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Audio Reviews
The Adventures of the One Hand Bandit and the Slum Computer Wizard
by 100dBs and Ryan O'Neil
N/A (2007)
The Adventures of the One Hand Bandit and the Slum Computer Wizard
In my review of 100dBs' Brenner’s Breaks Volume 1, I regrettably said the following about emcee Ryan O’Neil: “Ryan O'Neil, the other emcee featured, pales, his rhymes oozing with braggadocio, eschewing any semblance of a narrative thread for shameless self-promotion. One gets the sense that his rhymes might improve if only he'd get over himself.” After listening to The Adventures of the One Hand Bandit and the Slum Computer Wizard, I have some crow to eat. In fact, if the One Hand Bandit needs an extra hand, say, for reading or driving or opening cans or any number of mundane two-handed activities, I’d offer mine for a transplant.

On the track, he reminds me of a young KRS-ONE, sharp, witty, intelligent, street-savvy, verbally dexterous, educated, and a little angry. He’s got a chunky, nasally voice, and it sounds like he’s rapping his way through a sinus infection, much like a certain overweight emcee from Brooklyn (O'Neil doesn't let you forget, however, that he's from Queens). DJ/Producer 100dBs only helps these comparisons by providing a mid-90s soundscape that has evolved even in the few short months since the last mixtape.

The difference between this and Brenner’s Breaks is the culturally agreed-upon standards that represent the difference between a true album and a mixtape; that is, Adventures is an incredibly professional artistic effort, with clean lines and crisp edges. dBs plays the role of magician as well as maestro; he manages to cram a ridiculous number of sounds, samples, cuts, and scratches onto each track without the sum sounding like a crowded mess. Each successive listen provides new insight to the tracks, to their incredible sonic depth.

“Get Down!” mates long draws on a stand-up bass and Motown samples with O’Neil’s buttery vocals. He employ some clever metaphors—“Tryin' to get a two-for-one like Doublemint or even Twix”— to describe a comical threesome-gone-wrong scenario. “One Hand Bandit” finds a delicate flute dancing over an unobtrusive bass line and one of the most vibrant high hats I’ve ever heard. Prince Po, one-half of the legendary Organized Konfusion, checks in for a verse on “Respect,” and while such is certainly due, one can’t help but wait for O’Neil’s return; he is the undisputed star here. On “Paper Planes” O’Neil’s earnest back-in-the-day yearnings are wrapped tightly in an impeccable narrative flow, backed by groovy synth bass, tinkling piano, swollen boom-bap drums, and breezy horn stabs. The raps here are especially poignant, delivered in breathless staccato, and they beg to be poured over, analyzed, listened to over and over: “Innocence was bliss but maturity had found me/ but now I kinda wish it didn't/ cuz I'm conscious of the vicious system responsible apathy and cynicism.”

The Adventures of the One Hand Bandit and the Slum Computer Wizard is an album that's going to get stuck. Stuck in your head, your CD player, your Winamp. 100dBs and Ryan O'Neil have combined to give birth to a robust hip-hop record that puts most of the year’s major hip-hop releases—excluding very few—to shame.
Posted by: Patrick Vail

Audio Reviews (September 15th, 2007)