This week I’m reviewing Mike Pinto’s Little District which came out in 2005 for End of Summer Blow Up. Though I was only recently introduced to his music, he is absolutely deserving of a bigger following.
Artist: Mike Pinto Album: Little District Year: 2005 Genre: Reggae, Ska Rating: 4.5/5
Worth Your Time? Absolutely. This album is jam packed with memorable lyrics and melodies and has a nice blend of several genres and instruments to keep things fresh.
Twitter Review:Mike Pinto writes incredibly heartfelt and insightful lyrics. And he has both the singing voice and guitar skills to be a complete package.
Epic First Track. The album starts out with the story of Bill, worshiper of the almighty dollar, who is a bank robber. The production of Bill’s Song had me smiling every time the album started over. Not only do you have Mike’s clever writing but the little touches on this song really put it over the top for me. If you really want to appreciate this song I’m begging you to listen with headphones. Why? Because half of the stereo mix is used for letting you listen in on the bank robbery in progress. It sounds fantastic on headphones. My favorite part is when the upbeat trumpet solo starts and the music goes into high gear with the sirens blaring as the cops head toward the bank. It creates a momentary sense of urgency that I’m sure Bill was also feeling. I also love the line “Put your hands up! Put your fucking hands up!” because it works equally well with a bank robbery and at a concert. Finally, the ending was unexpected for me. Very different from say the classic Children’s Story by Slick Rick.
Point/Counterpoint. Mike has two songs on here that cover the topic of adultery. The first song Dear Señoritas which blames a husband’s cheating squarely on the woman for not providing loving “three times a day” which apparently is the bare minimum for any guy. I really don’t think Mike believes this but rather he is just telling a story. Possibly based on someone he’s met in his life either in Philadelphia or San Diego. Where this gets interesting for me is three tracks later he starts telling another story of adultery in Chilean Lover. This song tells the story of a husband and father who constantly cheats on his wife but ends up with a bullet inside his brain from a scorned ex-lover. And as Mike put it: “You’re gonna get what you deserve.” So both sides of the coin I think are well presented here.
Genre Blending. While Mike lives mostly in reggae and ska, he transitions into an almost industrial sounding song with When I Die. The song is quite a brilliant take on the topic of the existence of an afterlife. It starts out with a very minimalistic acoustic opening of just Mike and his guitar. Eventually this turns into this driving industrial beat that relentlessly comes at the listener. Perhaps the transition is a metaphor for how the question becomes more important in life as we follow our own slow but inevitable march towards an ultimate demise? Or maybe not. I just know I loved the song.
That One Night. Despite One More Time (radio edit) making me think back fondly to my college days with fabulous heartfelt lyrics, the over-processed vocals on the song’s chorus make me think of the infamous That One Night song from the Dinner Party episode from The Office with Jan’s incredibly awkward dancing. Rest of the song is actually quite beautiful and really captures the magic that is friendship.
Low Points: This is a fantastic album with gorgeous lyrics, stunning guitar work and a brass section that just won’t quit all the while covering some impressively deep topics. There’s nothing bad to say about it, right? Well, not quite. How about we skip to the hidden track found about two minutes after One More Time (full version) is finished? It actually resumes the really funky beat found in Dub Interlude. It even finishes the lyrics that Dub Interlude unexpectedly stops at. That’s a pretty cool idea. So how does the rest of the song go? “Shove my lyrics down your throat like my dick, like my dick” Woah. Back it up. Back it up. Beep. Beep . Beep. What the hell did I just listen to? Um, that was unexpected. I’m not sure what Mike was going for with the hidden track but I’m not totally digging it besides the incredibly groovy beat. To me, it just doesn’t fit. Or maybe I’m just pissed because that hidden track meant two minutes of silence before I could finish the album and start it over.
Anything Else: I don’t really have anything else to say. Mike seems like a cool guy. Apparently, he’s big in Japan. So that’s kind of interesting and unexpected. Not dick down your throat unexpected but still unexpected. From what I understand, he is freaking amazing live so catching one of his concerts would be highly suggested if you get the chance. And like one of my friends, he grew up in the midwest (Mike grew up in Philadelphia, PA) and moved to beautiful San Diego, CA where he did some amazing things with his life with more to come I’m sure. So maybe that’s not interesting to you, but the parallelism was interesting to me.
