, Lazerbeak.
For those unfamiliar with Doomtree, a primer: The Twin Cities hip-hop crew is currently composed of seven talented individuals (P.O.S., Sims, Mike Mictlan, Dessa and Cecil Otter are responsible for most of the raps, and Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger are responsible for most of the beats) and, at least according to this humble little music addict, is the most interesting collective active today.
As such, there is always much fanfare in my house and — much to the chagrin of my unsuspecting coworkers — at the Budgeteer’s offices whenever a new Doomtree product is announced. The latest such gift from Minneapolis is Sims’ “Bad Time Zoo,” which was produced entirely by Lazerbeak.
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy (it will be released Feb. 15 on Doomtree Records). To celebrate, I’ve collected the original thoughts this album triggered in my mind below:
1. “Future Shock”
Production-wise the album opener is along the same lines of Lazerbeak’s contributions to 2008’s all-crew “Doomtree” record — a wise choice for album opener, especially for those only familiar with that mammoth, nationally promoted album.
2. “Burn it Down”
A barnstormer right out of the gates … a truly phenomenal track. This is the epitome of exciting hip-hop. Where Lazerbeak bobs, Sims weaves. It’s hard to imagine a better-oiled machine.
(BONUS ONLINE FUN: As this is the album’s first single, you can listen to it at www.doomtree.net — or watch its video over at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_x6M3UXq9M.)
3. “Bad Time Zoo”
A retro-futuristic vibe in the key of Atmosphere’s “When Life Gives You Lemons…” — in fact, I think Lazerbeak owes Ant a cold one for the inspiration. As far as the rhymes go, Sims is a slayer. All in all, another showcase track for the pair.
4. “Too Much”
As long as we’re on Atmosphere comparisons, here Sims tells a story Slug-style, though his wordplay is decidedly more spitfire. It’s easy to get lost in his world.
5. “One Dimensional Man”
The hip-hop equivalent of “Stuff White People Like”?
6. "In My Sleep"
A hazy, up-too-late-walking-about nightmare of twisted guitar chords. By no means an upper.
7. “When It Rolls In”
Sims’ personal “Quadrophenia.”
8. “Good Times”
A pitch-perfect throwback to early-’90s hip-hop.
9. “LMG (Love My Girl)”
It’s funny: If you write a song for your lady, it ends up being one for all the ladies.
10. “The Veldt”
If this song were a cinematic device, it would be a series of spinning newspapers with less-than-positive headlines. It’s not that simple, of course, but neither is using words to describe sounds….
A decidedly “busy” track, you do feel the planet precariously teetering on Sims’ shoulders.
12. “Radio Opaque”
The aim of this one is pretty clear: “In a transparent industry, they lookin’ so vain.” The slightly dour tone is forgotten, however, around the three-minute mark, where Lazerbeak constructs an impressive breakdown.
13. “Sink or Syncopate”
Another soul-searching, less-than-jubilant track. … Man, is Sims living in a constant state of autumn?
14. “Hey You”/unlisted
“Hey You” is an interesting-enough minstrel’s tale — you know, hip-hop for fans of the Midlake album “The Trials of Van Occupanther” — but it’s upstaged by the alarmingly cinematic unlisted track that follows it (after the requisite minute of silence, of course).
Another fine album released under the Doomtree banner. Pairing Sims with Lazerbeak was a wise move. This record is every bit as satisfying as Lazerbeak's project with Mike Mictlan, Hand Over Fist. While it doesn't have as many outright party anthems as that duo's 2008 debut, "clubs and bottles" clearly isn't the focus here; because of Sims' thoughtful wordplay and oftentimes-weighty themes, this is an album that will only grow on (and with) its listeners. Prepare to spend some time with this one.
“Bad Time Zoo” will be released Feb. 15 by Doomtree Records. Pre-order bundles are available at www.doomtree.net.
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