Bad Time Zoo
Release Date: Feb 15, 11
In the past few years, the Doomtree crew out of Minneapolis, MN have established themselves as a hip-hop force to be reckoned with. Two years ago P.O.S. dropped Never Better, a record of jaw-dropping vitality and fury. Last year saw Dessa’s A Badly Broken Code, an exploration into the middle space between hip-hop, spoken word and soulful crooning. And now, Andrew Sims is taking his turn at the solo mic, and yet again, the results are excellent.
The group’s stamp is all over Bad Time Zoo, from P.O.S. appearing on “Too Much” to Lazerbeak’s production throughout. (LB, incidentally, put out last year’s Legend Recognize Legend, another solid showing.) Most of the time, though, Sims’ flow is all his own. It’s distinctly Midwestern in its deliberate delivery, and though he doesn’t delve too frequently into double-time or any of the other standard tricks, it’s still deeply engaging on cuts like the title track, an ode to ending up trapped in your homeland.
Much of Zoo is devoted to pointing out glaring hypocrisy, whether on a personal or grand scale. On “One Dimensional Man,” he shames neo-liberals: “You did your part/You gave your hundred bucks to NPR/You joined a co-op, did your part/You bought the hybrid car.” On “The Veldt” he depicts a land plunged into hopelessness and survivalist violence, populated with liquor stores, that’s not a home so much as “the place where we landed.” There’s a fire to Sims’ ground-level tales that’s somewhat reminiscent of the early work of The Streets, at least where lyrical content is concerned.
By keeping the track lengths lean for the most part, Sims is able to keep things moving fast and lean; even the weaker tracks don’t stick out. On opener “Future Shock,” he sounds remarkably like P.O.S.; there aren’t many better MCs to ape, but he nabs even the pre-chorus “What do you…” line of questioning from the former’s “Let It Rattle.” Closing track “Hey You” flows well on the strength of Doomtree alum Plain Ole Bill’s beat, but follows the typical through-line of an inspirational hip-hop ballad.
Through the tales of (sub)urban despair that permeate the majority of Bad Time Zoo, Sims comes at it with poise that displays gravity without the vitrolic histrionics that tend to plague a good amount of what could be called the “indie rap” scene. The world he depicts is in desperate need of resuscitation, leaving him to question on first single “Burn It Down”: “What will you call your home, what will you call your own?” And the solution? “Let’s get it going/Less emotion/More emulsion/Burn it down.”