For Your Old Droog, March 10 is the day it all stops: No more dismissals as a Nas clone, or a cryogenically frozen '90s traditionalist charged with the Sisyphean task of "bringing New York back" 20 years after its boom bap-led golden era reached its expiration date. If his 14-track LP, PACKS, imparts any lasting impression, it's that the Brooklyn-bred wordsmith is his own man.
Make no mistake, Droog's timbre and endless arsenal of punchlines ooze Bucktown, but he clearly operates on a frequency governed by the surreal and sometimes otherworldly, one listeners will hear immediately on the LP's opening cut, "G.K.A.C." There, the MC recounts the bloody undoing of a cop-loathing madman in cinematic and slang-heavy fashion.
Droog proves a versatile raconteur throughout the opus, vividly detailing the pitfalls of a trio of ill-equipped dream chasers on "You Can Do It! (Give Up)" before delving into the comically tragic "My Girl Is a Boy," where a moll shows her true colours — blue — and puts a ki-flipping Droog behind bars.
When he's not flexing his storytelling muscles, Droog embraces both his underground and minority status on "I Only" and "White Rappers (A Good Guest)." While he admits "whites don't claim me" on the former, the Brooklynite declares craftsmanship transcends all on the latter, cleverly taking his predetermined seat and flipping Lord Jamar's anointing melanin-free artists as "guests in the house of hip-hop" with "The Droog even takes his shoes off when he gets in the crib."
As if flashing his dexterity with a variety of flows didn't already do his immeasurable ability justice, the Brooklynite further paves his own lane with a handful of boisterous lyrical exercises, from the explosive "Help" to the flute-laced "Bangladesh" to the bluesy closer "Winston Red," each regaling listeners with spectrum-spanning references to "The Shot," Boy Meets World and Pokémon. Yes, even Pokémon — and it works.
A sporadic sonic palette keeps PACKS' parts from fully working in concert, and the Chris Crack-assisted "Just an Interlude" may have been better suited as an actual break in the bar-heavy proceedings, but the artistically revelatory voyage into Droog's at-times nostalgic, at-times comically bizarre world proves well worth the 40-minute trip. (Fat Beats)