HIP HOP ROUND UP
In the midst of the Rapture & Verse Easter egg hunt you may find Eminem re-releasing ‘The Slim Shady LP’ on old-fangled tape cassette, a surely one-sided beef brewing between Joey Bada$$ and Troy Ave, a bizarre Twitter-based compromise between Prodigy and his record label, Chief Keef retiring his mic, LL Cool J conning you into thinking he’s done the same, Deadmau5 remixing Jay-Z and the Beastie Boys, a deluxe reissue of Big L’s 90s barnstormer ‘Lifestyles ov da Poor & Dangerous’, and the news you all feared – 50 Cent’s mansion is to be turned into care home for the elderly. Smiff-n-Wessun raid XOYO at the end of the month. Shabaam Sahdeeq will see you at Surya in Kings Cross on May 1st, and DJ Format fattens The Deaf Institute on the same day. And we’re off!
With beats from Sam Zircon, Jack Danz and Lee Scott, Bisk’s ‘Raw Shi!t’ bumps from the bottom of the barrel; greasy, malicious, nauseating, and very good. London’s Rup appears to have cleaned his act up after being a bovver boy of some repute back when. Helped by Giacomo’s big and shiny synth production and structured performance eyeing big audiences, ‘SYLO’ remains full of his clear articulations, all the while sounding like Professor Green’s heir apparent. Seven track EP ‘Let MC It’ is Mikill Pane showing stylish will to win, revealing a top gear of punchlines and challenges that still sound like he’s coasting.
Whistling through at a rate where speed cameras can’t clock him, Ugly Duckling’s Andy Cooper is the roadrunner ready to ‘Rock Rock’ – Bristol’s The Allergies are the funkers getting their hulas ruined. House party partner ‘Blast Off’ is easier on the lungs and is ready to get red cups overflowing. Dope-with-a-capital-D, a 7” inch express from J-Zone continues to be nice on the drums for ‘Funky’, then slapping down his industry-wise patter thinly veiled as career advice on “Go Back to Sellin’ Weed”. The conscious coupling of complete strangers MF Doom and Sade creates the sophisticated superhero lounge mashup you’ve been waiting for. Inevitably called ‘SADEVILLAIN’, the bizarre premise is a supreme conception of wine bar soul and metal facetime.
Seven tracks of King Syze round up a baying crowd by shouting ‘fight fight fight.’ ‘Vested’ is not without reflective trains of thought, but it’s mainly a bullet proofed rugby tackle reaching for the dumbbells. It finds a knuckle-bloodying partner in Koache’s street solution ‘Turn Me Back’, with Xzibit and Nottz weighing in. Though Statik Selektah is in oddly reserved, almost twee mood, Joey Bada$$ doesn’t take the bait and is ‘Ready’, willing and very able. Spring is in the step of DJ Spinna, sunning himself in Bel-Air before Jake One gasses up the getaway car, for Vursatyl’s win-win remix 7” ‘I Got It’/’Bring It to a Halt’.
Hot out the oven and full of vital hip-hop vitamins and preservatives, BambuDeAsiatic’s ‘Fresh Daily’ succeeds in proving that “when I write, brain cells come to life.” Mazzi & Soul Purpose’s ‘Heart of a Lion’ slows a dub skank so its bars can run rampant over it, Your Old Droog hunts that certain special female/figment of the imagination with Alchemist on ‘Hip-Hop Head’, and five man Canadian unit The Lytics, like a new generation Pharcyde, drop the impressive, true schooled ‘Hold On’ EP, ahead of three UK dates next month. With a new album ready to go, Mr Lif’s two tasters ‘Whizdom’ featuring Blacastan and ‘World Renown’ with Del, are pure, peak time aperitifs from the Boston Phantom , eager to have you pick the bones out of them.
Kendrick Lamar must be irking a lot of people right now. Not that the impromptu release of ‘Untitled Unmastered’ is sub-par – it’s the complete opposite. But the fact he’s dropping high quality off-chances like it’s nothing – sweet soul and groove, street sermons and the perfect marriage of music and microphone that made ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ – is school swot behaviour to those labouring towards perfection.
