If ever proof were needed that the millennial success of New Orleans' No Limit Records was more luck than judgement, one need look no further than the bewildering estrangement of Fiend. I don't really care who failed to buy who a pint and a packet of cheese and onion crisps when it was their round; any label with its head screwed on would have moved heaven, earth, and all the damp bits in the middle to keep a rapper of this calibre on its books.
For those to whom the name may be unfamiliar, Fiend is a burping rap bullfrog, a voice full of bluesy gravel that's very much an instrument in its own right, in addition to which he's also a decent lyricist - definitely one of the southern greats in my estimation - and a formidable producer.
Anyway, I was quite excited - all those thousands of years ago - when this album was first announced as forthcoming from Ruff Ryders being as the New York label seemed like it might be a perfect fit for our boy, what with him having the kind of jagged edge that would perfectly complement the likes of DMX, the LOX and so on; but for whatever reason, The Addiction eventually came out on his own Fiend Entertainment label. We didn't get any of those weird Swizz Beatz rhythms as anticipated, and it's all kept very much Louisiana style with production divided mainly between Fiend himself and his former No Limit stable-mates, Beats By The Pound reborn here as the Medicine Men, but there's nothing to inspire disappointment.
Given the geography, it's become something of a cliché to describe this sort of thing as a gumbo, but you can hear why. The Medicine Men always had a distinctive sound, albeit one that became a little too familiar during their stay at No Limit, particularly during that era when it seemed like Master P decided that even the fucker who cleaned his pool probably had an album in him somewhere; but unburdened of the requirement to turd out four albums a week, and so allowed to create at a less demanding pace, the boys found their mojo once again. Everything is thrown in: tinkly piano, soulful guitar, brush drums, gun shots, cheap orchestral stabs and the sort of bass that makes you ill if you listen to it for too long; grooves are formed rather than songs as such, but weird grooves quite clearly cohered under the influence of something or other - not quite the sort of tunes one would find in nature. None of this will be unfamiliar to anyone who ever heard a track produced by this bunch, but they really go some strange and unfamiliar places on this album, at least as close as this sort of dirty, sweat-soaked menace ever came to early Pink Floyd with these tracks of mushroomy psychedelia or NyQuil-fuelled trains of meandering thought.
Oddly, I'm not even sure this is Fiend's greatest album, and it probably could have done with a change of pace here and there just to break things up a little, but three classics - Want It All, Thugg'n and Drugg'n, and Oprah - are nothing to be sniffed at, particularly as part of an album conspicuously lacking in weak material, and one that still sounds so different to others of its kind.