Ugly Duckling is an American hip hop group that formed around 1993 in Long Beach, California. Ugly Duckling's members include Dizzy Dustin (Dustin McFarland), Young Einstein (Rodney Pleasant Jr.) and Andy Cat (Andy Cooper). They took the name Ugly Duckling because they felt like outcasts on the Southern California hip hop scene of the mid-1990s. According to the book How to Rap: the Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC, it is one of the most prominent underground hip hop groups.
Each of the members of the group is from Long Beach, California. Dizzy was raised on the north side of Long Beach and attended Jordan High School (whose alumni include rapper Warren G and Gilligan's Island actor Bob Denver). Einstein grew up in the Wrigley area of Long Beach and attended Wilson High School. Andy Cooper was raised in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood and attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School, where he was on the varsity basketball squad. Notable Poly alumni include Snoop Dogg and actor Carl Weathers. The members of Ugly Duckling met through mutual friends and began listening to and eventually creating and performing music together.
The group's style is primarily a throwback to the kind of hip hop popular in the 1980s and '90s. It uses samples and scratches as the foundation of most the group's tracks, whereas many modern artists have given up sampling in favor of self-made beats and song elements. The two MCs, Andy and Dizzy, frequently alternate lines and punctuate each others thoughts, reminiscent of early groups like the Beastie Boys. It is known for humorous and intelligent lyrics, "lampooning the excesses of modern hip hop" and modern hip hop's obsessions with sex and materialism.
Their music makes use of the original elements of hip hop music: turntablism and MCing. The group's DJ Young Einstein employs complex scratches both on the record and live, unlike many modern hip hop groups where the emphasis tends to be on the MC. He is also the owner of the group's unofficial mascot, the dookie gold rope, which is the subject of the song "Eye on the Gold Chain," and is worn by Einstein during most live performances of the track. The group is renowned for their live shows, performing various antics on stage and making every effort to involve the crowd in their shows. They have performed in numerous countries around the globe including Australia, China, Japan, and Korea, and most of Europe including Poland, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.
Ugly Duckling's music demonstrates the contrast of having grown up in an area known for gangsta rap and inner-city themes while listening to a variety of music, much of which was anything but hardcore. The band's songs often incorporate themes such as love, forgiveness, and rejection of worldly values. Some songs include lyrics pertaining to the biblical end times. They also frequently make use of early hip hop hyperbole, where the primary goal of lyrics was to brag and self promote in an exaggerated and often humorous fashion.
Ugly Duckling is influenced by a variety of artists including everything from old school hip hop groups to golden age hip hop artists. Their influences include groups like Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, Eric B. & Rakim, EPMD, and the Native Tongues groups A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Jungle Brothers. Other influences include Boogie Down Productions, Brand Nubian, Public Enemy, and countless other artists instrumental in the development of early hip hop. The Ugly Duckling song "Do You Know What I'm Sayin," off its 1999 release Fresh Mode, is made up entirely of lines and phrases from classic hip hop songs strung together in homage to some of their favorite tracks and artists.
Appearances in media
Their song "Smack" is featured on Tony Hawk's Project 8 videogame and also on skater Paul Rodriguez Jr.'s Footage soundtrack. "Get on This" is featured in the movie Boiler Room. "Turn It Up" is featured in the movie Eurotrip, and "Something's Going Down Tonight" was featured in the kayaking film Means Of Production as well as the movie Drillbit Taylor. Ugly Duckling provide the intro music for Australian radio duo Hamish and Andy.
The group's music featured extensively in the BBC sitcom Ideal.
Group member Dizzy Dustin features on UK Hip Hop artist Ricta album Snacks & Deception LP
Journey to Anywhere (1500 Records, 2001)
Taste the Secret (Emperor Norton/Rykodisc Records, 2003)
Combo Meal: Taste The Secret/The Leftovers EP (Emperor Norton/Rykodisc, 2004)
Bang for the Buck (Fat Beats, 11 April 2006)
The Best Of (Handcuts, 2006)
Audacity (Fat Beats Records, 2009)
Moving at Breakneck Speed (Special Records, 2011)
Fresh Mode (originally released on Bad Magic Records, 20 April 1999, Cat. No: MAGICCD1. Re-released on 1500/A&M/Interscope/Universal Records)
The Leftovers EP (Earshot, 2003)
"Everybody, C'mon" (1500/A&M/Interscope/Universal Records, 1999)
"Now Who's Laughin'" (1500/A&M/Interscope/Universal Records, 1999)
"I Did it Like This" (XL Recordings & Emperor Norton/Rykodisc, 2000)
"A Little Samba" (XL Recordings and Emperor Norton/Rykodisc, 2001)
"A Little Samba" (remixes) (XL Recordings and Emperor Norton/Rykodisc, 2001)
"Eye on the Gold Chain" (XL Recordings and Emperor Norton/Rykodisc, 2001)
"Eye on the Gold Chain" (remixes) (XL Recordings, 2001)
"Dumb it Down" (Emperor Norton/Rykodisc Records, 2003)
"Pass it On" (Emperor Norton/Rykodisc Records, 2003)
"Rio de Janeiro" (Emperor Norton/Rykodisc Records, 2003)
"Turn it Up" (Emperor Norton/Rykodisc Records, 2003)
"Get Ready" (2004)
"Yudee!" (Fat Beats, 2005)
"Smack" (Fat Beats, 2006)
"Left Behind" (Fat Beats, 2006)
"Left Behind" (Wichita Mix) (Fat Beats, 2006)
Ugly Duckling at MySpace
Discography at Discogs.com
Interview on GermanRhymes.de