1. Fill Me In // 2. Can’t Be Messing ‘round // 3. Rendezvous // 4. 7 Days // 5. Follow Me // 6. Key To My Heart*// 7. Fill Me In [Part II]*// 8. Last Night // 9. Walking Away // 10. Time to Party // 11. Booty man // 12. Once A Lifetime // 13. You Know What // 14. Re-Rewind
*Only on USA editions of this album.
The only real reason I went to have a peep at It’s All About the Stragglers is because it was the first major label project Craig David appeared on. Am I doing that album a disservice? Am I going too far in completing mr. David’s discography? Probably neither of the two, since although Stragglers was a guilty pleasure, it made for incredibly inessential listening. And Craig was the only person who appeared on it whose music career survived that of the Artful Dodger. Well except Mark “The Artful Dodger” Hill himself, who kept producing hit songs for Craig including this entirety of this album; David’s debut Born to Do It (There were a bunch of other guys in Artful Dodger, which was offcially a group, but nobody knows what exactly it was they did.)
What surprises me about Born to Do It is that its original British incarnation was actually released months before It’s All About the Stragglers, making the latter not an auditioning tape for a bunch of artists that Mark Hill might grant a solo-LP if their debut single managed to captivate an audience, which was one of the few impressions it left on me. But rather it was a greatest hits for a group whose only real member had moved on to bigger and better (more profitable) things already. Those things being Born to Do It.
The British version of Born to Do It, released in august of 2000, I do not have. In stead I have the US version, released nearly a year later, which includes two extra tracks. This isn’t mentionable in and by itself, an interationally released album often has different track lists in different countries. But it does make for a nice bridge to that mr. David also sold a bunch of records in the USA, leaving a lot of contemporary British pop tarts, including Robbie Williams, biting Transatlantic dust.
Craig’s style of rapping/singing could be approached by blending fellow goatee’d-up British soul singer/heartthrob George Michael with the midwestern US rappers Bone-Thugs ’n Harmony’s tendency to cram more syllables into a bar than you though was humanly possible, while being quite a lot more suave than either. Add to that beats by himself and Hill that Usher would’ve made his around this time in the naughties and you have an album that sold something around seven million copies worldwide.
One reason it sold so well is that the 2step niche, of which David was the poster boy, is thrown to the sharks for all but three tracks. Except for Re-Rewind (the Artful Dodger garage-hit that put Craig on the map), Fill Me In, (which is easily the most edgy thing on here, with Craig sneaking past the parents of the chick he just bedded on his way out), and Can’t Be Messing ‘round, it is a completely conventional pop/R&B record, limited even in it’s hiphop influences, making it approriate for shopping malls as well as MTV.
Gentle sounding acoustic guitar driven pop such as Rendezvous and 7 Days were instrumental in making our man of the hour the pop star he became. And although it’s a bit gentle and tame, especially compared to today’s thumping house-y R&B, it’s pretty terrific stuff. Although there’s quite a lot of downtempo material there’s just enough switching up the flow of the album to keep the listener from falling asleep. Craig works equally well ballads and dance numbers. The bouncing disco-esque sequel to Fill Me In for instance has a nice mellow preparing-to-hit-the-club vibe and as does Time To Party, with its Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See sample. The only time Craig seems to actually seems to arrive at said party (presumably having spent the previous consecutive twelve hours grooming his facial hair) is at the tail end of the disc when Re-Rewind comes on, which is indicative of how good Born to Do It could’ve been if Craig and Mark would’ve decided to record a garage record rather than a R&B one (although it probably still would only have been so-so considering how It’s All About the Stragglers sounded.)
So all in all Born to Do It is an okay typical early 2000s R&B album. Generic lyrics about love and fucking, expertly generic beats. Nothing surprising on here, nothing godawful (except for the hook of Booty Man, where craig spells out webfan site for the girl he’s about to do the nasty with). Pretty good if this is your cup of tea. It is sure is mine.
Fill Me In, Can’t Be Messing ‘round, 7 Days [DJ Premier Remix]* feat. Mos Def, Fill me In (Part II) Walking Away, Re-Rewind
*Alright, technically not on any incarnation of the album. But this hiphop version of the song kicks the original’s ass, just for staring at it funny. Also indicative of what might’ve happened if Craig had invited a couple of different, more distinctive producers and guests to record with. Check it out.
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