Winner of Scribble Jam '07, dynamic host of the world-famous Low End Theory club in LA, and slaughterer of hundreds of would-be battlers, NoCanDo is going places. Scratch that actually, because his debut Jimmy the Lock on Alpha Pup proves that he's arrived. It's easy to see why a record like this is a formula for success: it combines equal parts unpretentious, fun party themes (this is a sex, drugs and rock 'n roll record, says NoCanDo), high-brow social commentary executed with undeniable poetic skill, and cutting-edge future production and scratches from an LA all-star roster including Nosaj Thing, DJ Nobody, Thavius Beck, Daedelus, Free The Robots, Maestroe, the Gaslamp Killer and D-Styles.
This is the first release I've heard out of the cerebral LA underground hip hop scene that I think has real potential to break through to a wider audience, especially thanks to great singles like the club-shaker "Hurry Up And Wait". With sparse, ultra-bassy production from DJ Nobody and all too many killer lines ("Man, I'm as cold as they come / If I was holdin' a gun, I'd shoot a hole in the sun"; "If I keep rushin' man I could be called a Communist / I break speed limits and laws and all my promises"), there's no reason this song can't be 2010's "A Millie". At the end of the track, NoCanDo suddenly breaks into double-time, and closes the incendiary stanza with the non-rhetorical question "When did all the passion leave?!" This is mainstream-sensible rap with real passion.
Another highlight comes toward the end of the album with "Skankophelia", a hilarious and clever twist on the obligatory girl-tribute track with sparkling clean Daedelus production (sampling Curtis Mayfield's "Makings of You" - classic!). NoCanDo's flow on this track is refreshing in how it features some nice sized rests and changes of scansion rather than the more typical approach of a constant stream of syllables. "Lady, gimme a update for fuck's sake / You're so precious; it's no fetish / Your whole essence is pro- / -fessional whore; I'm head over heels, no question / I suffer from a bad case of skankophelia." Though this track displays it best, NoCanDo's flow is anything but monotonous throughout the album.
Other tracks expose the less glamorous sides of Los Angeles, revealing, critiquing, and at times reveling in its grimy and morally questionable underbelly, full of "Blue collars / Bright lights / Brown skies / And bullshit" (hook to the burner "Exploits and Glitches"). Tackling issues like drunk driving, promiscuity and unprotected sex, race, sexuality and California's passing of Prop. 8, drug abuse, and street violence, Jimmy the Lock has a lot of legitimate and intelligent content without ever sacrificing fun, character and attitude. Also, there isn't one skit on the entire album.
Likely to be one of the most talked about underground rap releases of the year, NoCanDo's major studio debut has, pound for pound, more brains, swagger, and neck breaking beats than just about anyone can shake a mic at.
Post script: many thanks to Alpha Pup Records for reporting this review on Twitter!