MC Wildcat – In The Flesh (2005)

a review by Edward J. Sneed

In The Flesh

Well well well, it seems as if my old nemesis, Dundas’ own pathologically piss-bombing, blockbuster card-stealing, cougar-heartbreaking prankster-turned-rapper, the King of the Jungle, a.k.a Riverdale’s Jesus a.k.a. MC Wildcat, has decided to accept my challenge issued upon review of his last release, and returned in this blessed year of our Lord 2005, with his sixth album In the Flesh. For that alone I commend him—well done Sir, I had a feeling you weren’t one to shy away from a challenge.

And though in my last Wildcat album review I did concede, for the first time in his then five year “career,” that the Cat-Man had finally released a generally accessible and overall decent record, I freely admit that I also privately questioned whether he could pull it off again.

For though I was marginally impressed with Riverdale’s Jesus, especially in comparison to Wildcat’s previous four releases, I cannot deny that something about it filled me with a torrent of lingering doubts.

Upon further analysis, I concluded that Riverdale’s Jesus simply struck me as Wildcat’s musical equivalent of hitting the slot machine; for naturally, if one repeats any action enough times, the Law of Averages guarantees that they are bound to get it right at least once—but such a result is obviously sheer luck, and odds are that they won’t be able to repeat their success. So given Wildcat’s first four abysmally silly, crude and inept releases, it only stands to reason that Jesus may very well have simply been an anomaly, and more a result of blind, dumb luck than any artistic progression or maturation.

I did acknowledge, however, that this was all pure speculation on my part, and that ultimately Wildcat’s follow-up album, should he release one, would tell us more about his artistic growth and future direction than the postulations of any critic, myself included.

So naturally, being the diligent, prideful bastard he seems to be, for all intents and purposes In the Flesh marks Wildcat’s attempt to truly prove me wrong, earn my respect once and for all, and validate all the time and energy he’s invested into being a rapper thus far, despite my nearly-annual lambastings. In short, Wildcat’s going all in.

Well I’ll have you know, Mr. Wildcat, that your old friend here Edward J. Sneed is very happy to take your action, and call you heads up. So, without further ado...let the critiquing being!

One quality I was immediately struck by on Flesh is Cat’s content being much self-exploratory and honest than ever, revealing a new willingness to step outside his typical creative comfort zone. Indeed, WC’s lyrical depth and diversity displayed on Flesh completely surpasses that of all his previous “works.”

Though he’s always shown an ability to rap about topics outside the norm, they have usually been so far outside the realm of the average person’s experience that only a handful of freaks and sickos could relate. Such content is also typically light-hearted and done for comedic effect, but on Flesh the Big Don of Dundas actually explores several quite serious topics, though usually with tongue fully in cheek.

However the real tragedy, and ultimate failure of Flesh is that for all the noted improvement and maturity Cat displays, this progression is grossly offset by the utter ridiculousness of a few off-the-wall, sloppy tunes which sound out of place, forced, and generally inconsistent with the otherwise dope vibe created by the recurring bangers.

The first song that struck me as an incoherent mess was “Bottom of the 6th,” a reference to the inning in which Wildcat, apparently, streaked a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game last summer in their hometown stadium, the Skydome. If there was any doubt as to the legitimacy of this claim, one need look no further than the back photo of Flesh’s inside layout, which prominently displays a naked Wildcat running across astro-turf in nothing but sneakers, holding up some sort of sign in his right hand, and what appears to be a pair of purple swim trunks in his left. Accompanying layout pictures capture members of the Skydome’s grounds crew chasing and apprehending Wildcat, which, combined with his four-minute story rap detailing this hair-brained stunt, certainly paints a vivid picture of all the naked and crazy action.

Despite the inherent inappropriateness and immaturity involved in the act of public streakings, I suppose such behaviour is to be expected from a Cat as Wild as this, so his naked little adventure come as no surprise.

Personally, I’ve suspected Cat was mentally unstable since Pullin’ More Than Pranks, and like most unstable people, though they may be able to mask it for quite some time, eventually their instability will manifest, take over and control them—in short, this streaking was a long time coming. Some sort of wildly inappropriate, juvenile outburst from a Cat this Wild was simply inevitable.

But as silly a stunt as the streaking was, it would have been forgivable had it inspired a smash hit, however the fact remains that “Bottom of the 6th” is so sloppily executed that it makes both the song and the streaking itself seem like complete wastes of time and energy, and thus makes Cat seem all the sillier for even attempting both.

I believe the primary intent of any streaker is shock value, but since streakers have been an infamous part of baseball culture since time immemorial, the shock has long worn off. Sorry Wildcat, you’ll simply have to try harder than that, pal.

This whole streaking business strikes me as a desperate and poorly-executed attempt by Cat to somehow market his insanity to a wider audience. I suppose it at least shows initiative, and an acknowledgment that in order to have a real career he must broaden his fanbase beyond his Dundas “hoodrat” buddies, but he’s just going about it all wrong.

