While hardly known within the United States, the Spooks gained a tremendous backing overseas with their debut release "S.I.O.S.O.S. Vol. 1". Three years later the landscape of the group has changed dramatically. Most notably, fellow emcee Water Water was tragically killed in a car accident in 2003. Now the remaining group members; Ming, Booka-T, Hypno & Joe Davis, look to find the success that has eluded them in the States with their sophomore release "Faster Than You Know".
While it's been three years since their last release, the groups chemistry has stayed in tact. Ming, the Spooks female vocalist, remains the groups strong point. Her dark yet soulful singing stands out on the majority of efforts, leaving the other group members distant and forgotten. While the comparisons to the Fugees maybe a little farfetched, Ming certainly resembles the Lauryn Hill of the group. Her ability to lift up the groups average emcees, who fail to distinguish themselves from each other, is remarkable enough. Not to mention the fact that her soulful singing and catchy hooks can even make the most ordinary of production efforts seem a little more bearable. This is never more evident than on efforts such as "Don't Be Afraid", "Change" & "Misery".
The production on "Faster Than You Know" is definitely cause for concern, as the majority of it is hit or miss. When the Spooks are able to get great production behind them, the sky is the limit. This is seen through a variety of tracks, such as "Faster Than You Know", "Hell No" & "More To Learn". The title track "Faster Than You Know" features a great Pitch Black beat that samples Marvin Gaye's classic "What's Goin On". The track epitomizes the Spooks conscious and soulful sound perfectly. The happy go lucky sounds of "Hell No" is a nice change of pace for the group, as Ming's infectious hook will be permanently burned into your skull for days. But the albums true gem is "More To Learn", an amazing dedication to all young females in the world trying to grow up too fast. With a magnificent piano intro and sultry singing by Ming, "More To Learn" is one of the groups strongest tracks to date.
While the Spooks are able to appeal to the everyday nine to fiver with their down to earth, real life topics, when the production aspect fails to deliver, the group starts to falter. The party and bounce sounds of "Crazy" & "Wild" sound a little too forced and fail to fit the usual Spooks mold. Other efforts, while conceptually solid, just can't overcome horrendous production efforts. Most notably, Da Beatminerz produced "Still Gonna Do It", "Eulogy" & "Deadbeat".
There is no denying the Spooks have their own unique sound and style. They have the ability to produce conceptually great material that is full of heart and soul. However, they still need to get the right production team behind them if they truly want to achieve mainstream or underground success in the United States. "Faster Than You Know" gives us a glimpse of what the Spooks are capable of, but in the end we all know the foursome can achieve much more.