Vancouver indie hip-hop impresario, Rod Bailey, a.k.a. mcenroe is back with "Mastermind", the pseudo-sophomore follow-up to 2003's critically-acclaimed, underrated debut, "Disenfranchised".
When we last left mcenroe, if you may remember he was feeling cynical and he ended things on a low note. However on "Mastermind", gone are the dark, ennui undertones and middle-class social commentary found on "Disenfranchised" and more emphasis is placed on funky breaks, nostalgia, and just all-in-all having a feel good time.
This is evidenced on such tracks as "Cereal For Dinner". Backed by a groovy organ sample, mcenroe talks about how he ate poorly in university: "I ate cereal at midnight / snacking while cramming for exams it's a bitch right? / I ate cereal for breakfast / went like a year without seeing any lettuce".
"Going All Right" befittingly describes the mood of "Mastermind" as it uses soft electric piano chords combined with guitar licks to describe how things are looking better.
It is also clear that mcenroe's trademark wit is left unscathed from "Disenfranchised". For further proof, check out the end of his cover of Nirvana's "Something In The Way" (yes you heard me right... a Nirvana cover!). We begin to hear a smooth-sounding mcenroe looking like he is about to serenade a young lady under a slick R&B beat when quickly, the backing music comes to a halt and mcenroe utters how he isn't smooth at all. This is immediately followed by "I'm Mad", a track in which mcenroe confuses the words -- "man" and "mad" -- from the Bill Withers track, "Who Is He (And What He Is To You)".
"Bday Chk From Jsus" finds mcenroe sampling The Electric Prunes' psychedelic "Holy For You" to modest success.
There are, however, still hints of the "Disenfranchised" mcenroe we all fell down with on such tracks as "Idolized" and "Save The Kids", which talks about the state of youth today and about how evil Ronald McDonald is.
Overall, granted some tracks feel half-developed such as the Nirvana cover and "Alpha Fight" -- a track where Bailey tries to correlate American influences in Canada with a plea for an Alpha Fight movie -- but there's too many funk-tastic tracks and I guess this can be expected on a record that is "not a mixtape, not an album" but a record that is "somewhere in between" as stated in the intro (which is why I used the word "pseudo-sophomore" to describe the album).
All I can say is if "Mastermind" is the guilty pleasure snack to tide us over, I can't wait for dinner!