When Skipp Whitman’s classmates were rocking out to Metallica, he was getting clowned for rocking Cross Colours. When he dreamt of jumping on “Scenario” and spitting lines alongside Busta Rhymes, kids didn’t see an aspiring MC, they saw a wannabe. Almost 15 years have passed since the posse-cut and and Afro-centric Technicolor get-ups, but that theme is still haunting Skipp. He sounds too white picket-fenced to garner any street cred, too fresh-laced up to be taken seriously by his own block, and the dichotomy is glaring throughout his new disc, Free Agent. It’s a bright and often wonderful soundtrack that is marred by poorly conceptualized, typical ideas that are deftly explained but poorly explored.
But the kid can rap. His flow and his cadence are even and strong, and he keeps things interesting by moving swiftly through different rhyme patterns. But with as high a level of hunger and intensity that Skipp clearly has, it’s disappointing to hear him drone on and on from song to song about tired topics. There are breaks from the norm, like Skipp’s chronicling a journey back to his folks’ pad on “Home,” and his impressive reflection of his childhood stomping grounds on “Brookline,” but a large remainder of the album is crippled by cliche or is simply lame.
“Long Weekend” is set off with synths and smooth strings, but any hopes it stirs up are quickly ruined by the inane chorus, “it’s a long weekend/and baby we can/be out/and go to some crazy island.” The booming beat and crisp scratches showcased on “A Day At The Mall” are enjoyable but are unfortunately overwhelmed by a predictably goofy concept and awkwardly serious lyrics.
But it’s “Sonny,” a nicely crafted analogous tale, that provides the best example of how Free Agent falls short. The light, catchy bassline compliments Sophia Lauren’s charming vocals and Skipp’s spit, but the song takes a turn for the worst in the third verse when he asserts that “if I seem casual about the music/it’s actually cuz I don’t have to do it.”
Rap music is the rock, the ‘burbs are the hard place, and Skipp Whitman is stuck somewhere in between.