MC Wildcat – Riverdale’s Jesus (2004)
a review by Edward J. Sneed
Upon my review of MC Wildcat’s last album King of the Jungle, I promptly informed my head editor Mr. Padderach than I could no longer critique any more of this shameless deviant’s “work.” It simply would not be beneficial to my mental health, and my complete and utter contempt for Wildcat had become so powerful that I’d lost my ability to critique his work objectively.
I insisted that any future “albums” he released be reviewed by alternate members of our staff, as the very thought of wasting any more time hopelessly attempting to make sense of this screwball’s Wild World might very well push my sanity to the brink.
Now do not get me wrong, rap fans; Edward J. Sneed is as open-minded a critic as you’ll likely ever read, and in principal I have no issue reviewing obscure, independent “artists,” but this MC Wildcat character is simply too draining a “rapper” to review on a regular basis, albeit a yearly one. I’ve danced Wildcat’s dance four times in as many years, and enough is quite simply enough. He’s had a surprisingly long run for someone so out-of-touch with the essence of rap music and reality in general, and I refuse to involve myself in his brazen mockery of this beautiful art form any longer. Quite simply, I was putting my proverbial foot down on any and all future Wildcat reviews.
I explained all of this to Mr. Padderach in detail, but alas, he was ultimately unreceptive. He slapped me on my back, told me I’d done a great job of handling the Wild Man so far, and that considering my track record with the Dundas “gangster,” I was the best-suited man on our team to dissect any of his forthcoming “albums.”
Mr. Padderach further informed me that he’d in fact received a letter from Mr. Cat himself, in which he claimed to be working on a fifth album that would “silence all the haters once and for all, especially your boy, the King-Hater—that punk-ass Edward J. Sneed.”
I left Mr. Padderach’s office in a huff, and instantly became struck with an overwhelming dizziness followed by a spell of cold sweats, forcing me to take leave for the day. I was quite frustrated by Padderach’s refusal to let me off the Wildcat hook, and further irritated by that rotten bastard’s pledge to release a new “album” seemingly just to torment me, and cause me further aggravation. Not to mention being thoroughly offended by his characterizations of me as “King-Hater” and “punk-ass”—I resent the implication that I am a “hater” of anything, as I am actually quite a passionate and sensitive individual, and the term “punk-ass” is a downright ignorant insult that I simply do not care for.
But taking the day off did me well, and as the months passed I fell back into the swing of things, listened to many splendid albums which were a pleasure to review, and soon forgot all about that silly young man, MC Wildcat.
Until today. For this very morning, as I strolled into my lovely cubicle with today’s Metro tucked snuggly under my right armpit and a Tim Horton’s large triple-triple delightfully warming my left hand, what do I see on my desk but a tower of CDs, and guess whose was on top? There he is—the one and only MC Wildcat standing before some sort of fountain, with his arms spread out in a crucifix position, wearing a purple robe. I glanced at the text—MC Wildcat is Riverdale’s Jesus. I dropped my cup of coffee, and emitted a blood-curling howl.
Several of my co-workers rushed over to check up on me, and I soon found myself bombarded with copious napkins and paper towels. We eventually cleaned up all the spilled coffee, and normalcy resumed—but I knew the tone for my day was already set. For despite what is now referred to around the water cooler as “Ed’s Coffee Incident,” I knew the worst was still yet to come—for I would now have to listen to and review Riverdale’s Jesus, with the knowledge that Wildcat had consciously tried to create something that would “silence” me, the “King-Hater,” “once and for all.”
Though all this back-story may seem somewhat off-topic, and perhaps it is, the truth is that Underground-Throwback.com has unfortunately lost several of our primary advertising funders over the past year or so, and we are thus very close to declaring bankruptcy, and disappearing from cyberspace in the not too distant future.
So between our impending doom, and being forced to analyze Wildcat music for the rest of my potentially short career, frankly, my dear readers, I am no longer concerned with professionalism and/or journalistic integrity. If Mr. Padderach objects to anything about my new laissez-faire approach, very well—he can fire me and find someone else to take target practice on Wildcat, for all I care.
Ok then, Riverdale’s Jesus.
