Four years since ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ catapulted him and his cohort into the mainstream, Scroobius Pip returns this year sans Dan le Sac to deliver a poetic collection of hip hop abstractions under the apt title of Distraction Pieces. Listening to Pip’s lyrics on this solo venture produces an image of a beat poet burning money on a street corner in the hopes of waking his fellow man from the paralysis of everyday life. The playfully satirical prose of his earlier work is replaced by a more confrontational and damning rhetoric that cuts deep from the very first spin. Despite this shift, Pip’s tirades remain poignant and incisive; a trait which has always distinguished them from the blunt, trauma-inducing rhymes of contemporary rappers.
His command of rhythmic language is even more evident on this release, with innumerable well-turned phrases capable of etching a Chelsea smile on the face of even the most scathing listener: “I bought the heartbreak hotel, on my own with no investors. Closed it down and opened the fuck you get over it bed and breakfast”. Opening track ‘Introdiction’ offers listeners an opaque window into Pip’s loquacious mind; a view obscured by his cryptic wordplay and Shakespearean references. A minimalist guitar melody combines with Travis Barker’s (yes, Blink 182’s Travis Barker) heavy-hitting rhythms to produce a haunting backing track in the style of Tool or A Perfect Circle. Pip weaves a narrative of interlinking thoughts; delivering each witticism with intensity and conviction. The line “you see a mouse trap, I see free cheese and a fucking challenge” stays in the mind long after the track has drawn to a close.
Like other spoken-word poets, Pip uses his platform to openly engage the social issues that dominate today’s news media, but rather than apportioning blame, he filters out the clandestine arguments and speaks directly to the individual facing these problems. Punk/hip hop crossover ‘Let Em Come’ advocates action and personal development in the face of economic uncertainty; without sounding preachy or condescending. While rap has always been a vehicle for social resistance, it’s a rarity finding such a poignant message embedded in its rhyming scheme.
As the album progresses, it becomes more apparent that the catchy electro-pop beats of earlier albums have been conceded to Dan le Sac as his share of their separation. On tracks like ‘Try Dying’, distorted bass riffs drone over industrial drum loops with an intensity reminiscent of the early days of Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails. Owing in no small part to Danny Lohner handling production duties, the backing music provides Pip with a darker palette to paint his antagonistic vision of the world today. In spite of this, Distraction Pieces remains a profound and enlightening body of work from the leading light of UK hip hop. While it lacks the memorable beats that defined Angles, Pip’s insightful lyrics will linger in your mind long after the album has come to its conclusion.