MC Wildcat – Poison Catnip (2008)

a review by Edward J. Sneed

Poison Catnip

MC Wildcat never ceases to amaze me, but this has nothing to do with the quality of his music. Rather, I find myself frequently baffled by two other qualities this delusional donkey possesses in spades: 1)His unrelenting commitment to his profoundly misguided vision, as evidenced by his Jay-Z-esque output, and 2)His ability to somehow, despite his prolificness, still drop incomprehensibly flawed “albums” year after year, with the sole exception of 2006’s Easy Bacon.

Yet despite the usual crudeness and offensive humour we’ve become accustomed to, the Cat-Monster seems to have taken his music in a drastically different direction this time, with his ninth release in as many years, Poison Catnip.

It actually feels like Wildcat may have taken my review of his last “album” Year of the Golden Pig to heart, in which I had suggested that it may be in Cat’s best interest to focus more on serious content, and stop trying to play up the mischevious prankster reputation he’s cultivated since high school. I suggested this because, given Wildcat’s emerging serious side which we’ve been getting glimpses of since In the Flesh, I felt that his more emotionally charged lyrics generally made for stronger, more satisfying listening experiences than his frequently misdirected attempts at comedy and shock value.

Personally, I find it much more compelling listening to the Dundas mouthpiece rap about love loss, loneliness and alienation, than being subjected to monotonous story-raps about streakings, kidnappings, assaulting bus drivers, and shoplifting pornographic videos from corner stores.

I still maintain that more emphasis on serious subject matter, and less about his juvenile misadventures would likely bring the best out of Cat, but of course this would still require a certain degree of balance to be successfully executed.

But in the case of Poison Catnip, however, WC has made a complete 180 degree turn and in fact, believe it or not, taken a cripplingly self-serious approach to his music this year. Whereas Cat’s past few albums have been, generally, about 75% comedic and 25% serious, Catnip is the polar opposite; yet despite this new approach, it still manages to leave one scratching their head, and leaves something to be desired.

I’m not sure if Catnip marks the beginning of the Wild One’s attempt to re-invent himself as a serious rapper, or if he’s just going through some sort of weird, soul-searching phase that inspired an extremely atypical Wildcat album, which will one day stand out as a confounding anomaly in his Wild-Catalogue.

Whatever the circumstances Catnip was born out of, I found myself instantly intrigued by the Wild Man’s creative transformation. In an attempt to gain some insight into what exactly inspired this drastic style makeover, I made the grimy journey into the heart of Dundas myself, to track down Wildcat’s longest-standing producer, Fry, at his home studio for an interview.

Fry graciously granted me a candid interview which helped shed some much-needed light on just where Wildcat’s head is at these days.

According to the lanky beat-maker, apparently Young W has recently rediscovered the psychedelic drug magic mushrooms, and had been going through a hardcore spiritual transformation before the recording of Catnip. Though his Wildness had apparently not touched the drug since about age 17, with Wildcat Sr. and Cat’s stepmother having recently purchased a cottage up in Haliburton, Ontario, evidently their son has since re-acquainted himself with the hallucinogenic vegetable.

Fry further elaborated that Cat and some of his squirrelier buddies have since been visiting said cottage quite frequently, where the picturesque getaway quickly transforms into an over-indulgent shitshow, where Cat and company, to put it bluntly, trip the fuck out hard.

Fry claims that at one point during all this cottage frivolity, Wildcat wandered off into the woods by himself, whacked out on mushrooms and Lord knows what else, and didn’t return for two days. Then apparently when he finally did return, covered in mud and soaking wet from swamp water, when asked what the bloody hell had happened to him, Cat simply kept repeating the statement—“It all makes sense now.”

The “illuminated” rapper, apparently, further stated that during his “Vision Quest” he realized he was a modern-day prophet, sent here to Earth to bring enlightenment to his disenfranchised generation through his heaven-sent vehicle of rap music. Cat apparently claimed to have felt the world had reached a crisis point, and thus it was his moral duty to teach the aimless, misguided youth of East York, Riverdale and Dundas what’s truly important in life, by using his “lyrical gift” as a catalyst for truth and love.

Though Fry claims he advised Cat to keep his subject matter lighthearted, the musical stringbean maintains that his star rapper felt a newfound sense of moral superiority and self-righteousness since his drugged-out woodland adventure.

Cat apparently told Fry that he would never understand the new Wildcat until Fry came up to Cat’s cottage for a Vision Quest of his own, but Fry politely declined.

And though he repeatedly insisted that Cat’s miniscule fan base would not be feeling his preachy, post-Vision Quest vibe at all, Fry still agreed to produce a large chunk of Cat’s forthcoming album, simply because he apparently offered an absurd amount of money for Fry’s contribution. Though Fry was shocked by Cat’s offer he insisted the money was irrelevant, claiming they were about to record “The soundtrack of the heavens,” which the world desperately needed to hear as soon as possible, no matter the cost.

