According to Webster’s Dictionary (look hard!), the “Typical Cats (Nickname: T.C.)” are defined as follows: “A group of 4 underground hip-hoppers from Chicago named Qwel, Denizan Kane, Quazaar, and DJ Natural who can best be recognized by their….well, typicality.” Being typical is not usually a bad thing, but at the same time and in the case of Typical Cats, it also usually means that nothing in particular stands out about something and makes it unique and interesting. Their sophomore album effort Civil Service slides right into that dictionary definition like a bookmark.
“Easy Cause It Is” would disregard Webster and his dictionary with DJ Natural providing a near-perfect boom-bap effort behind the boards as the cats declare, “We make it look easy ’cause it is, but fuck them other rappers and them critical kids.” The emcee and production efforts are enough to make “Easy” an easy choice as one of the (arguably) best underground tracks of 2004. “Justice Coming,” much more eerie and suspenseful in nature than its “Easy” predecessor on the 12″ single to Civil Service, sees haunting piano strokes from Natural and a sing-songy hook from the boys as the “civil service” title of the album shines through a little brighter on this track. And the more lyrically-inclined “The Trouble” proves to be trouble for those in the path of Qwel and Quazaar and lines like, “The fuck y’all talking to? I really hope your rap career blows, I witness rappers rap half-feminine like Atmosphere shows” bust off line-after-line in a flurry of Chicago wind. Outside of these efforts, however, the Typical Cats only succeed in churning up and whipping out less-than-stellar attempts at gorging the music industry with complaints about those in the power of hip-hop these days. Aside from the delightful free-for-all production styles of DJ Natural, the Typical Cats can, at times, appear stagnant and even borderline boring with dozens upon dozens of syllables cramped into already compressed 16-bar verses.
The drugs-and-drinks of “Drink Ticket” get lost amongst an overpowering number of words and complexities that will surely drunken even the most tolerant of hip-hop listeners. The “we’ve been around since….” vibe of “Before Before” has already been done numerously before in the world of hip-hop and deserves to be put to rest more graciously than at the tail-end of Civil Service. And the erratic messages of tracks like “The Do” and “Style Wars Theory” get lost and swallowed up amongst barrages of lyrics that feel as thought they are being recited from a page rather than from the brains of the Typicals, lending to the monotony that sets in by the end of the Service.
Still, when it’s “Easy Cause It Is” for the Typical Cats, they are an underground force to be reckoned with and a party-starter of a group that excitedly relays lyrics that can be as passionate as they want them to be. Unfortunately, too often they deliver messages on deaf ears due to their characteristically quick-paced flows that call but give no time for response. Civil Service serves as a worthy follow-up to the debut from Typical Cats, but in the end, it’s just as typical as the group themselves ? nothing less, but at the same time, nothing more, than what hip-hop is already ready for from the underground.
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