MC Wildcat – Cleaning Out The Squirrel’s Den (2010)
a review by Edward J. Sneed
In the last year of our Lord, 2009, Dundas' prolific white-boy joke rap king MC Wildcat remained conspicuously absent by his lack of album release, marking the first summer he's failed to drop one since his 2000 debut, Pullin' More Than Pranks.
Naturally, my first assumption was that the Dundas hoodrat had finally thrown in the towel; it seemed the only logical explanation. Especially considering that, all in all, he'd only really released one entirely listenable "album," Easy Bacon, in nine years of pumping them out annually. This horrendous track record, combined with the undoubtedly soul-crushing slamming I gave him back in 2008 for his disastrous Poison Catnip, coupled with the fact that Cat ain't getting any younger, being 26 at the time, all simply seemed like too much adversity for any cat to bounce back from, even one as stubborn as the Wildest.
Thus, it was widely presumed amongst the Toronto underground rap community that retirement had been the inevitable final stop for the lonely Wildcat tour bus.
There seemed no other plausible move for him but to finally acknowledge his severe un-marketability and overall shortcomings as a rapper, bite the bullet, and find contentment with his legacy as the most stubborn hack to ever set foot, or paw as it were, inside a recording booth.
Yet, as always, it once again proves foolish to assume that Cat will react as any rational person would-for it's no secret that we are obviously dealing with a highly abnormal individual here.
Whether he genuinely is the out-of-control, impulsive, hopelessly mischievous soul he portrays himself to be, or perhaps just a prodigiously creative young man with a wild imagination, who's simply created this outrageous alter ego for the sake of needing such an outlet to vent his daily frustrations-either way, we're certainly dealing with one Wild Cat.
After a decade now of bumping Wildcat music, I believe I've developed an educated enough of an opinion in regards to this peculiar enigma that I can say with a good amount of certainty that the abovementioned theories are the only two possible scenarios that can possibly explain Wildcat's rap career, and the truth is equally terrifying in either case.
Allow me to elaborate-if Cat's Wildness is genuine, than this kid desperately needs serious professional help, and should be committed to a mental health facility promptly, as suggested in past reviews.
The only other explanation for his nine albums of insanity is that Mr. Adam McNally (Wildcat's government name) is psychotically committed to the convincing portrayal of his Wild alter ego. Committed to such a degree, in fact, that he's not only willing to seemingly dedicate all his time and energy to this cause, but willing to present such a debauched public image of himself that he'll likely never be able to find a real job if and when his rap dreams come crashing down, nor be able to form an intimate relationship with any potential partner.
For what employer would hire someone who prides themselves on stealing pornographic videos from convenience stores, renting video games with stolen Blockbuster video memberships, and breaking counterfeit bills on fortune tellers? It's not exactly like his nine Wildcat albums have Employee of the Month material written all over them.
Furthermore, what woman in her right mind would date, let alone marry, a man who not only streaks professional baseball games, but doesn't even seem to comprehend just how wildly inappropriate this type of behaviour is? Everything's a joke to this free-wheeling fun-boy, but he's far too deep in his own little wild world to realize that no one else is laughing, and the real joke is on him for refusing to act his age.
Anyway, point being that whether or not Cat's wildness is genuine or merely an alter ego taken to psychotic extremes, in either case we're dealing with a severely sick young man, who may very well be suffering from some undiagnosed mental illness, and would be infinitely better off seeking professional therapy than pursuing, of all things, an obviously doomed joke-rap career. In short, for whatever else he may be, Wildcat is unquestionably an unpredictable barbarian, capable of any possible course of action at any moment, for no clear reason at all. So who knows if he actually retired? Who knows what the hell is ever going on with this savage brute?
In an attempt to discover the truth, a few months ago I began some investigative research. First I grilled my various streets connections, but the streets proved oddly quiet on this enigmatic subject-nobody, and I mean nobody had heard a peep about the Wild Man. Thus I wrote off the possibilities of Cat having been murdered or locked-up, as I'm sure the streets would have been absolutely percolating with any such news.
Consequently I attempted to follow-up with Wildcat's producers for interviews, but Fry was unreachable, and both Star and Pete King declined to comment.
So I gave up the hunt for a while, and returned to doing what I do best-crushing artist's fragile egos with the printed word.
Unfortunately I was hit with a wave of remarkably impressive albums, and after writing 10 or 12 gushingly positive critiques, I must admit, my hunger to trample another's soul grew absolutely ravenous.
