It’s Grayowl Point’s third annual Throwback Week! The blog is once again looking back at older Canadian albums and connecting them to the musical present. This year, albums released in 2012 or earlier qualify to be examined for Throwback Week. See our past throwback reviews here.
This year, Toronto’s excellent hip-hop record label Hand’Solo Records turns 20 years old. What better way to honour their longevity than with a Throwback Week review of an album released on the label one decade ago, by a rapper of whom the blog has only recently written about his incredible talent?
That talent is Wordburglar, and that album is Burglaritis. Though it was 10 years ago when this album first hit the world, there are still many hallmarks on the album that you can find up to Rapplicable Skills. Sean Jordan’s one-liners are still impeccable (“It sucks, like getting a vacuum cleaner for your birthday” is just one example); he smartly values wordplay, timing and flow over braggadocio; he shows how connected he is to his two homes of Halifax and Toronto; he’s a huge nerd and it’s wonderful.
I mean, just look at the cover, in which it looks like a Green Lantern has come down with a bad case of Burglaritis and is being tended to by charming robots. There’s an extended phone spiel at the end of the smooth “Fun is Number One” in which a customer goes on and on about superhero action figures. “Eight Rappers & the Mason” makes reference to a monster from He-Man.
Nerdy pop culture references make the album fun, but it’s also fun to see Jordan ever so slightly switch personas from song to song. After the funny “Diagnosis” skit begins the album, “The WB” introduces the infamous Wordburglar, and it’s fun to hear Jordan posturing while never actually sounding like he’s being malicious or mean-spirited. Playfulness is an attribute that only seems to be valued in the indie hip-hop scene and it’s always a pleasure when Jordan shares the spirit of playfulness with his frequent collaborators. More than 10 years later he’s still doing shows and songs with More Or Les, and on Burglaritis the song “Spit Fresh” is a breath of fresh air. Jordan seems especially laid-back on the few songs with guest rappers, like “Breeze” with Pigeon John or the aforementioned “Fun is Number One,” with some effortlessly fast rapping from Bending Mouth.
Playful isn’t his only persona; it’s almost disarming to hear Jordan in “Let’s Get Romantical,” where it’s hard to tell if he’s reciting his rhymes and lines like “It’s not Tim Hortons but you can roll up the rim” with a straight face.
As Rapplicable Skills had “Channel Halifax” for your fill of Halifax references, Burglaritis has “Scova Notions,” which drops a bunch more, and of course references the infamous donair. Rapplicable‘s scary song based on childhood experiences was “The Other Shop”; here “The Route” fills that need. The dark song about delivering papers in bad neighbourhoods, I imagine, informed some of the material of Jordan’s own The Last Paper Route comic book. Rapplicable‘s epic MC team-up was “Warp Formula”; here it’s “Eight Rappers & the Mason” which features—you guessed it—eight rappers, each bringing their own unique flavour to the table.
Ten years after Burglaritis, Wordburglar has a more confident voice than ever, but you can still see his confidence all the way back in 2006. Consider me fully infected with Burglaritis.
Top Tracks: “Breeze”; “The Route”; “Word Owner”; “Spit Fresh”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*