I think we can agree that the last two days on the blog have been morally questionable. So today, I present Scram Jones's The Hat Trick as a peace offering.
Scram Jones, real name Marc Shermer, is a New York-based producer who has managed to work with many of hip hop's big names over the past decade or so, such as Ghostface Killah, Black Rob, Canibus, Tragedy Khadafi, Scarface, the Terror Squad, and even Mariah fucking Carey (where he found his work nominated for a Grammy award). Aside from the Terror Squad, it's obvious that Scram has an affinity for actual lyricists, and he delivers boom-bap beats for them by the buckets because he knows that they will fit his guests like a glove.
Scram Jones, real name Marc Shermer, is also a New York-based rapper, a fact that some of you two won't be familiar with. He actually came into our chosen genre on the microphone side of things, spitting freestyles and even earning some accolades in the "Unsigned Hype" column in The Source. However, this happened in 2002, around the same time when co-owner Ray "Benzino" Scott was making his influence more obvious in what was formerly known as the hip hop bible, so this may not have been the best of awards for a younger Scram Jones to covet. Still, good press is good press.
Scram Jones, real name Marc Shermer, is also a New York-based deejay, and apparently a really fucking good one, too, as he is currently holding residency in some of the most exclusive clubs in the New York area. He has also toured the world as a deejay for some of your favorite artists, such as Raekwon and Kool G. Rap. He goes out of his way to tell folks that he doesn't just spin hip hop records, which allows him to adapt to whatever climate he happens to be in.
Scram Jones, real name Marc Shermer, is also the basis for today's post. As a rapper, he never was able to unleash that solo album that he wanted to record, but in today's Internet age, all it takes is someone with a computer and some time on their hands, and your album can be on someone's hard drive within seconds. The Hat Trick is Scram's solo album-slash-mixtape, a sixteen-track opus filled with hard beats, unclearable samples, movie and television dialogue samples, shit-talking, and our host's need to bring back the fun feeling that hip hop used to have, before everyone became so goddamn obsessed with radio spins and marketing their own liquor.
1. BLACK SHEEP (FEAT. KID CAPRI)
Mixtape deejay hall-of-famer Kid Capri introduces The Hat Trick, stepping out of the way just in time for Scram to deliver three more-than-decent verses, broken up with brief pauses instead of shitty choruses. Those of you two who aren't as familiar with our host's work behind the microphone may be surprised to learn that his flow sounds like that of a less hyper Tony Touch with a dash of Nature (from The Firm) thrown in for good measure. I have to say, he sounds pretty good on this glorified rap album intro, even though the instrumental laid underneath could use a few punch-ups.
Egregious misspelling aside, this one worked for me. Scram mixes not-so-random hip hop references and punchlines into his bars, laying all of them over a bed of instrumental that sounds much better than that of the previous track. He then caps the whole meal off with an extended sound bite from an outtake from Eastbound & Down, albeit one that does not feature Danny McBride's Kenny Powers. Still, enjoyable as shit.
3. BACK IN THE PARK
The obligatory old-school throwback that proves that Scram Jones knows his history. Our host bends the Fantasy Three's "It's Your Rock" (previously sampled by De La Soul, 2 Live Crew, the Crash Crew, and even Scram himself, for the Wu-Massacre track "It's That Wu Shit") to his will, unleashing a pretty hot verse that proves that he's been paying close attention to all of his collaborators while sitting behind the boards. The Hat Trick is surprisingly good so far. The Morgan Freeman sound bite from The Shawshank Redemption at the very end fucks the flow up a bit, but I'll let it slide this time.
4. WHAT'S IT ALL WORTH (FEAT. MIKE MAVEN)
Our host questions the meaning of life over a relatively dope, if a bit too accessible, beat. Unfortunately, this song falls apart for me the moment Mike Maven steps in to sing the chorus. I had hoped, as The Hat Trick is a free mixtape and all, that Scram would avoid the trappings of traditional modern day rap albums and simply release some hot fire over some dope fucking instrumentals. I even accepted that the entire project couldn't be full of shit-talking, as that would get redundant over time. But this? Not feeling it. Then again, it takes a hell of a lot for me to like a rap song when it includes an R&B chorus that sounds as though it were added by committee after the fact. The first real misstep of the project, but at least it's not a horrible drop in quality or anything.
5. 40 BAR FLASHBACK
This Blickstreet/Scram creation first hit the hip hop blogs way back in 2009, but it was so nice that our host couldn't just let it sit out in the cold. Thankfully, it still sounds fresh out of the box today. The sample from Ahmad Jamal's "Misdemeanor" (also utilized by DJ Premier on Gang Starr's "Soliloquy Of Chaos") helps move things along a lot. Our host unleashes forty bars (I'm just guessing here, I didn't sit and count them or anything) that beg to be rewound (or whatever today's iPod generation equivalent is), proving that he's probably more of a hip hop head than you will ever be. Of course, actually being in the same room with rap legends will do that to you.