You see, ladies and gentlemen, a big part of the reason I became a critic in the first place is because I've always secretly longed to be a musician myself, but never had the guts to chase my dream, and thus grew to resent all artists in general for daring to live the life I privately wish I'd led. Now that that window of opportunity has closed for me, at 52 years of age, the only way I can live with all my private self-loathing is by writing as many scathing reviews of artists as I possibly can.
I will also admit that, for the past decade or so, MC Wildcat has become my de facto whipping boy, if for no other reason than by virtue of being the most original rapper, for better or worse, that I've heard in quite some time, perhaps since the Beastie Boys' heyday.
And despite his peculiar absence of release last year, there was a part of me that intuitively sensed I hadn't seen the last of the Dundas hoodrat, and so I secretly prayed for Wildcat to release another album-naturally assuming it would be yet another brick-as my appetite to once again crush his wild spirit grew damn near insatiable.
Finally I decided to call Fry again, in a last-stitch effort to find out whether or not I would ever get my much-needed vitriolic, typographical release.
Fortunately, thank heavens, I was able to get Fry on the horn this time. Being my last glimmer of hope for an update on Wildcat's status, I pressed Fry to give me any little kernel of insight he could offer.
Though reluctant at first, after about 20 minutes of relentless harassment, Fry finally stated: "Cat's in the process of mentally re-grouping after Poison Cat-Brick. He's taken some time away from the lab to clear his head, flush the 'shroom residue out his system, and remember who he is. As soon as he remembers that he's the voice of our neighbourhood and not some heaven-sent prophet, he'll be back in the booth. I just hope he can get there, mentally. At this point, it could still go either way."
Fry declined to give any sort of timeline regarding Cat's potential return. I thanked him and hung-up, feeling immensely relieved to have it almost confirmed that the Wild One and I would dance at least once more.
Upon noticing that Fry used the term "Poison Cat-Brick" in reference to Cat's last album, I realized how much of a disappointment it truly must have been.
For when I reviewed said album in 2008, I did speculate that Wildcat's preachy, ultra-serious, highly uncharacteristic content presented on "Poison Cat-brick" may indeed alienate his core fanbase. And for all intents and purposes, it seem this is precisely what occurred. Evidently "Poison Cat-Brick" has, effectively, resulted in the biggest blunder of Wildcat's surprisingly long career.
Let's face it, folks-Wildcat's a hopeless train wreck of a human being. Without any external guidance, he will simply continue to make every possible mistake an artist can, along with a few that didn't even seem plausible. I do not actually think that this comes from any deep-seated, self-destructive impulse, as anyone with such issues would have fallen off long before their ninth album-rather, I believe Wildcat's incompetence comes from a combination of simply being incomprehensibly out-of-touch with reality, and having consistently horrid judgment on virtually every possible front.
The truth is Wildcat lives in a fantasy world, and always has-which is of course part of his appeal. For after a long, hard, stressful day, one can always pop in a little MC Wildcat to help wash all your troubles away. He always manages to pull you into his cartoonish, fantastical world where absolutely anything goes-no matter the moral, legal, or social repercussions, except perhaps getting scolded by your "Madukes," or busted by the "po-po."
On a very infantile level, Cat's wild world can indeed be entertaining and even liberating at times, simply within this context of living vicariously through a completely uninhibited free spirit, who seemingly lives his live with absolutely no fear of any real consequence.
But on "Poison Cat-Brick" there was no such invitation to frolic along with Cat in his wild world, as he simply bombarded us with what he perceived as insights about day-to-day realities-the very thing most Wildcat fans are looking to escape in the first place.
So my sense is that "Poison Cat-Brick" was very poorly received by Wildcat's peers, and failing to provide his inner circle with his annual brand of entertainment, for perhaps the first time in his nine-year career, dealt a shocking and devastating blow to the typically happy-go-lucky rapscallion.
Based on Fry's comments, it sounds as though Wildcat decided to take 2009 off to treat himself to a likely much-needed break, and chance to re-focus and collect his thoughts before, presumably, getting back into the lab. After all, a loyal fan base will usually forgive one lousy record, particularly if the following shows a strong return to form. But even the most loyal fan base will likely not forgive two back-to-back stinkers, especially in today's fickle, oversaturated, immediate-gratification-craving digital world. And I believe that even in spite of Wildcat's profound ineptitude, somewhere deep down he understood all of this, which is why he took his time and diligently spent two years crafting his tenth release, Cleaning Out the Squirrel's Den, knowing that this could very well be his do-or-die release.
Fortunately for everyone involved in this nonsensical, yet seemingly unstoppable movement known as Wildcat music, its steadfast leader seems to have, perhaps for the first time in both his life and career, found not only his ideal balance of humour and poignancy, but his true adult writing voice, as well.
