Radioinactive Soundtrack to a Book

[Stranger Touch; 2006]

Styles: underground hip-hop, experimental rap
Others: cLOUDDEAD, Shapeshifters, Busdriver

Like most MCs, Radioinactive can be identified as being among a certain crew, in this case the West Coast faction of the Dirty Loop scene of ultraliterate rappers, including his sometimes collaborator Busdriver. This is Radioinactive's third solo full-length, and unfortunately, the shortcomings of the first two efforts resurface here. While he's obviously a bright guy with some interesting rhymes to disseminate, neither his skills of elocution nor his vocal timbre match the dark wit of his insights. Unlike Busdriver or Aesop Rock, his flow is nowhere nearly as nimble or attractive, and the result is a somewhat monotonous delivery. He seems to have two speeds: plodding or double-time. He's at his best when, like in "Refrigerator," he switches back and forth between the two and throws in some outside vocal samples for variety. When he sticks to his primary vocal style he comes off a bit nasally and disinterested. An exhilarating experience this does not make.

The music is okay, but it seems a bit like an afterthought. If it was simply an unobtrusive bed for a master science-dropper, that would be one thing, but here, where a more intense backdrop might help to provide some needed excitement, it falls a bit flat. The actual BPMs are pretty mild (feeding that monotonous element), and there's little innovation in the sounds, which are mostly lightly tweaked programmed drums and some various samples of guitars, synths, and record scratches. "Personality Theft" offers the most obviously different texture, incorporating sitar, tablas, and a marching snare, and as a result, it's the most captivating track by far. This points to the best hope for Radioinactive for future releases. What he needs is to hook up with a forward-thinking producer and maybe one or two other MCs (ones a bit more lively in their approach would best complement his restrained but syllabically saturated flow). Better in a crew than on his own, it seems that Radioinactive might want to call in some of his friends for a little back up next time 'round.

1. Preface
2. Refrigerator
3. Tarantulas
4. Personality Theft
5. Page Six
6. Radiator
7. Sometimes
8. Footnote
9. Refrigerator (Reprise)
10. Trouble