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Ugly Duckling

The offbeat hip hop trio Ugly Duckling will take you back to the glory days of De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising and A Tribe Called Quest's Low End Theory with a fresh old-school vibe and a refreshingly laid-back, sometimes goofy attitude. As they put it rather succinctly: "We been eating, breathing, and sleeping hip hop since way back when shoelaces were fat and Michael Jackson was black." A mellow, jazzy atmosphere prevails throughout their cuts, generated with well-chosen samples, plenty of playful scratching, a pair of smooth MCs flipping rhymes like flapjacks, and plenty of enjoyable gags.

The group formed in Long Beach in 1993 at a fast food joint called Meat Shake (where everything, including the shakes, was sold with meat in it), choosing their name to differentiate themselves from the Snoop Dogg school of gansta rap that ruled their native town at the time, but it took them a few years to generate a buzz. In 1999, their debut EP, Fresh Mode, released on 1500 Records, earned them considerable attention, paving the way for their first LP, Journey to Anywhere, which came out in 2000. Two years later, Emperor Norton reissued Journey to Anywhere, repackaging it with a bonus CD containing seven new songs, including "Do Your Thing."

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