Thus Fry agreed, as did fellow producer Star, who, though agreeing with Fry’s initial assertion that Cat should stick to playing the comedic angle, also ultimately gave Cat full creative control, upon his making Star an equally generous proposal for his production.

Lastly, Wildcat’s newest producer Pete King, despite doubting his client’s claim to be a contemporary prophet, still agreed to help produce “the soundtrack of the heavens” without much arm-twisting. For in fact King, unlike Fry and Star, had been urging Wildcat to explore more serious content since their first collaboration on Golden Pig, as King felt Cat was a talented lyricist who did himself a disservice by being so aggressively nonsensical, and was thus pleased to see Cat finally heed his advice.

However, there is indeed a fine line between taking oneself seriously as an artist, and making music that comes across as downright preachy and self-righteous—a line which evidently must appear quite blurred through Mr. Cat’s mushroomed-enlarged pupils. Take the following lyrics from “What Can I Do?”

“They ain’t got your best interest, really they despise you:
higher you go, more they “constructively” criticize you
and kill your confidence, cuz the way they grade you is wack;
no middle ground, it’s either fail or pass
don’t follow they standards, then they fail your ass
and throw the most creative students in behavioural class
it’s fucking bullshit, my kids are get home-schooled;
teach ’em how to think for themselves, I’m old school…”

This rant about teachers in the public school system may indeed be insightful, but the harsh fact remains that nobody wants to hear Wildcat attempt to drop knowledge—it just doesn’t suit the persona he’s spent years consciously cultivating. Releasing uber-preachy songs is seldom a “good look” for any artist, an even worse “look” for rappers, and an absolutely disastrous “look” for a rapper who, over his past eight albums, has pulled every conceivable trick out of his sleeve to convince us that all he’s a highly unstable, out-of-control wildman. So frankly, this self-righteous shtick just doesn’t fly. For Cat has created a persona so hopelessly and terminally unreliable, that he now has absolutely zero credibility when it comes to offering advice on any even remotely serious issue.

Sure, there are a couple somewhat funny, lighthearted songs on Catnip, but they remain few and far between, and as usual, most still miss their mark. It seems that Catter is now attempting to use humour to break-up the monotony of his cripplingly self-serious diatribes—the polar opposite of his previous formula, where he’d typically use the odd serious tune to offset his current of unrelenting comedy, thereby making his funny songs even funnier, and his serious ones even more poignant. But on Catnip the whole comedic/serious balance is totally out of whack, a problem which is only exacerbated by the sequencing also being a royal mess.

Though Cat is more true to his original form on the psychotically angry “I Wanna Know!,” his rage is so extreme and irrational that I doubt few will relate:

“it’s overdue; all I ever hoped to do was get close to you, but
it ain’t mutual, so, fuck am I supposed to do?
We could have had a beach house wit’ an ocean view;
instead I’m pullin’ disappearing acts like Polkaroo
if I ain’t going home wit’ you, neither is he;
look me in the eyes and say you ain’t got feelings for me!
Wildcat’s a grown man now, I was a boy then;
now I wanna find your boyfriend and destroy him!
Understand an artist’s heart ain’t nuthin’ to toy wit’;
that’s why I never fall in love if I can avoid it...”

Although this disturbing content is actually somewhat refreshing, as such shameless insanity is what we’ve become accustomed to with Cat, he’s still going so far over-the-top that any modicum of humour in “I Wanna Know!” is vastly overshadowed by his vehement rage. Whereas unlike Golden Pig’s “The Cat Came Back,” which at least had the guise of a creative concept to somewhat mask its obsessive undertones, “I Wanna Know!” has no imaginative subtext, and comes off as a senselessly angry outburst more than anything.

Wildcat strikes me as a guy who has been holding onto a thin thread of sanity for a very long time, and now, for whatever reason, he’s finally starting to lose his grip. Seriously folks, his lyrics on Catnip reflect not only a highly disturbed mind, but also an artist who has completely lost touch with his “fan base,” and is now strictly making music to fulfill his own ill-conceived, personal agenda, with zero objective perception of how it will be perceived.

After “I Wanna Know!” it’s straight back to the ever inconsistent and contradictory nature of Catnip with “Love is Love,” another cripplingly self-serious, atypical dud:

“life's too short to run solo missions
so all ya’ll fellas out there, don’t get it twisted
always remember to show yo’ women
that you appreciate ’em, let ’em know you listenin’
whenever you gone, let ’em know you miss ’em
and befo’ you twist ’em, gotta stroke and kiss ’em
too many of us try to control an’ diss ’em;
quick to dismiss ’em as ho’s and bitches
instead, we should give our Queens thrones to sit in
can't help it yo, Cat's just full of wisdom”

Well Cat, you’re certainly full of a lot of things, buddy, but I’m sorry to say wisdom ain’t one of them. Though his rhymes do seem to be growing tighter with each successive album, the progress Cat’s made in this regard is again overshadowed by his new holier-than-thou persona, which just doesn’t suit the traditionally debauched character we’ve come to know so well over the past eight years.

