Anyone who’s heard of De La Soul‘s 3ft High and Rising will recognise a definite influence in Ugly Duckling’s latest offering, featuring party words and upbeat “old skool” sounds from the late 1980s, when hip-hop really was Fresh, rather than as it is now almost cannibalised by r’n'b and rap. While the likes of Jurassic 5 continue to explore the possibilities of yelling in American over scratched records, other hip-hop groups have faded into obscurity. And who remembers them?
Fresh from touring with the Jungle Brothers, Journey to Anywhere shows why Ugly Duckling are amongst the most accessible proponents of this kind of music and why they should do anything other than fade into obscurity, with samples of songs you’ve almost certainly heard of, a laid back California vibe and oddly polite wording. Not for them the Snoop Dog school of violence and antagonism, but, like fellow Californian hip-hopper Skee-Lo, Ugly Duckling talk about everyday themes more likely to make sense to well brought up Californian college boys than teenage tearaways who steal cars and shoot people.
Bizarrely, despite forming in 1993, this is Ugly Duckling’s first full-length album; and this is not the only reason to buy it. The title track features a guest appearance by Pippy Longstocking. What more can one ask for? Well, Pick Up Lines should even give those college boys a few ideas for pick up lines too.
One can almost recall the height of The Beastie Boys‘ fame at the start of the ’90s just by listening to Journey to Anywhere. But how many other hip-hop acts would, half way through a song, start singing a Soft Cell song, or impersonating Queen Elizabeth II? Refreshing, pleasant, cheerful, uplifting, this is hip-hop at its best. Let’s hope Andy, Dizzy and Einstein continue to hip-hop their way around the States and the World for many more years to come.