June 10, 2008

Scientifik - Criminal (1994: released on CD April 18, 2006)


I would be lying if I said I knew a whole lot about the rapper known as Scientifik. I'm aware that he passed away a long time ago, and that the specifics of his passing are cloudy at best (I've read conflicting reports about a car crash, a shooting, a domestic disturbance, and combinations of two or more of the above), but I'm not here to judge the man's life: I'm here to judge the music.

Criminal was a debut album that ended up being the only album in a shortened career for the Lawrence, MA emcee. Scientifik was blessed with many friendships in the music industry, and was able to secure some instrumentals from some of the best to ever provide that East Coast boom-bap sound.

Criminal was recorded in 1994 for Mercury Records, a label that was going through some severe financial trouble: shortly before the album's original release date in 1994, the label went bankrupt, so only a few copies of the vinyl were released, and zero CDs were pressed. As such, this album has been incredibly elusive, even for me (I'm good, but I'm not that good: the copy I have is burned, just like everyone else's).

I had originally heard of Scientifik on one of the early Wu-Tang forums, since The Rza produced the track "As Long As You Know", but everything I read at the time indicated the artist's name was Criminal Scientifik, so it's obvious that there was a lot of mystery surrounding the existence of this guy. A quick mention in ego trip's Big Book of Rap Lists sparked up my interest again (and also corrected everyone's errors).

Traffic Entertainment re-released Criminal in 2006, along with a second disc titled The Most Blunted, which, depending on who you ask, is either Scientifik's demo tape or his aborted first album. This is very good news for fans of early 1990's hip hop, with the grimy gutter sounds that were par for the course pre-Diddy.

Now where the fuck did I put my copy?

1. LAWTOWN
Oh man, nobody makes beats like this anymore. Scientifik jumps straight into the song (fuck a rap album intro), with Ed O.G.'s musical backdrop immediately taking you back in time. A bit of the hook is questionable, though: "Put the gats down, I think not/ 'Cause if it don't stop we be licking that cock." Taken both in and out of context, I'm thinking, huh?

2. I GOT PLANS (FEAT DIAMOND D)
Diamond D sounds good, but I get the feeling he only used certain words just to make his verse rhyme, specifically "I caught my girl cheating, so I beat her with a switch". Now that's gangsta! The reference to Justin Warfield definitely carbon-dates this track, but this song is pretty fucking good otherwise.

3. JUNGLES OF DA EAST
Bringing the energy down a notch, Scientifik reps the East Coast over a tightly produced slower paced beat (brought to you by the artist and Shame) which is still dominated by drums. Not bad.

4. OVERNITE GANGSTA
A two-verse scathing diatribe against fake-ass gangsters that ends just before Scientifik runs out of insults.

5. YEAH DADDY
I shit you not, my head was actually nodding to this Diamond D production once the drums kicked in, the beat is that fucking good. If only the hook (and, by proxy, the song's title) didn't suck, this song would be fucking awesome.

6. STILL AN HERB DEALER
The standard "I may be a rapper now but I'm still working part time on them corners" track that was a requirement of all rappers who were worried about losing their street cred since they weren't actually on the streets anymore. Wouldn't your nights be filled with shows, groupies, and having your boys hold your weed for you? Where would one find the time?

7. AS LONG AS YOU KNOW (FEAT ED O.G. & PRINCE RAKEEM)
This song is so old, The Rza was credited as Prince Rakeem, and the beat sounds absolutely nothing like any Wu-Tang track, which is a testament to Rza's excellence at his craft. This track was originally credited as an Ed O.G. song that featured Scientifik: not really sure how the situation switched up the credits, but who cares: they've perfected their back-and-forth to sound like long lost twins, separated at birth, reunited by chance at summer camp, conspiring to get their parents back together. This song is fucking awesome.

8. FALLEN STAR
Buckwild's beat sounds slightly different that his other work on Criminal, but that shouldn't be seen as any sort of disqualifier, since this song is still pretty damn good.

