Okay, kids, let’s take a sec to think back. Back to a time before Jigga hawked Vodka and Jeru pumped Mystic. When A ‘n’ Fitch models with frosted Caesars couldn’t Cripwalk and Scott La Rock’s death was a tragedy. I remember the time well. I played with eight-bit Italian brothers every afternoon and could’ve pulled any girl in the third grade if only I had those Air Jordans from the Def Jef video. Of course my parents didn’t understand. Mom said, “You’re only nine, you don’t have a rep yet.”
Further confusion reigned as the likes of Public Enemy and N.W.A. invaded our suburban home and provided the soundtracks to Contra and Duck Hunt. I was a pale young boy mesmerized by the visceral beats, boundless energy and booming slick talk of confident black men. Of course, my introduction to hip-hop recalls that of countless young men of moderate comfort in their adolescence.
It was in those dreamy golden years of ’87-’88 when we met and it truly was all good. Hip-hop’s powers of seduction proved too great, our untainted ears and pure hearts were unable to resist. Around the same time a young minx, Nintendo, caught our collective fancy and a three-way love affair ensued. A day didn’t pass that I didn’t hang with Dana Dane and Zelda. I eventually bade Nintendo farewell at sixteen bits, but I stayed tight with hip-hop, though it never moved me the same way again.
That is, until I heard “Knicknack 2002” from Wildchild’s debut LP Secondary Protocol.
From the opening jangle of keys and strings I blacked out. The punchy beat laid down by fellow Lootpack member Madlib skated over every inch of my speakers, spurring a bouncy mike-toss between Cracker Jack, Medaphoar and the Rhyme Inspector, Percee P. Halfway through P’s vintage-tinged verse I was transported. Visions of Wizards & Warriors filled my head. I haven’t played this game in more than 10 years, but no song before this has evoked such memories or associations.
Spontaneous and self-assured, it tapped my primal love for hip-hop and delivered me to a time before it demanded my allegiance through fashion and slang and before it began eating itself. Granted, the vision left me by the song’s end but what remained was an altogether solid disc of Cali hip-hop.
Known previously for his hyper-kinetic mike duties with L.A.’s Lootpack, along with emcee/producer Madlib and DJ Romes, Wildchild’s Secondary Protocol acts as the official follow-up to group’s 1999 full length, Soundpieces: The Antidote. A solo LP by name only, Secondary Protocol is a family affair, with beats handled exclusively by Madlib and his lil’ bro, Oh No, the cuts courtesy of DJ Romes, and a bevy of rhymalistic left-coast guest spots.
While the four years since Soundpieces have kept the crew busy, Romes with his break records and Madlib with his mushrooms and jazz, Wildchild worked to deliver an album true to the M.O. laid out by Lootpack previously. On “Code Red,” his Red Bull flow keeps him one step ahead of Oh No’s plodding beat, while on “The Come Off”, he and the Likwit Crew relax over a low conga slap reminiscent of Ice T’s “High Rollers.”
Tash of Tha Liks best sums up the posse cut vibe when he boasts: “This is the best damn rap show period/ I ain’t hearin’ it/ Every time I open up my mouth I’m pourin’ beer in it.” Later, Wildchild sobers up to get his “quality time on,” with “Kiana”, an ode to his daughter. DJ Romes chops some well-placed vocals from Nas, Raekwon and Busta on the track which hits somewhere between the schmaltz of Will Smith’s “Just the Two of Us” and Xzibits stern “The Foundation.”
While Secondary Protocol will not take the place of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back or Straight Outta Compton, it just may remind you why you love hip-hop. And if you’ve been spurned by the likes of Nelly and the Diplomats, it might help you fall in love all over again.