Side projects benefit from the low expectations that generally treat them as little more than one-off goofs. But Droppin' Science Fiction, the debut by The Mighty Underdogs (featuring Blackalicious' Gift Of Gab, Lateef The Truth Speaker, and producer Headnodic of Crown City Rockers) doesn't need to be graded on a curve: It's the rare supergroup that's actually super. Though it dabbles in the blues (with the tellingly titled "So Sad" and "Escape"), the overriding emotion is fun verging on joy. Gab and Lateef let their imaginations run wild on trippy story-songs in which they pretend they're terrifying beasties ("Monster"), head back to the Old West alongside noted varmint MF Doom for an atmospheric spaghetti Western ("Gun Fight"), and hook up with Quannum mate Lyrics Born to discuss wacky travel shenanigans on the infectiously goofy "Ill Vacation." Headnodic crafts lush, melodic backdrops for Gab and Lateef's flights of lyrical fancy, from the sinister space-alien synthesizers of "Science Fiction" to the gorgeous '70s-style soul of "Folks." The album concludes on a triumphant note with the ecstatic, celebratory "Victorious," a richly earned victory lap from a top-notch trio that's simultaneously new and reassuringly familiar.

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