9. DOWNLO HO
The beat fucking rocks, although I may be biased, since it's the same music that accompanies the interlude before "Respiration" on the Black Star album. The theme of the rhymes doesn't really fit the instrumental, though (calling out an otherwise respectable woman for acting shady), but that shouldn't deter your listening.

10. CRIMINAL
Only slightly weaker than the rest of Criminal, but still a good way to end your album.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Criminal is one of those rap albums that nobody has but everyone should. Had it actually seen its original release date, there is no doubt in my mind that it would have been one of the best hip hop albums of 1994. It still sounds really good today, and as a bonus, it's really short: at only ten tracks, it's perfect for my attention span. Also, the fact that there are no skits, intros, or outros, makes me like the disc that much more. May he rest in peace.

BUY OR BURN: You gotta get this shit any way that you can. If you luck into finding one of the re-released copies in the store, it's well worth investing your money. If all you can do is burn it, well, that's what the other hip hop blogs are for, but, once again, you gotta get this shit any way that you can.

BEST TRACKS: The entire album. Seriously.

-Max

32 comments:

  1. Great review on this rarity, Max. Hip hop heads should try searching around for this album because used copies are normally going for no less than 30 clams. But, Amazon offers a download of the entire album for 10 bucks. Do what you gotta do.

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  2. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJune 10, 2008

    Well, aren't you a busy little beaver lately? I'm expecting Dart Adams to comment on this album any minute now.
    I've never even heard it but I'm probably gonna steal it in the next 5 minutes or so. If it's what you claim I'll be happy to buy it and support his family. Well, hopefully. I'm not sure if they're still profiting from his artistry.

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  3. I remember when Scientifik pressed up his own copies of "Criminal" and went from college radio station to college radio station all over New England and into New York selling them in Mom and Pop stores and out the trunk of his car. This album was so ahead of it's time.

    R.I.P. Scientifik

    One.

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  4. AnonymousJune 11, 2008

    Nice find, never heard of this guy before.

    "Put the gats down, I think not/ 'Cause if it don't stop we be licking that cock."

    Heh, I could be wrong but I think it's "... licking at cops."

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  5. No, you are definitely right... it is "we be licking at cops." "Licking that cock" is a potential song-ruining line right there

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  6. Never heard this, never heard of it. Downloading it now from emusic.com (the home for legally downloading indie hip-hop as far as I'm concerned). Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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  7. Wax may've been limited, and I don't know about the CDs, but the cassettes were plentiful. I got mine at a Sam Goody's, I think, with no idea that this was going to be considered rare someday.

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  8. TrainwithnodoughJune 25, 2008

    This is a great album, a shame its so slept on. Good looking out with the review.

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  9. I went out and bought this album after reading this review. Great call, I wasn't disappointed by the high expectations you set. The RZA song is sick, although I have to disagree with you on how it doesn't sound like a Wu-tang song. Rza'a "Poisonous" vocals sound an awful lot like Guillotine (Swords) off Cuban Linx, and the muted horns sound like I Gotcha Back off Liquid swords.
    This album is impeccably produced, though. I don't know how I'd never heard of it.

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  10. This album fucking BANGS, im so serious. good review

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  11. Great album indeed, I'm pretty sure "The Most Blunted" was released in 1992, 2 years prior to this album, it most definitely sounds released prior to Criminal anyway, while Criminal has top notch production and (to say the least)above average lyracism and decent subject matter, The Most Blunted seems a huge step down and the lyrics are childish to say the least, he at least makes an attempt in the opening song to make a "real" hiphop song but he ends up saying "I'm trying to get paid" about 5 times and ends up killing it. It's then followed by 3-4 attempts at big club banging tunes refering to a woman of sorts.

    TL;DR: Avoid The Most Blunted, unless you've had the misfortune to waste 5 minutes downloading it.

    Criminal on the other hand is a top notch album and easily has a spot on my top 10 albums.