If the streaking was designed to be the publicity stunt that really puts Cat on the map, then naturally “Bottom of the 6th” is the accompanying single, but as previously mentioned the tune is a tedious four minute story rap with no chorus at all, where the beat switches about halfway through for no apparent reason, as Wildcat doesn’t change his flow, content, or any other aspect of his verse. He simply hammers us with a barrage of lyrics which, though they do indeed tell a story, ultimately add up to a muddled one which is just too long-winded to follow. And without a chorus allowing one to digest the non-stop flow of rhymes, one soon grows lost and confused, especially as this tale becomes increasingly wackier with its progression.

My only guess as to why the beat changes halfway through is perhaps due to a failed attempt on Fry’s part to vary an otherwise monotonous monologue, which could have easily been trimmed down and summed up in half of its length, or less.

Wildcat, like many obscure rappers with independent streaks, needs to realize that there’s more to writing rap songs than rhyming lyrics. If he seriously wants to rap for a living, then Cat urgently needs to work on his overall song structure, his breath control, his editing/polishing skills, and his general swagger.

The fact that nobody in his inner circle has the good sense to give him these basic pointers is rather shocking, as they should be fairly obvious to any halfway-intelligent student of the rap game.

One would presume that one of Cat’s producers or fellow featured rappers would have passed on this simple, yet desperately needed advice to their boy by now, but since no one has I must conclude that he is either working with a team of yes-men who do nothing but stroke his wild ego, or a crew of unprofessional jokers who have no collective clue how to make music. I am inclined to think that the truth, as usual, lies somewhere in-between—that Cat is working with a semi-professional team, who stroke his ego moderately.

Regardless, such blatant ineptitude ruins what could be an otherwise potentially funny concept, as the modicum of humour found in “Bottom of the 6th” is vastly overshadowed by the Wild Man’s tedious storytelling:

“The wheels started spinnin’ as I mapped out the gameplan;
time to show ’em all who’s the world’s biggest Jays fan!
in the bottom of the 6th, this naked man will take flight
if I get locked, I’ll make bail, back on the streets that same night
so I hit Withrow Park for some practice runs
cuz success doesn’t come without practice, son!
Ran all over the diamond till my ass was numb
buy my fastest run still wasn’t fast enough
so I kept pumpin’ up, till my lungs was hurtin’
my legs got heavy, and my guts was burstin’
by the end of my workout, all my runs was perfect
then I almost passed out, from bein’ hungry and thirsty...”

And so it continues, for over four straight minutes.

This lack of recognizing which areas of his game need improvement has been an ongoing issue for WC, and until he realizes that even the most open-minded rap fans don’t want to hear a four minute story rap from hardly any rapper, especially one as zany as Cat, he will continue to hold himself back. He needs to focus on trimming the fat off his verses, tightening up his flow and timing, and writing catchy hooks that fans can actually bob their heads to, rather than shake in disgust.

Another example of his misplaced silliness is the closing tune “Beach Bum Boogie,” where Cat raps in some bizarre accent, playing a creepy pervert named “Raoul.”

“Raoul” throws a party at his grandma’s house while house-sitting for her, where he elaborately plans to perform lewd acts on his female guests. The lyrics themselves are so painfully obnoxious that I won’t even bother quoting any to further illustrate my point, but trust me folks, they are complete and utter drivel, and do not deserve to appear anywhere else outside of Flesh (and frankly they shouldn’t even be there).

Not only is “Beach Bum Boogie” extremely unfunny, it also lacks any context whatsoever, and frankly doesn’t even work as a concept overall. This is largely due to Raoul’s bizarre accent—whatever it is supposed to be it’s hardly convincing, making for an unrealistic character, and a cardboard one at that. But of course random, unfunny tracks like these have defined Wildcat’s “career” since his debut, so again, why should anyone be surprised?

Conversely however, the more serious, heartfelt tunes reflect the most mature Wildcat we’ve ever seen, providing a refreshing change of pace, namely on “Don’t Ask Why,” “Let it Rain,” “Still We Cry” and “Misunderstood.”

In “Don’t Ask Why” the Mad Catter acknowledges his crazy side, showing some newfound self-awareness. He always struck me as someone who lived on his own planet, and thus journeyed through life being terminally, blissfully unaware of his inappropriate actions. But in “Don’t Ask Why” the naked little hell-raiser finally acknowledges this part of himself, and explores it in an entertaining, compelling way:

“I just gotta let it loose, couple times I’ve made the news
don’t know why I’m like this, but I’m not the same as you
my Mom thinks it’s Turrets, hey, I think I’m crazy, too
must've been something in the water that she drank in ’82
best believe I’ve paid my dues, now I’m ready for the next level;
and if this rap shit don’t work out, I’m goin’ death metal!”

The Dundas mouthpiece has never shown this level of self-reflection before, and the fact that he’s now proving himself capable of it fills me with hope for all mankind.