6. BOOMBAP JONES
First of all, that song title? Fucking awesome. I'm going to dress up as Boombap Jones for Halloween next year (whatever the fuck that means). But that title would be worthless if Scram Jones didn't give the listener a hot song, and thank the fucking deity of your choice that he doesn't disappoint. On "Boombap Jones", one of the singles released from The Hat Trick, Scram reveals that he loves hip hop, but he isn't in love with it as much anymore, as the game has changed so much that he finds it more interesting to spin the likes of Afrojack and Deadmau5 in the clubs these days. As I would rather listen to the likes of Afrojack and Deadmau5 in the clubs than actual hip hop, this song hits home for me. And ending it with a sound bite from The Big Lebowski? You've earned yourself several new fans, dude.
7. DEAD WRONG
I've written before that it's nearly impossible to fuck up a rap song if you sample ESG's "UFO". The same rule applies to The Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache", which Scram Jones rips the fuck up. The bars are all built around a singular theme: ending on a same-sounding syllable. That gets old after a while, but just when you tire of the parlor trick, our host switches up the syllable, and you become engrossed all over again. Also, ending the track with another Eastbound & Down sample (this time directly from Kenny Powers) makes this a fun listen.
8. KNOW WHAT I KNOW
What the hell? Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians's "What I Am"? Who does Scram Jones think he is, Brand Nubian? The sound bite sampled for the hook (which provides the song its title) actually makes Edie Brickell sound like a horrible songwriter, but that's neither here nor there. Our host tries to scare away the haters who are trying to take his shine, or whatever it is rappers complain about on mixtape tracks, but the sample is too distracting for you to ever pay much attention to the lyrics. Moving on...
9. FORK IN THE ROAD
10. MARTIAN MUSH SKIT
This was just silly.
11. MARS BARS
The idea behind this track is that Scram Jones takes a hit of the powerful kush presented by the aliens in the previous skit, and then spits a verse, sounding like Eminem doing an impression of B-Real of Cypress Hill. It's funny at first, but the high-pitched, nasal vocals get old after a while, which is probably why you hear our host perform in his normal voice in between verses, right before he takes another hit. Still, this was interesting enough, as Scram drops a few memorable lines.
12. COLLISION COURSE (FEAT. THE ALCHEMIST)
Al Maman takes the lead-off verse, displaying a flow that has not-so-coincidentally adopted the mannerisms of frequent collaborator Prodigy (of Mobb Deep fame). And he doesn't sound half bad doing it. Scram handles the second half and proves to be a pretty good collaborator, spitting just enough to keep the audience wanting more.
13. ABC RADIO FREESTYLE
A quick, interesting themed freestyle that serves more as a short interlude.
14. HOW TO DROWN A FISH (FEAT. THE ALCHEMIST & OH NO (GANGRENE))
Scram released this shit back at the tail end of 2010, but it somehow hits harder today, even though Al Maman sounds like he's aping the flow of Roc Marciano, which annoys the shit out of me. However, the track doesn't suffer for it. Scram Jones and Gangrene, the duo made up of the two guest stars, each spit a quick verse over a dope instrumental without taking a break for a shitty hook to ruin everything. Nice!
15. ONE SEPTEMBER DAY
Scram sidesteps the shit-talking he's pursued for the majority of The Hat Trick in favor of a narrative built around a man who worked in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. That's quite a jump from "How To Drown A Fish" thematically, but our host makes it work, with careful attention paid to the painful details of the story, which he tells from the man's point of view. The track even ends on a hopeful, if a bit confusing and possibly religiously intolerant, note. Still, I genuinely enjoyed this track.
As opposed to this song, which succumbs to that rap album necessity of the final track being the most serious one on the entire album, which weighs the entire project down instead of lifting up the listener's spirits. "Hourglass" also happens to be the longest song on all of The Hat Trick. But at least it was a fun ride while it lasted.
SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN? I would definitely recommend that you do the one-second Google search it will take for you to find Scram Jones's The Hat Trick. Aside from the final track, which seems to drag on for fucking ever, it's a old school-minded mixtape with modern sensibilities, built for today's ADHD-having audience. Scram Jones proves to be a more-than-capable emcee who could most certainly switch exclusively from the boards to the microphone and not lose a step, and he could easily keep up with your favorite rapper in a heartbeat. I enjoyed the fuck out of The Hat Trick, and I'm willing to bet that you two will as well. And besides, doesn't it feel great to get the previous post out of your memory?