One fundamental problem with past Cat albums is that they generally sounded like a jumbled mish-mash of creative experiments-most of which, frankly, failed. Though the odd tune here and there showed a glimmer of promise, there was never any real moment where all of Cat's best qualities and ideas came together, until he finally hit the mark with 2006's Easy Bacon.
But considering the Mad Catter's two subsequent releases-the rambunctious and off-the-wall Year of the Golden Pig, then the cripplingly self-serious and preachy "Poison Cat-Brick," I am now convinced that Bacon was more a result of pure dumb luck than any conscious calculation. Bacon, in retrospect, resulted from nothing more than a collection of random, disconnected songs being very fortunately sequenced to somehow create an illusion of togetherness.
However, I must admit that Wildcat's year-long hiatus (marking the longest break he's taken between albums since his debut) seems to have done wonders for him, as Cleaning Out the Squirrel's Den is uncharacteristically focused and calculated, reflecting the work of a matured, experienced rapper who has seemingly learned from past mistakes.
And the infuriating truth of the matter, ladies and gentlemen, is that I'm not going to get an opportunity to release my years of pent-up frustration stemming from my self-loathing manifested by my lack of courage to pursue my own artistic dreams, because there is truly not a bad word I can write about Cleaning Out the Squirrel's Den. Blast that deviously unpredictable little bastard, MC Wildcat!
Now that I've got that out of my system, let us proceed with an objective review of Cat's 10th album in 11 years.
Honestly folks, as much as it irks me to admit it, Squirrel's Den displays a noted consistency and togetherness which simply cannot be dismissed as accidental, or sheer luck this time around. And while I'm reticent to make any definitive statements about Cat's artistic development, my honest impression is that he, after an unprecedented 11 year relentless sweaty bulldozer grind, finally understands both what it takes, and what it means to be a real MC.
This is evidenced by Wildcat, as previously mentioned, seemingly having found his ideal voice-admirably individualistic, while still restrained enough to not be unnecessarily insulting, and risk coming off as a misguided rebel with more than blind anger than he can manage.
For after both the street acclaim of Bacon and the disenchantment of Catnip, the Wild One seems to have finally, goddamn finally, found his perfect balance between Dropping Knowledge (which he attempted on Catnip, and failed miserably at) and what I call Running Wild In No Particular Direction, his typical modus operandi.
Creatively, he also seems to have found new approaches to rapping, as on the introductory track "The Next Beginning," he deviates from his standard straightforward storytelling narrative, and simply uses a bombardment of personal titles to paint quite the picture:
"The fence-hopper, the ses-chopper, the ex-stalker
lab coat in my bathroom, crystal meth farmer
the gash-hound, flippin' half-pounds at Raw and Smackdown
and this ain't Toronto no more-this is Cat Town!
the mic-eater, the wife-cheater who lights reefer
before climbin' in your backyard-bike-teefer!
the night-creeper, in a Bret Hart wife-beater
and if you checkin' bunky shwag, you found the right dealerâ€¦"
Indeed we have, as the third track "Dumpn' Shwag on Goofs" is an absolutely disgusting Star banger. It sounds like his version of a grimy Dirty South beat, over which Cat unabashedly "schools" us to the inner workings of his "hustle." Assuming the guise of a shameless neighbourhood capitalist, Cat delivers some of his smoothest and most socially relevant (considering the recent economic crisis and sweeping financial squeeze nearly everyone is feeling nowadays) lyrics to date:
"...that dirt look like it fell out of an old Chinese man's ass
that last half-quarter Cat sold ya was half compost, half grass
I claim I run the kush, but all I touch is yush;
my outdo' ain't got no crystals, even my ses is bush
here's the aggressive sales push: buy it, or don't burn
got goofs eating out the palm of my hand, they don't learn
shut up and wait yo' turn, I'm a vet and youse a rookie
next week Catter's coming through with shwag brownies and cookies, ugh!"
The key to "Dumpn' Shwag" is that Cat manages to express his reprehensibly selfish, slimeball side in a way that everyone can relate to, as he simply exaggerates today's collective cutthroat, money-hungry fanaticism without being overly crude and alienating his audience. Thus Cat's telling of "Dumpn' Shwag" is more like a sick joke than a rap song, almost as if inviting us to join in on his secret conspiracy to, well, "dump shwag on goofs" as it were.
Cat's near-flawless handling of his subject matter, complimented by Star's powerful production combines to make for a seamless marriage between the rhymes and the beat, creating the exact type of banger WC has shown potential to make since Riverdale's Jesus, but, for whatever reason, took six more years to fulfill.