The hype machine surrounding Ocean Wisdom has been fully justified; ‘Chaos 93’ is an utter fire breather out of Brighton – if he were a football formation, he’d be 0-0-10. The production of occasional Milk Tray Man Dirty Dike isn’t to be underestimated either, and 2016’s gauntlet has been thrown down with the might of Thor’s hammer.
‘A Figure of Speech’ from North Londoner Shay D is prickly heat; half measures are out, even if the glass is sometimes only half full, in a display where realist checkmates realest. Pointedly penned stories, opinions, introspection and polemic, with beats moulded around the most natural of mic grips. The album tour is already under way – look out for spots at Glastonbury and the Boom Bap Festival.
Owner of a flow that comes down like a guillotine blade when it’s not chatting with you over a pint, Enlish aka Big Dave is not beating about the bush on ‘Slumdog Hundredaire’ (“Oxfam polo, Primark underwear”). On a very easy-access mini album, he hits topics such as drug use and mental health head on, and spreads out samples of The Simpsons, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Stooges. Always fast out the gate, Drapes’ ‘Money Doesn’t Mean Anything’ balances grime double-times with composed hip-hop hold-downs, rich in well reasoned clarity and creative samples.
‘Hella Personal Film Festival’ is the red carpet roll-out from Paul White and Open Mic Eagle. Both cultish listens in their own right, it’s a cosmopolitan collaboration from LA to London that’s predictably wordy without hogging the limelight, and moreish as it flips from track to track like its channel hopping: some of it is light entertainment, other times it circles the brain or occupies its own orbit, and it isn’t hesitant towards uncut funk and fun. Writing their own script is ultimately what makes the twosome accessible.
If the title ‘That’s Hip-Hop’ sounds like a bit of a shrug, rest assured Joell Ortiz as headliner is at maximum velocity for 10 tracks of get-out-the-way boom-bap. MoP, Kool G Rap, Tony Touch and Chris Rivers join in Domingo’s demolition derby of beats and rhymes (‘Kill at Will’ approaches Mach speed), weaving in and out of the streets like a skateboarder with a scythe. Where chunky beats are told to keep up with the characteristically lawless New York entertainment from perpetual off-the-topper C-Rayz Walz, ‘I C-Rayz Walz NY’ (The Presence) will thrill fans of one of the Bronx’s loosest (in the nicest sense) cannons. Bullying beats with one of those Snowgoons-affiliated, ‘thou shall not past’ mentalities that could be used as a ring walk, Big Kurt and his ‘M.A.B.U.S.’ index has the iron-gaited stamina to stomp out enemy roaches over 15 rounds plus injury time.
Mumbling to itself in the corner with a thick dust cloud covering his funk instrumentals, Quelle Chris’ ‘Lullabies for the Broken Brain’ patches up invitingly off-the-wall samples spun on a haunted turntable. Dillon & Paton Locke’s ‘Food Chain’ is at the top of its game, gourmet underground platters rooted in the South but giving you seven courses of funk and back. Either slow cooked or whipped up, it’s washed down with ‘Bourbon’ alongside Von Pea and Malkovich.
For that rough-cut, live and direct, auto-reverse, anything goes, turntables-and-mics old skool fibre, ‘Supa Rock Down’ has DJ Fingers, Cool Cash C, MC E MIX, K Sly and Freshski cramming as much authenticity into a TDK as possible. A labour of love teasing out your curiosity. Gen Uchiha’s well put together ‘FYMO’ presents calm, Brummie-twanged point-making from the Eatgood army. Useful research for his forthcoming long-player, it’s well worth taking a free swing at. ‘Your Beat Tape Sucks’, says The Last Skeptik. His doesn’t, a swift instrumental blend of pressing and autumnal beats, adding sharp spices and guaranteeing all with a bobblehead effect.
Joker Starr shows street corner etiquette, Aesop Rock puts his face out there, something instructional from L’Orange & Jeremiah Jae, and Jehst & Lee Scott will make you hurl.
Words: Matt Oliver