Album Review – Bad Time Zoo

What happens when you mix science fiction with hip-hop? You get Bad Time Zoo by Sims. A Twin Cities native, (Andrew) Sims draws his inspiration from Ray Bradbury’s The Veldt, a short story about a an all encompassing technology for homes that takes care of its inhabitants’ needs. In the nursery, the children become fixated on the African savanna, which the Veldt becomes when the children lock their parents in the nursery at the end of the story.

Applying the Veldt to today, Sims incorporates a lot of African animal imagery into his social commentary, which suggests a growing disillusionment with the political left as well as criticisms of of consumer movements, dependency on drugs and technology, and, of course, the music industry. With excellent production (and limited profanity) Bad Time Zoo is already generating buzz after being released just last month. Fresh, thought provoking, and intelligent – I mean, when was the last time you heard Rene Descartes’ name in rap lyrics? Sims might even make believers of hip-hop skeptics.

The opening track, “Future Shock,” immediately evokes Africa by mixing hip-hop with African musical elements and by weaving a technology theme in the lyrics, Sims hints at the Veldt…

The animal themes are thick in “Burn It Down” and Sims mentions the Veldt for the first time:

Hot on the heels of “Burn It Down” comes the title track, “Bad Time Zoo,” making for a back to back wallop of social commentary in the form of two dance tracks. With lines like, “This is where we’re living at, Live from the Minneap” and dissing Obama, this track quickly became my favorite on the album.

“Too Much” features Minneapolis rapper POS, who steals the show, in my opnion. The track lulls you into a false sense until POS smacks you back to reality. The musical production is excellent, adding drama at just the right times. (Live version)

“One Dimensional Man” is a cynical take on left-wing causes and consumer movements, brilliantly working in the work “philanthropic.”

“In My Sleep” slows down the tempo but has a wailing guitar backing Sims while he shows a little ego, bragging he wrote this song, “in my sleep.”

The drop in tempo transitions to the album’s haunting and sorrowful ballad, “When It Rolls In,” a song of survival – of weathering life’s storms.

The somber mood is quickly lifted with “Good Times,” a more traditional hip-hop song. The singularly most profane song on the album, Sims brags about achieving success into the future, and adds a touch of motivation, telling others to “get it.” Very catchy and danceable (and my second favorite track on the album).

The good vibes carry over into “LMG,” another catchy and danceable track, but lyrically more insightful than “Good Times,” as Sims describes the unappealing nature of drug abusing women. Mr. Sims now has a book recommended to him on this issue. *Ahem*

Ray Bradbury’s story gets its own track with “The Veldt,” with animals serving to depict various aspects of human nature. And here is my biggest issue with Sims’ social commentary – ambulances are already privately owned. Yeah…

Despite numerous listens, “Weight” continues to strike me as slightly out of place. Coming right after “The Veldt,” it seems a strange place to discuss dropping cynicism, and I think this track would work better with a song or two between it and “The Veldt,” but I like this song a lot, especially the line, “It’s a long road, better learn to rock the uphill.” Sadly – I can’t find this song uploaded on youtube.

The social commentary extends to the music industry in “Radio Opaque.” Ripping on the shallowness of today’s “music,” Sims talks up the Doomtree label and asks, “How many songs about clubs and bottles, drugs and murder can we take?” Awesome.

The commentary continues into “Sink or Syncopate,” turning Minneapolis and its inhabitants into animals into the Veldt.

“Hey You” is a mellow motivational song and, in my opinion, one of the better inspirational hip-hop songs I’ve heard. Excellent ending, or it would be except for a bonus track, of which I shall not comment.

Bad Time Zoo is a must own album for fans of underground hip-hop, for fans of the Beastie Boys and Eminem, and for those looking for something new and different. For skeptics of hip-hop, Bad Time Zoo offers a fresh and intelligent take that’s worth a look. As a conservative, I highly enjoyed hearing the left take some pot shots from one of its own.

I had the privilege to see Sims perform at The Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis on Friday night, and the man puts on one heck of a show. Afterward, he signed autographs and I had given him a note with a book to read which excited him. If you’re on the West Coast, look for Sims and Dessa’s joint tour. Personally, I think this album is going to make Sims huge. The last time I declared a band/artist would be huge was No Doubt just before they dropped Tragic Kingdom, so you heard it here first. Jump on the Sims bandwagon before it gets full.

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