wax Poetics

Mission Men

“Roachin’ ”

Released 1988
record label Kick Live Records
Written by Robbie Busch


The year was 1988. Straight outta Brooklyn. Dr. Scareb and the Mechanic were in the right place at the right time, but fell short of making history. These two come off like the lost tribe of the Native Tongues crew who somehow missed the express train to The Red Alert Show. The three tracks—“Roachin’ (To the Left, to the Right),” “Just Call Me Over,” and “Microphone Wizard”—showcase the pair’s deft understanding of where the rap game was heading in the golden year of ’88.

Dr. Scareb has a forceful, yet playful, delivery. His bravado on “Just Call Me Over” shines through as he sprinkles a healthy helping of humor on his bowl of Politic-O’s. The Mechanic works the MPC hard and achieves a nice balance of jazzy riffs with hard-core beats. He may not have been tapping the Blue Note catalog, but the way he cut up the horn sample from the bridge of “I Got You (I Feel Good)” really pulls the jazz out of James Brown. By starting the sample at the end of the phrase and letting the slowed-down loop float through the mix, he accents the taut drum programming.

Our good Dr.’s inability to hook up is laid out like a mysterious cold sore on “Roachin’.” The sad-sack journey from one missed opportunity to the next is highlighted by a Greek chorus of dudes chanting, “To the left, to the right.” The Mechanic aids the roach-stomping by slowing the action down. His ominous beat follows a series of clipped horn stabs as they cut through the back alleys of this anti-freaky tale.

The glorious sound of unclean wax fills “Microphone Wizard.” It’s as if the boys loved the groove of the soul 45 they’d just popped on the turntable so much that they couldn’t be bothered to wash the grime away. The freedom and joy that they exude on the track is infectious and has a real Brand Nubian bounce to it. You can see them working late in the smoke-filled studio, congratulating each other on their inevitable leap into stardom.