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"STINK TANK - Books on Tape"

A conceptual hip-hop act that also exists in the tangible world of the here and now, Stink Tank is a showcase for local producer/DJ Man Mantis and MC Laduma Nguyuza. The latter has been a mainstay of Madison hip-hop for many years. Projects with dumate (who also worked with Man Mantis), the D.L.O., Rob Dz, and many others established him as a lion of the small, fiercely dedicated local hip-hop community.

On Books on Tape he morphs into several different characters, including Dudu Stinks, Jimmy French Fries and (RIP) Mr. Parker. This is no gimmick, though. As he modulates his tone and his message, the multi-monikered MC builds the individual tracks into a rhythmically varied song cycle. And as he slips in and out of different characters, he covers everything from the malleable nature of the MC's persona to the experience of African American writers who've created and improvised while working in the language of the dominant culture.

It's a remarkable performance, one that's reminiscent in some ways of Kool Keith and his use of self-generated mouthpieces like Dr. Octagon, Black Elvis and Dr. Doom. Without question, Books on Tape is the kind of hip-hop disc that should get good notices far beyond our milk-drenched borders.
- Tom Laskin for the Isthmus

"77 Square Review"

A concept album from some of the most talented in the Madison hip-hop community. MC Dudu Stinks and producer Man Mantis have spun a wild ride, one of those rare albums these days that simply necessitates a full sit-down listen from top to bottom. Stinks' rhymes don't just conjure up rich imagery, they have a thick texture that you need to roll around with your own tongue again and again: "You tell me what to write again / and I will pen a fire den for you and your moms and them / ignite some homonyms and sprinkle them with cinnamon / invite the calm in them and drill them with some Ritalin.

-Katjusa Cisar - 77 Square

"The Onion Interview"

If hip-hop albums get bonus points for lines worth chewing over on repeat listens, Stink Tank’s new Books On Tape scores pretty high. Local rapper Laduma Nguyuza formed Stink Tank with producer Mitch Pond, a.k.a. Man Mantis, and “killed off” Mr. Parker, the persona that introduced his engaging verses via Madison bands Dumate and Smokin’ With Superman. The duo then created a new set of characters for Nguyuza to voice, in part to parody and comment on the real-life characters who populate the hip-hop world.

The multiple personalities on display on Books On Tape allow Nguyuza to explore his range and agility as an MC. The MF Doom- and Ghostface Killah-inspired Dudu Stinks sticks close to Nguyuza’s own balance of intellect and mischievous humor. Baritone gangster-wannabe Jimmy French Fries swaggers in with double-edged, darkly comic boasts: “I lead a dream life, nigga, gotta pinch myself / chains hang low like I’m tryin’ to lynch myself.” Misguided Midwestern kid Billy Buffalo enters the album’s vague storyline when he forces the others to listen to a genuinely awful, nasally freestyle. Pond’s beats are diverse enough to suit the cast, from the laid-back rhythm and cool synths of “Howdy Dudu” to the playful funk of “NSFA.” Books On Tape crams all of it into a well-rounded 41 minutes, and it’s one of the best local CDs of 2008. Before appearing at the High Noon Saloon for this Thursday’s CD-release show, Nguyuza and Pond spoke with Decider about concept albums and sampling James Baldwin.

Decider: There are obviously stories and ideas threaded into the songs, but there aren’t a lot that seem really focused on one point. Do you try to keep it open-ended?
Mitch Pond: A big parallel that I see is Deltron 3030, this futuristic hip-hop album that Del Tha Funkee Homosapien did, supposedly set in the year 3000 or whatever. But it’s basically just like a normal hip-hop album with laser guns in it. We are trying to push a concept, and there is a story to a degree… But on the other hand, it’s got to be something that you can just put in and listen to and not have to say, “Okay, am I paying attention, am I gonna get lost, is it gonna make sense?”
D: Laduma, you’ve talked about your characters as parodies. Do you still feel that way about them?
Laduma Nguyuza: To a degree, you have to take it seriously in order for it to be real. The stuff that we say with Billy Buffalo and Jimmy French Fries is completely not real. I think it’s a lot more tongue-in-cheek. But if you just heard a song with Jimmy French Fries, you may take it seriously, you might not. It’s not the parody that I wanted to make it when I first started with it.
D: Well, Billy Buffalo’s the only one that comes off as entirely silly.
MP: There’s always that guy who comes at you with a point to prove. He’s gotta battle you, even if you don’t care. You can be like, “No, fine, you’re better than me,” but he has to battle you, or he has to corner you downstairs before the show, and he has to freestyle with you, and this and that.
D: The song “Knockin’” uses a sample of writer James Baldwin’s voice. What made you want to use that?
LN: In that quote, he’s talking about having to deal with expressing yourself with tools that you had to make on your own. I just think it’s impressive that this group of people dominate a musical genre that deals with, specifically, using language as not only a basis for a song, but the rhythm in a song, and also ideas, that wouldn’t have been your native language. The way you’ve learned it is completely different from the way other people have learned it.
D: Baldwin had such an unusual voice, too—kind of effete but also forceful. What was it like to work with that sound, production-wise?
LN: When I put it together, it only had to be doctored in one place. Other than that, it just fit, because Baldwin speaks in such a hip-hop rhythm, it’s eerie. You can put a beat behind one of his speeches, and for many bars he’ll be right on the beat.

