by Hobey Echlin
Beginning with the fact that this British collective appears to have used pictures from Detroit's 1967 riots for its cover art, it's clear Monkey Mafia isn't afraid to borrow from other sources to make a point. That would explain Shoot The Boss' by-any-means-necessary mix of dance hall reggae vocals, record scratches and uptempo beat collages that register somewhere between the blunt instrumental hip hop of early Mo-Wax and just-this-side-of-house BPMs. At their best, as on "Work Me Body," head Mafioso Jon Carter and crew find a more sophisticated, hip-hop-reverent side of the Big Beat equation of dumb beats + ragga samples = dope tracks.
Clearly, Carter knows his dance floor. The sheer number of tweaky effects pans and break downs followed by ecstatic rave-ups show he's no slouch in the booth, and, to his credit, he takes songs that are really more just tracks and stretches them with clever mixing and phasing. And while Boss effectively veers into slower, more smoldering Tricky territory — with the plinking, molasses-boat funk of "Ward 10" and the psychedelic buzzing build of "The Whore of Babylon" — for the most part, these are balls-out tracks where everybody's having a good time. Even if when the lights come up, there's not much to hum on your way out of the club.
The notion of "intelligent big beat" may seem at first as contradictory as "soft rock," but under Carter's watchful producership, the MM crew can mix ragga with rumble cleverly, without bumping their heads on the big beat ceiling too badly.