For I ask you, ladies and gentlemen: who is a self-professed child kidnapper, shameless cougar hunter, cradle-robbing teenage predator, and obsessed stalker to give advice on love? The very thought of looking to such a hopelessly inept mess of a human shitstorm like Wildcat for any sort of guidance, particularly in matters of the heart, is downright laughable—ha! Take that, you transparent impostor!

Even the standard secret track, which has become a Wildcat staple (appearing after the album’s final listed track, and typically being the crudest, most offensive of the collection) is sub-par on Catnip. The Dali Catter and some fellow creep rap about Facebook stalking over a painfully slow, tedious stinker of a beat:

Cat “During my down time, when I ain’t rocking the mic
I’m peeping your profile, with my new stalking device” 
Fellow Creep “Facebook’s a great look for hunting down girls you dated,
but never got to third base with, or never got ’em naked, so—”
Cat “If they don’t accept my friend request, it doesn’t matter:
I’ll crack your privacy settings, cuz my cousin’s a hacker!”
FC “There seems to be this illusion ’bout online privacy;
but truth is everything you upload, I can see! 
I was on your profile today...”

The back-and-forth rapping between these two shameless pervs doesn’t make this song any less distasteful, either. Someone needs to inform Mr. Cat that sometimes “secret tracks,” much like secrets themselves, are usually best kept to oneself—besides, this gag has been running over six “albums” now, so not only are these “secret tracks” totally expected and predictable, evidently they’re not even listenable anymore. Perhaps they never really were, but have simply become even less so with Cat’s recent spiritual transformation.

In the end, as usual this poor, lost young white boy leaves me feeling confused and dissatisfied. Wildcat has seemingly abandoned the style he developed over his first eight albums, and left behind the piss-bomb throwing, cougar-hunting, dime-dealing, middle-class white-boy rebel image for that of a lyrical prophet, here to enlighten us all with his mind-blowing, heaven-sent insights.

I never thought this was possible, but now I’m really starting to wonder if his Holiness may seriously be running the risk of putting his “career” in even worse jeopardy than it was already in. For Catnip’s content is so uncharacteristic and experimental, even for Wildcat, that if his 30 high school buddies don’t relate to his new prophetic rhyme style, he may very likely alienate his core “fanbase.” One would think that an artist with such a pathetically small “fan base” in the first place would do everything in their power to keep them satisfied—but of course that presumes the artist in question has a shred of common sense, which Wildcat tragically does not, as proven countless times.

But of course this is Wildcat’s life, his “career,” and his choices are his to make. Personally, I feel it is high time that the Mad Catter had a long, hard think about what he really hopes to accomplish with his rap career, and then, if he decides he wants to make a serious run for the Crown (ha! ha!) he should consult a professional music manager. For if left to his own devices, Wildcat will inevitably wallow in the trenches of obscurity until he simply grows too old to continue spitting. Or maybe he’ll actually come to his senses some day, give up the goose, and find himself a real career. Either way, I do believe it is soul-searching time (again) for our old friend Wildcat.

Catnip is, after all, his Holiness’s ninth album, and given that cats are known for having nine lives, it seems a fitting note to retire on.

I mean, seriously dude, enough’s fucking enough already. It’s been a good long run, Mr. Wildcat, and I can say with utmost sincerity that I truly believe you’ve far exceeded everyone’s expectations of you, so please, Cat-Man, save us all the future displeasure, and yourself any further embarrassment, and leave this rap shit to the pros, straight the fuck up. It’s just not becoming of you, and frankly, you’re making both yourself and the rap game look increasingly silly with your “legacy” of sloppy, distasteful albums that nobody else can relate to, or even understand.

But given everything we know about Wildcat thus far, who knows what the future may hold for this stubborn, eccentric little soul? If he has proven anything to us over these past nine years it’s that he is undoubtedly, if nothing else, completely irrational and unpredictable. Every decision he makes is seemingly determined by factors that exist only in his wild little mind, and have no bearing in reality.

Of course, I suppose this is exactly why he’s the Wildcat, at the end of the day, and the rest of us are not. However, individuality doesn’t always translate into a successful rap career, or any sort of career, for that matter.

And as far as Edward J. Sneed’s concerned, that lesson is the real legacy left behind by our poor friend the Dali Catter.

A one-of-a-kind character MC Wildcat undeniably is, I’ll give him that. But what he longs to be most of all, in his wild little heart of hearts—a successful and respected rapper—Wildcat has simply never been, nor will ever be.

Harsh though that may sound, the sum total of the Cat-Man-Don’ts nine albums, particularly Poison Catnip, make that sad fact embarrassingly clear.

LYRICISM: 4.9/10
TOTAL SCORE: 5.3/10 (all measured on the Cat potential scale)



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