To be perfectly honest, I was ready to retort to both Mr. Cat’s fifth “album” and spiteful letter with the most scathing review in the history of online journalism—but the truth is, despite all the angst he has caused me as of late, such a critique just wasn’t deserved.
For after four straight years of slamming this cheeky little cretin, I must admit that this he has finally, bloody finally, delivered an album that, believe it or not, I have no choice but to deem as slightly above mediocre. Though modest praise indeed, this should nonetheless be acknowledged as a real breakthrough accomplishment for Dundas’ most prolific, tone-def white boy.
Though Jesus is still far from a classic, it is undeniably Wildcat’s most lyrical, well-produced, and relatable album to date. Though still irreverent as ever, the Cat-Man-Dont’s comedic content on Jesus is at least notably more relatable than on any previous effort, and though he may dance dangerously close to the proverbial Line, this year he seldom crosses it (for once).
Wildcat also sounds much more in command of his flow and lyrics on Jesus, which I attribute to a combination of his five years experience and, I daresay, latent maturity.
But don’t kid yourself, rap fans—the fact that it took FRY N’Em’s lyricist five “albums” to produce one of mediocre quality speaks more to his true rapping ability than any song featured on Jesus.
But before any further analysis of his recent improvements, I feel the need to address another long-standing Wildcat issue.
Upon receiving a few key nuggets of information from my street sources, Wildcat’s whole retirement-and-comeback stunt has now been fully revealed to me.
The supposed “retirement” he announced on 2002’s Not Everyone Makes It In the Industry was no hoax or marketing ploy, which should come as no surprise, as Cat clearly lacks the business savvy to pull off either. Retirement was indeed his genuine intention at the time of Industry’s release—but not, however, due to any decision of his own. For in fact, Cat’s retirement was externally imposed upon him by his long-standing producer Fry, who became fed up with his partner selling “albums” solely to his inner circle of friends year after year, as this business model, naturally, yielded marginal profits.
With the duo’s deal being to split all profits 50/50, you need only multiply $8 (Cat’s standard album price) by 30-40 units per “album” (Cat’s standard number of record sales) and divide this result by two, to calculate Fry’s approximate cut. After two straight years of receiving such negligible proceeds, Fry become discouraged with Wildcat’s hustle, and eventually Fry decided he no longer wanted any part of Cat’s shabby operation.
Though Wildcat was initially disappointed with Fry’s decision, Cat felt he had no choice but to retire, reasoning that there were likely no other producers in Toronto who could offer Fry’s style of production for equal price.
So after Industry’s release, which Fry informed Cat would be his final “album” recorded at Fry N’Em, Cat then made Fry a proposition: that the straightedge stringbean produce one more Wildcat album, on the condition that he would hustle this one properly, and push it to people beyond his immediate circle. Fry agreed in good faith, resulting in 2004’s King of the Jungle.
Yet for reasons unclear, Wildcat did not fulfill his promise and showed absolutely zero hustle with Jungle, peddling his usual dinky 30 odd units to his Dundas brethren, the exact same as he had with each previous “album.” Cat’s complete lack of initiative and refusal to keep his word drove Fry to abandon Wildcat once and for all, ultimately concluding that his albums were nothing more than a self-indulgent vanity project, and a pathetic attempt to make an otherwise soft white boy sound hard. So finally, after four years on the grind with little progression made in any aspect of their product, Wildcat and Fry parted ways.
My street sources further informed me that Fry’s intention was to study Kinesiology at the University of Western Ontario, and become a chiropractor. Meanwhile Wildcat resigned himself to petty side hustles such as selling stolen bikes, counterfeiting TTC tickets, and being a mule in an Australian gecko-smuggling operation, all while attempting to write and self-publish a series of violent children’s stories.
But in the end, I suppose the Wild One was simply unable to let his rap dreams die without a fight. So after a few months hiatus from Fry N’Em studios, Cat made its C.E.O. another proposition—that the retired Blockbuster Bandit would plunk down a fair chunk of cash to invest into new studio equipment, which Fry would then be free to keep and do with as he pleased with—after, of course, producing one more Wildcat album with the upgraded gear. Fry agreed, on the condition that after said album all subsequent Wildcat beats would be sold to him at a flat rate, cash up front, with Wildcat keeping all album profits. Cat agreed, thus ushering in a new era of Fry N’Em music.
