Monday, March 28, 2011

Album Review: "Criminal" - Scientifik (1994)


Not much is known about Scientifik other than the fact that he put out two projects and is no longer with us (R.I.P.). According to an article I recently read, he was involved in a murder-suicide with his girlfriend (he shot his girlfriend and then turned the gun on himself). Whatever the case, it was just another instance of a promising career being cut short.

The funny thing about Scientifik is that he recorded his first album (or at least it is believed to be his first album [it may have also been a demo tape]), The Most Blunted, in 1992, and it wasn't released until December of 2006. He then recorded his second LP, Criminal, in '94, and it wasn't released until April of '06. It's also funny that for a rapper who garnered almost no recognition in the game, Scientifik was able to secure production from the likes of renowned producers such as Buckwild, Diamond D, and even RZA on Criminal.

Let me say before I even begin my track-for-track review of this project that Criminal is flat-out dope, probably one of the most well-produced albums I've ever heard. Each and every beat comes with its own brand of freshness, and Scientifik displays he is more than capable on the mic, spitting seamlessly over the banging production.

Criminal is only 10 tracks long, but it is easily one of the most enjoyable listens I have ever experienced. Because I don't have much else to add about Scientifik (because, well, not much else is actually known about him), I think it's about time I jump right into the review.


1. Lawtown

The album kicks off with a smooth, jazzy beat by Edo G (a.k.a. Ed O.G.), sounding like something that could very well have been on Black Moon's classic Enta Da Stage (the more I think about it, a lot of Criminal sounds similar to that record). Scientifik sounds absolutely perfect over the instrumental, and the hook is pretty damn catchy. Great start.

2. I Got Planz
Diamond D produces this cut and also makes an appearance as a feature artist, and he comes through on both accounts. The drums on "I Got Planz" are a bit subdued as opposed to the rest of the album, but they still work very well. The instrumental is simple, but good. However, I did find the vocal sample on the hook to be a bit annoying. Scientifik sounds more than adequate here.

3. Jungles Of Da East
Scientifik actually co-produced this joint with Shame, and the duo did a hell of a job, as the beat on this is just terrific. The drums are great, and the subtle organ sample adds a beautiful element. Also, Scientifik's effortless flow remains remarkably consistent. This actually sounds like some old Gang Starr, and that's always a good thing.

4. Overnite Gangsta
The first Buckwild production on Criminal is a damn good one. "Overnite Gangsta" is quite noticeably the most fast-paced record on the album thus far, containing some upbeat kicks and shakers, and Scientifik sounds fantastic over the instrumental. It's some typical tough-guy talk, but, like Guru (there's that Gang Starr comparison again), it's effective.

5. Yeah Daddy
Diamond D is on the boards again here, crafting a beat that, like "Lawtown," sounds like it belonged on Enta Da Stage. Dusty drums and horns abound, and you've gotta love how the instrumental changes up a bit during the hook (that's actually my favorite part of the song). "Yeah Daddy" is just another sick track on an album full of them.

6. Still an Herb Dealer
Rhythm Nigga Joe, who exclusively produced The Most Blunted, gets an opportunity to shine here, and shine he does, as the beat on this cut knocks. It seems like Joe combined every element of mid 90s hip-hop beats and made it into one beautiful symphony on "Still an Herb Dealer." I'm sure I don't need to tell you what Scientifik raps about on here.

7. As Long As You Know
The RZA beat, and it bangs. If you listen closely (actually, you probably don't even really have to, as any Wu-Tang fan should be able to distinguish it immediately), you'll hear the sample sample that RZA used on Method Man's song "All I Need." Edo G stops by to aid Scientifik (both sound great over this), and RZA drops some additional vocals. Phenomenal cut.

8. Fallen Star
This Buckwild instrumental sounds exactly like something DJ Premier would have laid out for Guru over one of Gang Starr's earlier albums, and, in case you forgot, that's a very, very good thing. It also helps that Scientifik beasts on this cut, making "Fallen Star" my second-favorite song on Criminal. My favorite? Stay tuned.

9. Downlo Ho
Are you still tuned in? Good, because this is my favorite track on the album; by far. I mean, Buckwild's production on "Downlo Ho" is absolutely crazy (quite arguably the best thing Buckwild has ever done, and that's saying a mouthful), and Scientifik absolutely rips it to shreds, both in terms of his verses and the hook. This cut instantly became one of my all-time favorite songs the first time I listened to it; it's that good.

10. Criminal
The final record on Criminal was produced by Edo G, and it relies heavily on its banging drums. This is probably the simplest beat on the LP, but that's okay, because it sounds outstanding anyway. Scientifik goes out in a blaze, too, thoroughly killing the instrumental and proving to the hip-hop world that he could bring it.


It's such a shame we didn't get to see Scientifik's clearly blossoming career come to fruition, because the dude obviously knew how to get things done. Criminal is a phenomenal album through-and-through, containing ridiculously spectacular production from Buckwild, Diamond D, RZA, and the like and terrific mic presence from Scientifik.

Criminal exemplifies the concept that less is more, as, although the album is short, it packs an unbelievably powerful punch from start-to-finish. It maintains a level of consistency that was never commonplace, not in the 90s nor today, while also exhibiting a type of originality and freshness that is also a rarity.

It is clear as day that Scientifik knew exactly how to construct an album. He assembled an outstanding group of producers and obviously had it in his mind not to try and do too much, as one of the things that makes Criminal such a great piece of work is its simplicity. There is no drastic change of direction at any point of the project, making it a very steady listen all the way through.

Whether or not Scientifik would have stamped his name among rap's all-time greats had he been around to do so will never be known for sure, but if Criminal is any indication, I would say he certainly would have accomplished such a feat.


1. Downlo Ho
2. Fallen Star
3. As Long As You Know
4. Yeah Daddy
5. Overnite Gangsta



1 comment:

  1. rest in peace to da beantowner, lawtowner, true hip hop representer. 1st heard this kat on ed o.g's roxbury 02119, and he basically raped it!
    he was mos def a future nas to be also. that's life i guess. the death of a true lyricist, and the birth of mc hammer. what a shame?
    r.i.p to a true mc,scientifik!