Boot Camp Clik

Duck Down

Boot Camp Clik albums seem to come at key points for the Brooklyn collective’s eight members: 1997’s so-so For the People ended the Clik’s salad days, when its four constituent groups—Black Moon, Smif N Wessun, Heltah Skeltah, and O.G.C. helped define a new brand of soulful East Coast minimalism. Likewise, 2002’s showy The Chosen Few revived the franchise a bit, paving the way for last year’s well-received albums by Buckshot (of Black Moon), Sean Price (of Heltah Skeltah), and Tek N Steele (aka Smif N Wessun). Got all that? Doesn’t matter. Because here’s what does: The third disc by the full Clik, The Last Stand, sounds like the core of a worthwhile Act 3. The proof is in the beats—if these dudes have perfected anything over the past 15 years, it’s the ability to choose some tip-top, smoked-up backing tracks. The primary providers are Toronto-reared Marco Polo and Little Brother’s 9th Wonder, who balance reverence for the Clik’s no-frills past with a sense of musical possibility. (Other names—Pete Rock, Large Professor, and one-time Clik-wide producers Da Beatminerz—also deliver one track each.) Marco Polo is responsible for the disc’s ultracool minimasterpiece, “Yeah,” which really only has three simple melodic pieces—a spread-out bass line, sexy violin stabs, and a sweet horn blast. And 9th Wonder creates a sense of glimmering urban energy on “Here We Come,” with little more than a thick rhythm, vinyl static, and disembodied “ooh-wee-oohs.” Those are the peak tracks; elsewhere 9th Wonder revisits his signature dusty-soul-meets-software sound (“Take a Look (In the Mirror)” and “So Focused”), and Polo gets inventively dramatic (“He Gave His Life”). So what about the rappers? Well, Heltah Skeltah’s two members—the aforementioned Price (aka Ruck) and the gruff-voiced Rock (no relation to Pete)—seem to be everywhere, mostly because Price can’t rap without mentioning his name (“A-yo, the arm bone connected to the hand bone/Nigga, the hand bone connected to the damn chrome/Sean is the killer/Monkey bars/Sean the gorilla”) and Rock gets stuck singing a few of the hooks (his growl almost overpowers the otherwise sublime “Here We Come”). The rest of the guys can sound frustratingly similar at times, and their collective rhyming skills rarely produce a couplet worth remembering. It’s a case of flow mattering more than content. Example: Buckshot’s turn on “Hate All You Want,” where he says little of consequence (“You that bitch/Rapper-slash-fan/Tryin’ to get on with your half-a-ass plan”) but nonetheless rides the rhythm with unique patience. It’s an underground thing—sometimes technique is enough, as long as the overall package sounds like some deep shit.—Joe Warminsky