As C.L. Smooth can no doubt attest, it's not easy living in the shadow of a more famous creative partner. California rapper Wildchild stood front and center on Lootpack's 1999 album-length debut Soundpieces: Da Antidote!, only to watch his Lootpack associate Madlib become an instant cult god, thanks to his visionary work as Quasimoto on The Unseen. Upstaged by both his mad-genius producer and his producer's squeaky-voiced alter ego, Wildchild has largely stayed on the sidelines, while Madlib has enjoyed the opportunity to rework the catalogs of the Trojan and Blue Note labels, collaborate with MF Doom and Jay Dee, and record as the jazz side project Yesterday's New Quartet. Having patiently awaited his turn, Wildchild returns to the spotlight with Secondary Protocol, his solo debut. Produced by Madlib, who handles nine tracks, and Oh No, who handles six, Secondary Protocol finds Wildchild moving away from the B-boy-centric battle-raps of Soundpieces. It's a smart move, because while it's hard to dislike a rapper who insists–as Wildchild does on Soundpieces' "Long Awaited"–that "negative criticism is mad appreciated," Wildchild's sunny worldview and goofy voice don't lend themselves to the merciless, Darwinian sphere of battle-rapping. Content to play the responsible edutainer to Madlib's mad scientist and Quasimoto's id-run-amok, Wildchild showcases new sides to his amiable persona on "Kiana," a gushing ode to his daughter, and "Wonder Years," where he denies smoking pot (although, ever the good Samaritan, he calls for its legalization on behalf of all his people), then engages in some seemingly stoned philosophizing. As always, Madlib is Wildchild's ace in the hole, but Secondary Protocol also benefits from deft appearances by the usual suspects (Oh No, Medaphoar, Phil Da Agony, Tha Liks) and some surprises, such as Rhyme Inspector Percee P, who steals the album's best track, "Knicknack 2002." With his winning solo debut, Wildchild continues to carve out an identity for himself, albeit with the masterful assistance of Lootpack's resident sonic genius.

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