Available on: Southern Fried LP

Sometimes the title says it all. A product of the information age in the worst kind of way, Tons Of Friends is the aural equivalent of listening to an irritating extrovert boasting of his collection of digital Facebook pals and Twitter followers, and just as mind-numbing.

Though the Milanese production duo of Phra and Bot showed great promise with their early podcasts and that ubiquitous, love-it-or-hate-it crunk house remix of Kid Cudi’s ‘Day ‘n’ Nite’, their particular brand of hip-hop indebted, noisy electro, over a very long album length – 20 tracks! – wears thin very quickly indeed.

Like it or not, US mainstream hip-hop has scraped the barrel clean of ideas, and has now looked towards commercial dance to resuscitate its ailing form. Though Crookers’ brand of beats is a little cooler than the risible, anodyne likes of Steve Aoki or David Guetta, they too suffer from one of rap music’s most debilitating afflictions – the over-reliance on guest spots. Tons of Friends, as its title suggests, is positively stuffed with them. In fact, every track has at least one guest, often three, and unfortunately, it seems very few of them were worth emailing in the first place.

When Kelis attempts to be edgy on ‘No Security’ – boasting that she’s double hard, and “in the favelas / with no security” – it’s very difficult to believe, especially over the inexpert plod-step beat that Crookers have built beneath her. Wack MCs Pitbull and Will I Am blather tepid nonsense over ‘Natural Born Hustler’ and ‘Let’s Get Beezy’, while Spank Rock fare far better on ‘Park The Truck’, a stripped down, echoic pulse that sounds like an off cut from their debut record. Roisin Murphy’s lush tones are wasted on the slow electroid lollop of ‘Hold Up Your Hands’, while ‘Lone White Wolf’ wheels out Tim Burgess for no good reason. One of the best tracks Crookers have recorded, ‘Businessman’ featuring Wiley, is inexplicably absent.

Crookers have all the coolest influences ticked off on their checklist – a smidgeon of dancehall here, a bit of dubstep there, a touch of B-more – but their execution is deeply flawed and confused. A real case of too many cooks spoil the broth, Tons Of Friends is a chaotic, unlovable record. If they got rid of the guests, they might be on to something.

Ben Murphy



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