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  12. Max, I brought this from Itunes.
    This album is FUCKING INCREDIBLE.
    I dont think i would be wrong saying this is on par with Illmatic. As long as you know has one of the best beats I've ever seen- maybe The RZA should listen to his old stuff before releasing generic overproduced Bobby Digital Shit. Other highlights would be I've got plans and Fallen Star.

    For Probably low budget beats, this guy doesnt dissapoint. Your right, everyone should have this. I brought this the same day I brought Regulate G Funk Era- lets just say the latter is now at the back of the pile.

    One more thing- Is this guys life such a mystery that bloggers like yourself dont actually know his real name?



    Blake

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  13. lickin'(...shootin) at cops

    not
    licking.....cocks?

    thats just gay
    which i dont have problems with anyone being gay. but come on

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    Replies
    1. His real name was Dinitry Behrmann :)

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  14. Hi Blake, His real name was Dinitry Behrmann... I am his sister ;-) Now its no longer a mystery ;-)

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  15. A.R. MarksMarch 12, 2010

    I found this album in like 4 seconds.

    I'm intrigued but I haven't given it a listen yet.

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  16. Tile GroutMarch 20, 2010

    Great album. Talk about heavy. Regarding "Lawtown", the chorus' first time 'round clearly discusses "lickin' at cops". It's the second appearance that seems to reference a twilight zone homosexual gang fantasy. Seeing as how that wouldn't really fit into the general theme of Scientifik's album, I will forever side with the "lickin' at cops" version.

    @Roc - thanks for shedding light on your very talented brother's identity.

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  17. AnonymousMay 08, 2010

    yo homie

    ''A bit of the hook is questionable, though: "Put the gats down, I think not/ 'Cause if it don't stop we be licking that cock." Taken both in and out of context, I'm thinking, huh?''

    its we be lickin at cops... lick shots at cops you know hehe.. makes more sence now

    aight chill!

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  18. More reviews for albums that nobody knows and knock please! And a huge thanks for the review. Now I own one more classic.

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  19. CHECK OUT SCIENTIFIK'S SON SCIENTIFIK IN B-FITTED
    http://soundcloud.com/b-fitted

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  20. mount eden NZAugust 12, 2011

    Never heard of this dude then picked up the reissue of 'the most blunted' at a store, 2nd hand, for 3 dollars in new zealand.. (contrary to the other 20-30 dollar albums) and just like illmatic, its a possible favourite.. with only 10 tracks.. rest easy scientifik

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  21. It's lickin at cops end of story. And I had this album in 94 mostly because I'm from Boston and was fortunate to have friends from Lawrence. But I was so happy when they put it on disc because I hadn't heard it in 8yrs prior to 06. Its a banger and I enjoy it as much as I did in '94 but those just gettin up on it now often fail to see how truly competitive it was for it's time.

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  22. here's some clarification from diamond d. said he died in a car accident arguing with his girlfriend

    http://www.complex.com/music/2011/07/interview-diamond-d/i-got-planz

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  23. classic hidden gem.
    bumpin track 7 right now!

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  24. His death is a lot more grim than just a simple argument/car accident, but I'll let him rest in peace--regardless of what he may or may not have done before he died...

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  25. inb4 Max turns everyone on to the greatest rap album ever and changes the world

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  26. Pure Dopeness! Rap at its best!

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  27. The freaky thing is if this awesome album was released back in 1994 hip hop may have went in a complete different direction

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  28. http://m.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19980606/NEWS/306069962&template=wapart

    That's the truth behind his death im from the area.doesn't take away from the legend he was or how skilful he was.good bless him and his family

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  29. I just found this 'lost' video of Lawtown, it was uploaded on YouTube a couple days ago, here it is if you haven't seen it:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6QoNMQiJh40

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  30. For anyone still interested, this video was proof that, apparently, Jungles Of Da East was intended to be the lead single. I just came across this shit one month ago:

    https://youtu.be/O-NFuCHkkgI

    RIP Scientifik

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