Next is a remix of "Bottom of the 6th," which originally appeared on 2005's In the Flesh, as I distinctly remember having heavily criticized it for being a four-minute story rap with no chorus, where the beat randomly switches halfway through. But it almost seems as if the Cat-Man-Du read said review and took my criticisms to heart, because in his defense, I really must say that the "Bottom of the 6th" remix is infinitely more compelling and accessible than the original. The beat is an up-tempo, wacky Fry creation which remains consistent all the way through this time, and features a catchy chorus to boot.
The lyrics have also been re-structured, meaning some are recycled from the original, some re-written, but all flow together coherently to create what I believe was the desired effect the first time-an entertaining, straightforward narrative chronicling Wildcat's 2004 Skydome streaking. And being significantly less long-winded and confusing than its predecessor, this version actually makes for an amusing, lively listening experience.
In fact, pardon the pun, but I would even deem the "Bottom of the 6th remix a homerun! Wildcat, you magnificent bastard-you've cranked this one out of the park! The chorus says it all:
"I got my windbreaker, I got my tear-aways
soon I'll be out on the field with the Blue Jays
I got a greasy little secret, ya best not leak it;
Bottom of the 6th inning, I'm gonna streak it!"
This is precisely the kind of catchy, uplifting chorus the original "Bottom of the 6th" lacked. It seems as if the Cat-Monster felt that, though his streaking and the original rap it inspired both went down several years and albums ago, that it was simply too juicy a concept to not go back and re-work; and though it's always dangerous remixing songs since they may not live up to the originals, since the first "Bottom of the 6th'" was such an utter nightmare it was clearly worth stepping up to the plate again for, and fortunately Cat didn't strike out twice.
To be perfectly honest, when I first saw this tune listed on the back cover, I was salivating at the thought of ripping it to shreds, and lacerating Cat for being an unoriginal hack who was so tapped for shock-value material that he had to dig up this stale, dirty little naked adventure from 2004. But instead he proves me wrong once again, and further justifies why Squirrel's Den took him twice as long as usual to drop. Bravo.
"U Know U Love It" is a shining example of Wildcat's much improved flow, through which he spits some of his tightest rhymes to date. In fact, I believe that his lyricism has actually been improving by leaps and bounds for the past four or five years now, but the zany concepts he typically explores have consistently detracted from his marked improvements. But when given a concept that isn't stomach-turning, this kid can actually spit rhymes with the best of them.
Since the beat for "U Know U Love It" is a fairly simple, though energetic and infectious little ditty, it provides the added benefit of allowing Cat to flex his lyrical muscle, without being outshined musically. To wit:
"Chillin' out wit' my little sister's crew;
for her birthday, burned 'em a spliff or two
you know how liquor do-â€˜Yeah, I'm Rachel's older brother
call me Wildcat; yeah, I pack the pole of thunder
and you seem like the type I could take home to mother
let's smoke another gar, then smother you in cocoa butter'
it doesn't matter, I can play any angle
either way, someone's gon' get slayed or wrangled
I'm glad you turned legal, I've been waitin' to ream you
since grade school, now undress and lay on the table
you naked little angel, elevatin' your ankles;
lights off, soft jazz, blazin' like Rambo
yo, I'm really sorry Rachel, but I had to
it's war, and my whole life been trainin' for battle
it's danger when Cat gets deep in his zone;
get hammered, mack 'em, feed 'em the bone
my boys like â€˜Easy Cat, leave 'em alone!'
yo, don't even try to act all disgusted-
u know u love it!"
Despite the intrinsic vulgarity of rapping about seducing his younger sister's friend whom he has lusted for "since grade school," the sheer music of Cat's lyrics is so hypnotic that one just can't help but bob their head along, and delight in his undeniably dope, albeit grossly inappropriate wordplay.
To me, the fact Cat is even able to pull this off reflects significant progress in his game, as he's now reached a point where his lyrical tightness can somewhat offset his offensive content. This marks a stark contrast to his older material, where his off-beat flows did little to help one get past the sheer absurdity of his misadventures.
Later in the album we are treated to the "The Don's Valley," a harmonic, eloquent, and gently moving ballad, on which the typically frustrated 28 year old gets in touch with his earthy side, lyrically professing his love of this famous valley running beneath Toronto's urban core.
