HIP-HOP REVUE ROUNDUP
Words: Matt Oliver
In these troubled times of unprecedented political and social uncertainty, Rapture & Verse is here for you. Choice cuts and essential albums that wreck shit over Brexit. Mixtapes to make your mouth water. And news that Cam’Ron’s entrepreneurial spirit has told him to take on the toilet paper industry, Beastie Boys’ Mike D announcing his arrival in the man bag game, verbal ding dongs between Talib Kweli and Diabolic, then Joe Budden and Drake, and El-P inexplicably becoming a PokemonGo jump-off. Respect the below tweet of Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp upon the death of PM Dawn’s Prince Be, then look into the eyes of DJ Khaled. Now you’re good to go.
Jazz Cafe patrons will be getting bang for their buck throughout August, as The Beatnuts, Ty, Pharoahe Monch, The Underachievers and Slum Village all pass through, with KRS-One tapped up for a September show-stopper. Nas visits Bristol Academy to bring August to a conclusion, and Flatbush Zombies have September dates in London, Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester. Marc Mac lays down his breaks and protest series of albums on a smart commemorative 10 year vinyl run, or you can plump for the Bad Boy 20th anniversary box set: five discs of prime Diddy jigginess.
Lifting you from the shadows, Darkhouse Family – Metabeats and Don Leisure – are indestructible on ‘Solid Gold’, 25 minutes worth of jazzy, live instrumentals to sink your ears into. There must be more to life than stereotypes, so Jack Spectacula and P739 get blustery on the ‘Stereotyped Street Poet’ EP: swagger able to sound a note of caution. Bleeding Burnley claret, Seek the Northerner’s ‘Extra Gravy’ lays it on thick with eight punchy tracks of, well, everything really: something for everyone, never giving less than 100%. With new album ‘Mirrors’ on the way, Elliot Fresh’s three track teaser pre-empts what should be a beats and rhymes bonanza, with ‘Rats’ running the early show.
A re-up of seminal cut-n-paste classic ‘Lesson 6’ from Cut Chemist in all its tutorial glory shows newbies a clean pair of needles: flunking this should be impossible. Will a single of Fudge be good enough until it’s time to eat? ‘In My Shoes’ is the team of Prefuse73 and Michael Christmas projecting wavy images that haven’t been tuned in properly, with Alex Mali providing caramel goodness on the hook. Surprisingly J Cutta’s ‘SOS (Summer of Sam)’ didn’t make the cut for the new Independence Day film: trap that sounds like it could wipe out the universe.
The AlliYance run a classic break and a ‘CREAM’ snippet to give up the good spit on ‘Seltzer Water’, and Mazzi & SOUL Purpose get busy on the punk-swatting, horn-and-drum uppercut ‘WYD’. Dropping science – and we mean proper, lecture theatre business – GZA’s ‘The Spark’ could well blow your mind if the psych guitar loop doesn’t get there first. Jonwayne shows perfect technique as master mic athlete on ‘Jump Shot’ while choirs capture the moment in suspended animation.
A double from the evergreen distinction of Sadat X, ahead of new album ‘Agua’, gets hands up on the Pete Rock-produced jangle ‘Freeze’, then sets the streets to saluting a second time on ‘Murder Soundtrack’.
With the great British summertime playing hooky, Ed Scissor and Lamplighter’s ‘Tell Them It’s Winter’ is a sobering trial by hip-hop when you can’t see the woods for the trees. Out by themselves on the normally boisterous High Focus roster, the album barely rises above a whisper and whose drear is in the detail. Throwing up more questions than answers, it’s an intriguingly created world of wisdom, paranoia, numbness and finding peace in its own mind.
Sonnyjim’s down-among-the-dead-men flow casually picks off opposition while going through his inventory of assets and gastronomic indulgences. That ‘Mud In My Malbec’ lives in a world of pretty rich funk with a touch of folk intrigue, only heightens the I-can-you-can’t experience. Grimy glamour from a wily operator that the average ear can’t handle. At the peak of obnoxiousness on ‘the gangumentary of the century’, Sleazy F Baby rocks an ‘All Blahk Tracksuit’ monogrammed with IDGAF, a one more posse threat overwhelming hazardously grubby beats.
“Verbalist journalist” Invokal gives his all on ‘Collaborations’, the Brighton rhymer passionately reporting every last word when closing the gap between fact and fiction. At home with both crashing backdrops and considered beats, his collection of team-ups goes from hip-hop to a musical medley. Theatrical, yet never one to take a dive. Two more perfect examples of a clear cut, UK sound next, with Broken Poetz’ ‘Soul Searching’ precisely holding it down between boom-bap margins, and ‘The Tone & Smyth Show’ by Tony D and Locksmyth giving a value for money performance with a touch of gloss.
The rugged wisdom of Ugly Heroes graduates from the school of hard knocks on ‘Everything in Between’, taking nothing for granted and taking pride in doing themselves and the game absolute justice. The generously curmudgeonly trio of Red Pill, Apollo Brown and Verbal Kent – alma mater motto: “self deprecator/doing haters a favour” – won’t bullshit you, safe in the knowledge that the cream will always rise to the top.
Walkman blasters Lessondary present ‘Ahead of Schedule’, pushing strength in numbers inside a snappy half hour set of true flavoured soul food. The industry-aware ‘The Art of Saying No’ scoops hook of the month as well, as likely to shush front rows as it to gee ‘em up. On a yellow shade of mellow, Vritra’s ‘’Yellowing’ is the former Pyramid schemer blending ATL and LA scenes into a left of centre drowse, tricky to solve like a greasy Rubik’s Cube. Lo-fi, hi-tech hip-hop in its own zone, for dark, sticky sessions with enhancements to hand. Ill Bill is back on the butchers block with ‘Septagram’, a swift half hour hatchet job that still leaves plenty of time to pledge eternal damnation. Favoured goons Q-Unique, Goretex and Slaine help oversee the ritual of heavy metal hip-hop spun with celestial malevolence.
Long drive ahead? On foot through the streets? On a mission? Keep Jewels Hunter’s ‘Footnotes of a Jewels Hunter’ within reach. Out of Seattle, jazzy angles get worked over before powerful bursts make statements that don’t shirk responsibility. On the graveyard shift but getting by with woozy keys and velvet, star-wishing vibes, Yogisoul’s ‘By Nights’ is very much pro-neo, with emcees adding moonlight spit and crackle to keep you from drifting. Sunup/sundown hip-hop, pouring nightcaps the right way.
A double header of boom bap karate chops from Manchester’s Matt Kuartz ensures ‘A Little Samurai Soul’ goes a long way to satisfying your instrumental itches. Big beats, luscious licks, no tricks, disciplined to bruise and bless your boombox. Disciples of alt-hop troublemakers New Kingdom have Mongrels duo Kid Acne and Benjamin to thank for throwing down a 20th anniversary mix of the NY crew’s wild ride ‘Paradise Don’t Come Cheap’. Did we mention the changeable nature of the weather? Leave it to Jazzy Jeff and MICK, the sundance that is ‘Summertime vol. 7’ welcoming everyone from Norah Jones to Nas, Eric Clapton to Birdman, 50 Cent to Hall and Oates. Simply laid out all in a row and well up for guilty pleasures, the names speak for themselves.
This month’s easiness on the eye: Fliptrix, Durrty Goodz, RA the Rugged Man, Chillman and Dabbla.