Considering that it’s just been legitimately re-released by Traffic Entertainment after ten years on the bootleg circuit, now seems like the perfect time for a retrospective review of the late Scientifik’s lone album Criminal. For those of you unfamiliar with the Bostonian rapper, he was one of Ed O.G.’s original B.U.L.L.D.O.G.S (that’s Black United Leaders Living Directly Off Grooving Sounds for you herbs). While Sci didn’t guest on Ed’s albums, he did appear on the album covers and videos and gradually pieced together a dope-ass demo (released on wax in 2001 as The Most Blunted for enthusiasts) which led to an album deal at Definite Records.
The resultant record, Criminal, is an almost-perfect time capsule of 1994 hardcore east coast hip hop. Scientifik’s rugged flow is matched with top-to-bottom dope production from Diamond and RZA (both fresh from working on Ed O.G.’s sophomore album Roxbury 02119), a then-unknown Buckwild, Rhythm Nigga Joe, Ed O.G. and Scientifik himself.
Maybe I’m just a Diamond junkie, but the two tracks produced by D-Square are without doubt the highlights of the album for me. ‘I Got Plans’ combines a hypnotic loop with Scientifik and Diamond schooling suckers on how dope they are, while ‘Yeah Daddy’ displays Scientifik’s slicker side as he boasts on the hook ‘Yeah daddy / Yeah daddy / Scientifik is the pimp without the Caddy’ over another sublime Dusty Fingers beat constructed from organ and horn chops.
Criminal is perhaps not the most thematically inventive record ever released, with subject matter sticking to tried and tested topics such as attacking fake gangsters (‘Overnite Gangsta’), drug dealing (‘Still An Herb Dealer’) and straight-up gulliness (‘Criminal’). In lesser hands, this material would get tired pretty quick. Fortunately, however, Scientifik frequently inflects his lyrics with a good dosage of humor that keeps standard wack-rapper dissing songs like ‘Fallen Star’ entertaining (‘Now how you think that you could do a tour around the world / When the only way the crowd yells HO is if they see your girl’). Scientifik’s refreshing approach to ideas that even in 1994 were becoming old-hat, coupled with the aforementioned production credentials, place the record squarely in classic album territory.
Unfortunately, the album was poorly promoted (it was never even released on CD (!)) and was not a success. In the years following the release of Criminal, Scientifik went on to drop an incredible verse on Big Shug’s ‘Official’ (alongside Ed O.G.) and also recorded an okay 12” ‘Lawtown 96 b/w Internal Affairs’ hampered by mediocre production on the UK label Proceed Records. Further material appeared on the No More Prisons compilation released by Raptivism. Tragically, the rapper died under mysterious circumstances in 1998.
In recent years, ‘that record with all the dope DITC production’ has enjoyed renewed interest from hip hop heads and has finally been officially re-released by the good people at Traffic. So whether you’ve been a fan since ’94 or you’re a latecomer, now is the perfect time to rediscover this forgotten gem.
Four and a half pairs of panties out of five.