Gift of Gab. On the song Clockwork Gift of Gab’s flow on the verses reminds me more of a saxaphone jazz soloist than I think any delivery by any MC I have ever heard. The way he varies the rhythms, pitch accents and intonation of his words throughout the song feels like a saxophonist carefully selecting the next improvised note of the current chord as their fingers are flying along the instrument’s keys. For example, the lyrics “My house ain’t made of ginger, but it’s made of an array of pages that’ll slay ya like a ninja” is good in its own right. But to hear GoG actually deliver that line elevates it to a new level completely beyond anything you could ever get just by reading the lyrics.
Samples. It’s extremely clear that Chief Excel has paid his dues and has an extremely large knowledge of hip hop records, both past and present. Why? The wide variety of sampling happening on the EP is evidence enough. Particularly in A to G where he samples various artists saying “gift of gab” to finish up the letter G and in Rock the Spot which is packed wall to wall with samples shows his commitment to the craft.
Dr. Suess. While it doesn’t have the playfulness and splendid imagination of Dr. Suess, Gift of Gab does an beyond impressive job in A to G and in Alphabet Aerobics as he does a verse featuring words starting with a particular letter for every letter of the alphabet. Have you ever heard anyone doing that before outside of some writing exercise? Probably not. But he not only attempted it but actually pulled it off brilliantly. In the hands of a lesser skilled artist, it could have easily turned into a disaster as the amount of multi-syllable words strung together on these tracks are jaw dropping. Also, the ending of Alphabet Aerobics is one of the best trolls ever on an album as the female narrator asks “Good. Can you say it faster?” as GoG finishes with the letter Z.
Think Positive. In the vein of Slick Rick, GoG delivers a parable in Deception to any future artists about the pitfalls of success in the world of hip hop. In particular, I liked the processing of GoG’s voice as he becomes the narrator for this track. The other particularly positive track is Making Progress which is an inspiring track aimed at the black community to elevate themselves with the required effort despite the struggles they will have to face. Though the target of the song is narrow, I think it contains many universal truths of improving yourself that applies to any person thus valuable to everyone.
Low Points: The weakest track on the album is Back to the Essence which by no means a bad track. It just doesn’t do much for me as the other tracks on the album. It also contains the only swear word is used on this album which is done by guest MC Lateef. Gift of Gab is known for not cussing on his albums. He’s even been referred to as the anti-Eminem in an article I ready some years ago. So to have Lateef break that up left me a little disappointed. It’s quite possible GoG swears on this album and I’m just missing it. I have two friends who can testify of my ability to miss swear words in a song. Luckily, the college radio didn’t get hit with a fine and nobody got in trouble.
Anything Else: So I think I proved the internet wrong while writing this review. And I would love to hear from you if you think I’m wrong after reading this. On the song Clockwork there is a fantastic chorus. One part of the chorus contains what I believe to be the lyrics “Master of scratch, if the needle was to slip, then the needle he’ll catch” It is absolutely my favorite part of the chorus. I don’t know why but I loved hearing it every time it came up this week. So I looked up the lyrics online to make sure I am hearing it correctly and all of the sites say a different set of lyrics “Master of scratching yes is he the one slippin or is he the real captain?” I listened to this part over and over again on my speakers and even my headphones trying to figure out how I could hear something so incredibly different than what’s on every single lyric site I visited.
Eventually, I noticed that another song was popping up when I searched the lyrics that I thought I heard. This song isMarley Marl feat. MC Shan – Marley Marl Scratch which is a classic hip hop song released in 1985. At 44 seconds Marley Marl begins to spell out his name in the song which is a common trope used by many MCs over the years. He raps “The M is for Master of Scratch And if the needle was to slip it’s the needle he’ll catch” which is incredibly close to the lyrics I think I hear. My version is obviously not a common phrase as I could find no other songs besides these two with those lines. And we already know that Chief Xcel has an incredibly wide breadth of music knowledge based on sampling on this album. Doesn’t it seem more likely that Xcel was paying tribute to Marley Marl by using that phrase in the chorus rather than using the phrase listed on the internet that sounds nothing like what I’m hearing? Feel free to listen to the song and give me your opinion. But I think somebody wrote the lyrics wrong in the beginning and that change has been propagated to all of the lyric sites without anybody ever verifying if they were correct. Therefore, the internet is wrong. And I am right. I rest my case.