Dudley Perkins Holy Smokes

When the off-key singing of Dudley Perkins started off as the alter-ego of MC Declaime, it seemed like the listening audience was on the end of an inside joke that couldn't be taken seriously. After all, Perkins came off as a West Coast mutant hybrid of Ol' Dirty Bastard and Busta Rhymes. With the release of Perkins' third album, Holy Smokes, however, the humorous ambiguity of his earlier material seems like a distant memory. Indeed, there are many changes, with Perkins aligning with partner Georgia Anne Muldrow's label Someothaship: Connect. Perkins tackles political and societal ills ("Travlin"), war ("Still Standing") and environmental consciousness ("Summer Daze") with direct and engaging simplicity. But Perkins also has plenty of fun. While there's no Madlib this time, Muldrow's quirky yet funky "good-ass beats" mesh perfectly with Perkins' idiosyncratic sensibilities and raspy voice on "Boogie," and on the many skits in between tracks. Some of these could have been cut, given the running time of 76 minutes, as well as Perkins' meandering instincts. Still, this righteous outing is Perkins' best effort to date. Seriously. (Someothaship: Connect/E1)