-Scott Gordon - The Onion

"Capital Times Review"

STINK TANK and DLO, mainstays in the local scene, are each releasing new albums and throwing a joint party this Thursday, Oct. 23, at the High Noon Saloon to showcase the new songs.

STINK TANK's "Books on Tape" is a wild and brilliant character-driven concept album sprung from the brains of emcee Laduma Nguyuza and his producer, Man Mantis.

Five characters of Nguyuza's invention play off each other across the album's 14 tracks. He's been inventing and refining them for years. He grew up in D.C. listening to KRS-One and the Roots, and for a long time rapped under the moniker Mr. Parker, a political character with a consciousness-raising voice.

But he soon got bored with having one personality, had "an artist's breakdown" and killed Mr. Parker. A string of new characters came along. Dudu Stinks is a slapstick comedian who raps in a "runaway tongue," justifying his mangled English because it's the language of slave masters. Jimmy French Fries glamorizes 'hood life in the braggadoccio style of radio-friendly gangsta rap. Billy Buffalo is the overeager Midwestern white boy spouting empty metaphors -- "a pretty decent rapper, but he's the kid who tries too hard. He's there in his backpack and his latest hip-hop gear, with his hot breath in your face," as Nguyuza puts it.

Then, Mr. Parker comes back to life as the Zombie Parker, now more militant and shooting off rhymes about selling white people to Africa.

Nguyuza plans to bring them all to life on stage Thursday night, except for maybe Billy Buffalo, he said, "'cause last time I checked, I'm black." But, he added, "more and more now I see I identify with all of them. I'm a piece of everybody.

-Katjusa Cisar - The Capital Times

"The Onion's Best of 2008 Review"

Rapper Laduma Nguyuza and producer Man Mantis crammed a whole cast of fictional MCs, vague storylines, and even the voice of James Baldwin into an album that turned out surprisingly compact and consistent, especially for a hip-hop release. The fact that Stink Tank’s debut album Books On Tape gets all over the place is one of the best things about it: It’s not too wrapped up in its own little world, not too heavy-handed when it comes time to talk politics and race. Bouncing deftly between such personae as gangsta-goof Jimmy French Fries and the more versatile Dudu Stinks, Nguyuza complements the variety and playful bounce of Mantis’ beats. Whether the whole concept is gimmicky or not, it gives Nguyuza the chance to prove, as he does in the hip-hop band Dumate, that he’s one of the best rhymers in town.

-Scott Gordon - The Onion

"STINK TANK Show Preview"

"Rapper Laduma Nguyuza, a.k.a. Mr. Parker, proved himself one of the more confident and engaging MCs in town with the group dumate. In the quartet STINK TANK, he switched to the more infantile name Dudu Stinks, but his rhymes are still pretty meaty on tracks from the new album Books On Tape, due out next month. STINK TANK producer Man Mantis matches Dudu well here, weaving together funky samples and basslines that bump along playfully without getting cluttered." - Onion A.V. Club


STINK TANK - Books on Tape (available at WORLDAROUNDRECORDS.COM)



STINK TANK was formed in the summer of 2006 by producer Man Mantis and MC Laduma Nguyuza. Inspired by the creativity and originality of acts like De La Soul, The Roots, Wu Tang Clan, MF DOOM and Madlib, the two sought to create a conceptual statement on the current state of hip hop, using multiple characters (all portrayed by Nguyuza) to create a microcosm of players, haters, gangstas and wankstas. After two years of dedicated studio work, STINK TANK's debut LP, Books on Tape, was officially released January 2nd and is now available at