I challenge anyone to read the following excerpt without feeling an overwhelming urge to jump on a bicycle, throw a Frisbee around, or prepare a picnic lunch:
"Now the city's pure gang wars, and gunfights;
12 year old white yout's screaming â€˜Thug's Life!'
but down here, just fresh air and sunlight
shining dumb bright, type of day that make you love life
healthy green grass far as the eye can see
shall we catch butterflies, shall we climb a tree?
it's sublime to me, nature's majestic beauty;
and we gots to protect it like a precious ruby
now ya'll see why this spot be so special to me;
somedays, rather chill here than sex a cutie"
Here, his Wildness displays an uncharacteristically selfless concern for nature and his physical environment, which I frankly did not know he had in him. Getting in touch with this side of himself is further evidence of Wildcat's artistic growth, and his seemingly having conquered his fear of expressing his innermost feelings and risking vulnerability, which I felt held him back for years.
No, on "The Don's Valley" the Big Boss of Dundas actually spits with enough conviction to convey his seemingly urgent message, while still managing to crack the odd joke, guaranteed to satisfy fans of both his serious and comedic flair.
And to top it all off, after all the abovementioned gems comes this year's hidden track, "The Works"-an endlessly entertaining tale about our poor little horn-dog catching not one, not two, but an unprecedented SEVEN STDs. Now, I've always been a firm believer that people reap what they sough in this life, but my Lord-if Wildcat is to be believed, even his chronically impulsive, reckless behaviour doesn't warrant the horrific punishment described below. Just typing these delightfully putrid lyrics makes my genitals burn:
"My buddy's house party's where it popped off;
before my junk started burning like hot sauce
then I threw my hot dog to this bomb broad, raw-dog
now I'm scared my shlong's gon' fall off
cuz the crabcakes, and HPV
are some STDs she may've gave to me
now I'm in the doc's office, waitin' patiently
prayin' he won't have to amputate my peen'
though it looked like it was run through a meat-grinder
then a cheese-grater, then a deep-fryer
then run over by a streetcar, and stomped on
by a group of Swedish children, with clogs on..."
Ouch. As over the top as this song is, it "Works" (no pun intended) because Wildcat is fully aware of its ridiculousness, and owns it by hammering us with non-stop punchlines, and hilarious reactions to his cornucopia of diseases. Even a joyless curmudgeon such as myself could not help but chuckle quite frequently.
All in all, Cleaning Out the Squirrel's Den shows tremendous growth, all-around improvement, and even maturity on Wildcat's part, the sum total of which makes for hands down, undeniably, the strongest release of his career.
Though I did give Easy Bacon a perfect review (on the Cat Potential Scale) which I still stand by wholeheartedly, it nevertheless remains what I call a "Dundas-centric" classic. Squirrel's Den however offers all the best qualities of Bacon in a significantly less zany, more accessible package, as there is now much less risk of the average listener being off-put by Cat's extremist deviant behaviour, such as romancing women whom resemble members of the animal kingdom, and brutally assaulting his little sister's boyfriend.
Though I didn't find Cat's squirrelly accent on "Squirrelly" particularly becoming, and the bizarre story rap "Cool Guys" featuring Fry (where he and Cat concoct a highly detailed plan to crash a "young'un's" house party) was just a little too weird for my conservative sensibilities, all in all I really must say that Wildcat truly seems to have come into his own.
I can't believe I'm about to say this, but if the original Dundas Ryda 4 Life manages to maintain this quality of work, and continues to handle his content with the delicate balance of seriousness and humour displayed on Squirrel's Den, if he can do that while managing to keep his Wild head on straight, then this young man just may be able to carve himself a respectable niche in the rap game, some day.
And what the hell, given the considerable dues this Dundas juggernaut's paid, and the brutally long road he's traveled down for 11 painstaking years to reach this point, I suppose he's truly earned any success that comes his way.
Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I honestly can't think of any rapper in the game today who's put in a harder grind for it than the incorrigible, one and only, MC freaking Wildcat. His evolution from Pullin' More Than Pranks to Cleaning Out The Squirrel's Den can only be summed up in one word-inspiring.
Well played, my old friend. Well played indeed.
Wildcat-I sincerely wish you every success in all your future endeavours.
Well done, you marvelous beast. You've made fools of us all.
Bravo, you crazy fucking white boy. You stubborn, misguided donkey, you.
I still don't quite know how you did it, but I guess that's why you're the Wildcat, and the rest of us, simply, are not.
So bravo, you uncivilized, wildly inappropriate monster. You tragically flawed, deviant brute, you.
Bravo, MC Wildcat, you treacherous buffoon. Bra-fucking-vo.
TOTAL SCORE: 9.4/10 (all measured on the standard rating scale)