And as their harshest and most outspoken critic, I really must say that this new arrangement seems to be working out quite well for both parties, as the improved overall quality of Jesus reflects that both Cat and Fry are in a better creative space than ever before, which suggests that the same can likely be said of their friendship, as well.
Furthermore, now that Fry has finally taken my advice and started using Pro Tools, the high-quality production software seems to have really brought out his best work. Plus his previous four years experience spent honing his craft seems to have aligned perfectly with this musical upgrade, making for a happy, and surprisingly banging confluence.
Standout tracks on Jesus include “Clean Getaway,” “Stoned Luv,” “Rhymin’ to the Beat” and “Cougar Blues,” which is quite possibly Wildcat’s strongest tune to date. Though interestingly, “Cougar Blues” was actually produced by “Star,” marking his first contribution to a Wildcat project since the sloppy “Raise Dem Children” off 2001’s Straight Outta Dundas.
With Phil Collins’ majestic sped-up voice crooning the chorus, “Leaving me is easy, coming back is hard,” this smoothed-out break-up tune is a certified head-bobber from the second the beat drops, with Wildcat’s alternately tender and funny lyrics flowing over it like melted butter.
Whereas his last cougar track, “Coug Luv” was predominantly a bombardment of ageist punchlines, most of which I felt were over the top, “Cougar Blues” features a seamless blend of humour and emotional insight, all while exploring the very real difficulties of pursuing a romantic relationship with a significantly older partner:
“…you got wedding fever, and wanted more from our relationship
and I tried to play it low, and act like I never gave a shit
but you kept buying me all kinds of presents, and making checklists
of things to pick up at the store, for cookin’ my breakfast
didn’t want you to feel rejected, so everything I accepted;
knowing you were desperate to change my perspective...”
I must admit that Cat’s flow on “Cougar Blues,” and Riverdale’s Jesus as a whole sounds far less choppy, and infinitely tighter than on anything in his current “Cat-alogue.” Who knows, perhaps the upgraded studio gear has re-inspired Cat, and lit a fire under his wild, furry ass? I suppose only time will tell.
In any case, new production can only help the otherwise hopeless cause.
I’m unsure whether the Wild Man’s finally starting to take his rap “career” seriously, or if perhaps the long-term effects of his juvenile weed haze have simply begun to wear off. Or maybe he’s finally developing a critical artistic eye, and seeing his lyrics objectively for perhaps the first time ever, resulting in a more polished final product.
Whatever happened, though still a Wildcat to his core, his newfound flashes of maturity suggest a new type of beast is emerging here, and I honestly can’t say if this will result in him being more or less savage.
I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt and conclude that Mr. Cat is indeed evolving (albeit at an embarrassingly slow pace). Which, however, along with the return of a noticeably improved Star, and Fry’s new studio gear seemingly inspiring a new and improved side of Cat, all combines to create a musical package that, for once in this oddball’s rapper’s “career,” actually makes for a semi-legitimate musical listening experience.
Though certain tunes are unquestionably stronger than others, on Riverdale’s Jesus there are, for once, no un-listenable, cringe-inducing songs, thank fucking Christ. So bravo, Wildcat—by showing a tad more maturity, both artistically and emotionally, you’ve made this review a considerably more pleasant experience for both of us.
All that being said, I am weary of reaching any concrete conclusions vis-à-vis Monsieur Wildcat. If his five “albums” have taught us anything about this unpredictable, rhyming enigma, it’s that you just never know what sort of Wild turn Cat’s erratic “career” will take next—and I’m not even sure he even knows, himself.
Although I wrote his first four “albums” off as misguided attempts at comedy, if Cat continues to further improve in each facet displayed here on Riverdale’s Jesus, then I’m afraid the real joke may actually be on myself, and his legion of other critics. So well played, Cat-Man, but remember this, old chum—though I envision you chuckling aloud to yourself as you read these very words, do savour the moment whilst it lasts, because I promise you that Edward J. Sneed always has the last laugh, always!
I look forward to reviewing Chapter 6, if you’ve got the heart to drop it.
TOTAL SCORE: 6.8/10