Scroobius Pip fancies himself as something of an agitator. Like scores of rappers before him, he thinks he’s got something important to say about all sorts of things; from the media to foreign policy. He’s going to go oddball and swear to get attention, get angry with his delivery and stick some heavy guitar riff and drum loops underneath to prevent us trying to ignore him.
Unfortunately for Pip, as with many before him and surely many to come, he’s missed the point entirely. Hip-hop has several ingredients and you need to nail most of them to be convincing; a killer hook, infectious beats, lyrical dexterity and an unmistakeable delivery. The best rappers also make a statement. Even more so than many other genres, they take the politics and society around them and capture the time.
Distraction Pieces does none of the above. It even fails in Scroobius Pip’s basic aim of stirring you up a bit and making you think. Compared with say The Streets, Dizzee Rascal or Roots Manuva, Pip’s just clichéd and predictable.
Some might love his beat poet, antagonistic delivery, but most won’t. Some might resonate with his tales of urban life and social commentary but ultimately this isn’t anything that hasn’t been said a million times already. The ironic thing is that most will come to this album having heard his track with Dan Le Sac Thou Shall Always Kill, which was attention grabbing and full of razor sharp rhetoric damning modern culture. Distraction Pieces tries to do the same thing, but without much of that dry wit and insight and isn’t anywhere near as memorable.
Opener Introdiction (see what he did there?) was produced by Danny Loehner who used to be in Nine Inch Nails and A Perfect Circle. So it sounds a bit like toned down rap metal. On the track, Pip claims he stole his flow from ‘the creator’, possibly referring to Tyler, The Creator, whose incendiary lyrics and punk influences are vaguely similar but with those killer hooks and lyrical (albeit crude) expertise we were talking about.
Things continue in a similar vein. Let Em Come starts with a scuzzy riff and builds into a ‘me against the world’ refrain: “if the bad times are coming, let em come” with a guest spot from Sage Francis. Of all the tracks on Distraction Pieces, it has the most energy and fizzles along like N*E*R*D if they were fronted by a guy from Essex rather than super cool Pharrell Williams.
Then Pip starts the proselytising. Death Of A Journalist is a statement on the decline of the media. Surprise, surprise the media sucks. The upside of the track is that the beats and hook are actually pretty cool in an industrial hip-hop kind of way. The downside is Pip’s predictable rant against the traditional media, who don’t source things properly and are more concerned with “getting their hits up than winning Pulitzers”. It’s a pretty clichéd attack on the less scrupulous in the business and you can’t help thinking Pip just wants to scream out how he’s not a conformist.
Which brings us nicely to Soldier Boy (Kill Them). War, what’s it good for? Turns out, still absolutely nothing. Imperialist foreign policy references? Check. References to misbehaving soldiers? Check. Oil and anti-globalisation rant? Check. The title is a piss take of Soulja Boy (Tell Em), who had that irritating song (Crank That) that came with an irritating dance. Amazingly, Scroobius Pip actually copies the riff for his chorus. It’s equally irritating.
The last track is a cover of Feel It by Kate Bush. It features a female vocalist singing the song, with Pip speaking the lyrics back to her. At one point he even gets all breathy and creepy. I really hope Kate had nothing to do with it, because it’s truly awful.
Distraction Pieces isn’t a great hip-hop meets rock meets punk cross over album like it wants to be. It isn’t even a good one. The beats lack, the rhymes fall short and the hooks don’t reel you in and the subject matter is predictable. Add that to Pip’s annoying delivery and you’re more likely to be irritated than distracted.