On “Let it Rain” the wild beast laments the loss of presumably an ex-girlfriend, with brutal honesty over a soothing, hypnotic beat, as the Van Morrison sample “I’ll be your man, I’ll understand/do my best to take, good care of you...” echoes softly in the background. Cat really opens up on this one, as his pain and vulnerability radiate through the following rhymes:

“Sometimes I play it tough
as if I never gave a fuck
but truth is, it makes me nuts
thinkin’ that you hate my guts
don’t know where to start,
but I’m a try and make it up
cuz all I know is sometimes, 
saying sorry ain’t enough:
let it rain”

Again, though there are some subtle jokes and undertones throughout “Let it Rain,” Cat restrains himself from going over the top, and thus the emotional impact is not detracted from, resulting in a harmonious balance.

Similarly, the acoustic guitar-heavy ballad “Misunderstood” also features some of Wildcat’s most honest, introspective lyrics to date, as he ruminates on the nature of loneliness:

“The music dies down, the nights get cold
sparkin’ spliff after spliff as I write these poems
look at life through a blunted lens while the cron burns
realize somewhere down the line, I made a wrong turn
but ain’t nobody listening when the Cat cries;
nobody here to wipe the tears from the Cat’s eyes
social settings ain’t the spot where the Cat shines
so nowadays, I stick to turnin’ out the chatlines...”

Dope though these lyrics they may be, they are not the sole reason why “Misunderstood” works as well as it does. A large part of its success must be attributed to the captivating chorus sung by “Ran-D,” to wit:

“You know that’s not my style, to be
everything you want me to be
you only see
the things you want to see
and I’m misunderstood,
don’t treat me like you should
nothing comes easily,
the price of being me...”

Though at times Cat almost seems to be poking fun at traditionally sappy, overly-emotional ballads, on “Misunderstood” it’s done quite subtlety, without overshadowing the tune’s serious element, creating a carefully orchestrated satirical tension once again.

Next comes “Still We Cry,” quite possibly the only 100% serious MC Wildcat song to date. Here Mr. Cat lyrically mourns the loss of a young friend, who has died from an unnamed, though clearly tragic and sudden illness.

I can’t deny it—“Still We Cry” made me do just that. Despite obviously not having known Wildcat’s late friend personally, only someone with a heart of stone could not be moved by this powerful, eloquent piece of art. For all my harsh criticisms of Cat over these past six years, there is not a single bad word I can write about “Still We Cry”—this one really got to me.

Star provides a beautifully sad beat, which perfectly compliments Cat’s heartfelt lyrics. Never before has the Dundas kingpin rapped with this level of seeming un-self-consciousness:

“One day you’re here, the next day you’re gone
don’t make sense; tryin’ to find something to blame it on
but it’s the game of life kid, and the rules ain’t fair
rode my bike past your house today, and you ain’t there
said a prayer when you got sick, but since dude ain’t here
I got tears in my eyes dawg, my view ain’t clear
when you stopped takin’ calls, we hit a turning point
cuz I knew we’d never meet up again to burn a joint...”

I feel your pain, brother. Let it all out.

I often sense a powerful desire in Cat’s writing to please and entertain his audience, and though this occasionally results in highly entertaining songs, more often than not it leads to disaster, given his propensity for exaggeration, and taking jokes to preposterous levels. So never in a million years would I have thought I could be so moved by a Wildcat track, but this unpredictable bastard has thrown me for a loop yet again with “Still We Cry.” This song marks a huge breakthrough, and reflects tremendous personal and artistic growth on Wildcat’s part, for which he should be commended.

Though he later returns to his more consciously cultivated, rebellious self, the fact that he was able to abandon this persona for an entire track suggests that he may have more tricks up his sleeve than previously given credit for.

So all in all, though certain tracks on Flesh do display tremendous growth and potential, Cat still remains unable to subdue his penchant for wacky, nonsensical content, thereby diminishing the emotional impact of his more personal, and in my opinion much stronger material.

On the plus side, the Cat-Man-Don’t is proving himself to have a lot of energy, a willingness to step outside his comfort zone, a budding satirical sense, and even a way with words. If he could really commit to putting his whole game together and dropping his silly high-school prankster persona, he just might be able to produce consistently listenable music one day.

But alas this poor, misguided white boy, for some mysterious reason that probably only makes sense to him, remains content to bask in the freedom of being his own boss, despite clearly being unqualified for the job. But hey, if this free-spirited rapscallion insists on marching to the beat of his own wild drum, then I say let the Cat have his yarn ball. The tradeoff, however, is that he shouldn’t expect to have much of a rap career.

Or who knows, maybe he’ll just continue on as Dundas’ most prolific off-beat, tone-def, wanna-be thugged-out, baseball-game-streaking rapper. After all, he’s been dragging his peculiar shtick out for six straight years now, and who knows how much juice he’s got left?

Whatever the answer, hopefully Wildcat does us all a favour, and keeps his clothes on for the remainder of it.

LYRICISM: 6.9/10



<< Riverdale’s Jesus (2004) | Easy Bacon (2006) >>