Sims – Bad Time Zoo
Release Date: February 15, 2011
Record Label: Doomtree
Iconic author Ray Bradbury was a master at spinning together thought-provoking novels that focused on fantasy, horror, and science fiction all at once. The common theme in a majority of his work was dystopia, so it only makes sense that Minneapolis rapper, Sims, would draw inspiration from his work. His latest album, Bad Time Zoo, is loosely built around Bradbury’s 1950 short story, The Veldt, in which a children’s nursery slowly turns into a violent African jungle – all thanks to the “Happylife Home” technology (check it out sometime). Basically, sometimes the most innocent of things become messed up, and SIMS touches on all of that on what is to be one of the most bombastic hip-hop albums of 2011.
Themes of desperation, survival, insight, love, and more litter Bad Time Zoo, and thanks to Lazerbeak’s flawless production, Sims has the perfect backdrop to speak his mind. Paradoxes abound in album opener, “Future Shock,” which spins a tale of how technology brings us together yet tears us apart. A sparse beat paced by a haunting choir and a steady drum kick, the opener sets the stage perfectly for Bad Time Zoo. The one-two punch of Sims and Lazerbeak is phenomenal on “Burn It Down,” as the jazzy barnstormer is in your face immediately.
The title track is a fresh cut in which Sims raps about how our generation wants all the spoils of life without putting in the work. Sims addresses the hypocrisies in green consumerism on the snare-heavy “One Dimensional Man,” stating, “you switched it up now you’re buying all organic/screaming save the planet/but you won’t even save your neighbor dammit.” He then hits even harder in the hook: “they hit you in your heart aiming for you pocket/you can’t ignore the profit/Michael Moore the topic/now tell me that your time is really all that philanthropic.” It is tracks like these two that separate Sims from most hip-hop artists.
The somber beauty of “When It Rolls In” touches on surviving life, while “Good Times” is about celebrating life, as this song works as a Doomtree anthem. Armed with a throwback beat from Lazerbeak, Sims lets loose for a bit and drops some classic one-liners like “no limit no telling what I might do/wild card like Charlie Day/wild style like Crazy Legs/I don’t play the game, I change the game.” Speaking of Doomtree, P.O.S. drops a nasty verse on the smooth “Too Much,” while Lazerbeak lays down one of his best beats on “Radio Opaque.” But it’s not long till he’s back on the many social issues in America, which he goes into detail on the grimy “The Veldt.”
With Bad Time Zoo, Sims has made great strides in his flow since his 2005 album, Lights Out Paris.. His second album features themes and complex rhymes that aren’t for the light-hearted masses who consume radio hip-hop daily. And thanks to Lazerbeak’s stellar production, these paradoxes and complexities have never sounded so good. Throughout the album, Sims paints a grim picture, but it’s not a hopeless one. The first half of closer “Hey You” is an uplifting number about rising up and achieving those dreams. After a few minutes of silence, a frantic beat shows up and Sims recounts the near-death experience of his girl, ending the album on a gut-wrenching and moving note. It leaves us with the message that we find out the most about ourselves when things get toughest. You'll want to keep that message in your back pocket once you enter The Veldt.