RETURN OF THE SCUMBAGS
Much of hip hop is the story of self-proclaimed legends and GOATs, so we won’t make the entry level hip hop fan mistake of claiming The Rebel Scum (TRS) as such (they tend to call just about anyone legend). They are not, they had one EP and that was it. However, this much we can say about TRS; they are the best f*cking hardcore rap group in Malaysia, period.
The early noughties weren’t kind to the genre, disregarding the mainstream successes of Too Phat and Poetic Ammo, rap had nothing much to offer our music scene. Rappers and their crews were seemingly fleeting entities born to be forgotten (or later on self-proclaimed legends), their influence dubious. But TRS offered a glimpse of a tip-of-the-tongue musical presentiment – they felt like they mattered. Come the verbosely named EP An Urban Distaste of the Concrete, which came out just in time for hip hop to explode on the internet (shout out to The-Bazement forum), the group has had a hold on kids soulseeking Definitive Jux ish. But then nothing happened. Fastforward 9 years later, here we are, The Time Has Scum.
So is it worth the wait? Maybe. It is a much better record than its predecessor, which didn’t age that well and came off as though serious bizzerk WordsManifest Vadered its creative direction. The Time Has Scum on the other hand feels like a more complete record influenced by all 5 members. HQA’s non sequiturs and general silliness are present (solo ‘Blaxican Perm’, produced by himself, is probably the best track off the album) and Illson’s penchant for hard hitting no-nonsense gangster sh*t as well (‘Ain’t That Funny How’, also self-produced, is the second best track). MicWrecka still wants to kill wack emcees – often unsuccessful. WordsManifest lives up to his ‘papa hip hop’ status – he’s not the oldest rapper around but he plays the old man rap role the best. Strangely, it’s Cliq who’s missing a presence here; he only produced one track and there’s not a lot of scratching going on. A good decision in hindsight, seeing as how scratching has always sounded forced on hip hop records. More an obligation than a necessity.
We’re not dismissing their group efforts though, ‘Call Your Name Out’ is the best they sound as a collective. So much so that the KRS-One shout out in the beginning felt earned instead of yet another disingenuous hip hop cosigning. While we are not a fan of him as an MC, the Stoupe-meets-Primo beat is easily MicWrecka’s finest moment. In fact, like a lot of good hip hop albums truthfully, the beats made the record, not so much the emceeing (which is very good most of the time, mind you).
All 4 members besides (strictly rapper) Words displayed deft production skills. Illson’s Wu-channelling ‘The Lost Chamber’ could very well be a B-side off Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. While HQA’s Nicholas Cage-sampling beat could be a lost Blueprint classic, rapped with a level of self-awareness in its reverence to RZA’s stream of the consciousness ‘naledge BS. Speaking of which, there’s some semblance of pastiche in The Time Has Scum. The same way a Tarantino movie is referential, reverent, and satirical of its love for pop culture, so is this record with hip hop (or maybe it’s just HQA).
There’s been a lot of Malay rap lately, TRS – with some of its genesis lying in SickSiderz – does it better than the expected favourites. ‘Susah Betul’ is absolutely hysterical, a true-to-life frustration rapped in a vernacular familiar to any working classer who ever grew up Malay. ‘Manusia’ is conscious rap done right, didactic as it is, it never condescends you with holier-than-thou superiority. Weirdly, the first single they ever released, ‘Bakdatang’, is the weakest. Back when it was released 5 years ago, it set the template for obnoxious rempit Malay braggadocio track that has been done to death ever since. It’s just as bad as the phonetic Malay rap HQA made fun of (“Dah bertahun-tahun tak sentuh BM punya buku teks”). Here it felt out of place and almost filler-like.
And that’s exactly our underlying feeling about the record – we’ve heard most of the tracks before. Its existence felt forced, like the group needed to release something eventually, or nothing at all. Yet The Time Has Scum represents the group at their most cohesive and complete. It might have been a defining record had it been released in early to mid-‘00s, when underground hip hop was still very exciting. But it’s 2013, the record feels a tad on the anachronistic side. Is that a slight? Not really, you can pretend that it’s a lost classic and we don’t blame you – Malaysia never had a classic hip hop album.
LISTEN TO: ‘Susah Betul’, ‘Blaxican Perm’, ‘Call Your Name Out’, ‘Til Infinity’
IF YOU LIKE THIS YOU’LL DIG: Hip hop
1. THE TIME HAS SCUM
2. THE LOST CHAMBER
3. BAKDATANG (FEAT. SSK & SPIT)
4. CALL YOUR NAME OUT
5. PIRATE RADIO
7. SISTER SISTER (FEAT. LADY D)
8. JAMZ (WE GOT)
9. SUSAH BETUL
10. BLAXICAN PERM
11. HIP HOP
12. AIN’T THAT FUNNY HOW
13. SLEEPER CELL
14. SAY YOUR PRAYERS
15. TIL INFINITY