HIP HOP  ROUNDUP
Words: Matt Oliver


Monolith Cocktail - Mr. Lif


Don’t say Monolith Cocktail doesn’t treat you. Okay, first you’ll need to book yourself in for Apollo Brown & Guilty Simpson at Hoxton Square in early July, after you’ve ticked off catching Open Mic Eagle on these fair isles for four dates in late May. Next, hunt down DOOM’s ‘Live from Planet X’, now available on vinyl for the first time. And then and only then, can you sit back, grab a cuppa and enjoy a Rapture & Verse first: an exclusive mix provided by The Last Skeptik. Long found at the top of the tree when it comes to UK hip-hop beats and having since built his sound into a must-see live experience sent around the globe, he’s generously donated (or found down the back of the sofa) a session full of classic bangers and beauts just for us. Windows down, system up.



Singles/EPs

In this month’s singles swap shop, Big Toast and Sofa King are waving a placard. It says “Save Yourself Kill Them All.” Can’t argue with advice like that – seven tracks that don’t pussy foot around, guzzling Molotov cocktails before lobbing ‘em down like a googly. Soldjasoulz & Ricky Lix are the East Anglia guardians keeping the ‘Enemy at the Gates’; experts bringing a rowdy, jump-up quintet. Noah Kin leads everyone a merry dance with ‘The Void’ and its Helsinki-homed hook made for front row trouble – see if he manages to do so with his two London appearances in May. ILLinformed paints a picture of grey days and glum acceptance for Moreone’s gun barrel-straight ‘Most High’, but fear not: you’ll find the antidote on Creme & MADLean’s brain washer ‘Sisyphean’, gleaming string spirals handled firmly but with care.

 

Heavy Links & Scorzayzee present ‘The Tear Up’; file under ‘proper’, on the front foot right from the off, putting their size 9s up jacksies. Electrified club squasher ‘Warriors’ is Juice Aleem making the place vibrate from on high – you can just imagine him holding court from his own personal elevated pulpit while dance gangs go at it below. Problem Child steam in when the scene gets ugly, ‘Me’ wrapping warped trap round its little finger – quite the “turd in your punchbowl”.

If you’ve ever been to a party hosted by People Under the Stairs, you’ll know that you’re always made to feel most welcome. Six-track EP ‘The Gettin’ Off Stage, Step 2’ doesn’t relent on Thes One and Double K’s strict timetable of funk, sunshine and the old skool, even if the high five stings a bit more than expected. It ain’t broke, so it don’t need fixing, especially as it’s free. Grumpy Old Men are of similar core values, Ugly Duckling’s Dizzy Dustin and DJ Shag making twangy red cupper ‘Quality’ Californian child’s play. Supposedly produced on an iPhone as well. Lino burners and slipmat scorchers DJ Woody & Boca 45 make for such a dashing, funky couple, the ‘NW/SW’ EP windmilling its way to turntable glory with plenty of tricks up its sleeve.



Ski mask music from Eff Yoo and Big Noyd fires ‘Indiscriminate Shots’ and doesn’t hang about. Skinny-C submits his own version of alphabet aerobics by breaking down the meaning of ‘MC’, but again is in a hurry. As is Ang P, but his rallying encouragement rings loud and clear through the jazz–skipped ‘Groundhog Day’, a track and title which invites rewinds. Like gangsta wrappers stomping through a paper burst, you can imagine Mistah FAB and Jadakiss’ funky-assed sightseeing critique ‘What Yo Hood Like’ being tracked by a single camera having bundled ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ into a backstreet dustbin. DJ Shadow and Run the Jewels set ears a-wagging with hip-hop honky-tonker ‘Nobody Speak’. RTJ rumble through as per while Shadow strips back, gearing himself to burst into life.


Albums

Shaggy dogs of war Mongrels come up with a couldn’t-give-a-monkeys classic; Kid Acne and Benjamin are the best in show when breaking down how to ‘Attack the Monolith’. Less potty mouthed than their peers and even sounding like doing this hip-hop thing is a bit of a drudge, beats and rhymes, bark and bite and a loose cannon in honorary group member Sebash, land blows on a budget (on ‘Zodiac Rockerz’, you can see the string holding the moon up). This makes their focus on the basics even more undiluted, making the mundane darkly humorous. A cult following awaits.

 

Majoring in all-or-nothing, waste-not-want-not mentality, Verbal Kent and !llmind’s ‘Weight of Your World’ touts rhymes that bench press every vocal muscle available. Sarcastic punchlines wired to a big-assed boom-bap plunger, even if all guns aren’t blazing, the size of what’s unsheathed is more than enough. Dominant, imposing music to lay warpaths by; the first slabs are on the house, as the LP won’t cost you a bean.





Slowly, methodically polishing his collection of declassified straitjacket buckles, Sam Zircon attempts the ultimate instrumental downer on eggshells. ‘Anxiety Skits’ wallows in foreign film flashbacks, grainy surveillance footage, exorcism vignettes and a time lapsed bloom of ill thoughts from seeds of doubt. An excellent, tantalisingly poised headswim against the tide: not without its relaxing properties, but most times it has the bedside manner of Annie Wilkes. Also keep tabs on

Ding’s late night soul chop-ups for B-boys loosening their bow tie: ‘Sweet & Sour’ is the star dish on his instrumental menu.




Autobiographical to a point, Royce da 5’9’’s ‘Layers’ keeps as cocksure as you’d hope. Musically you get a lot of bluster for such street confessional, heart-racers becoming quiet storms becoming dirty slouches. It’s very easy to become engulfed in his lyrical builds, where waves of release take their time to bring beats under control. One or two missteps make the LP more an all-rounder than it needs to be, though there justifies the title.

 

Advocates of the old adage that real bad boys move in silence, Havoc and Alchemist’s ‘The Silent Partner’ scuttles in and out of underworld shadows, murmuring vengeance while setting hair-trigger traps. Most disconcerting when ‘Out the Frame’ opens a Mafioso music box, it’s an offer that you probably shouldn’t refuse from trife life royalty.

 

After last year’s ‘Grassroots’ reminded everyone of their non-mothballed indie peak, Jigmastas’ game management proves timeless on ‘The Resurgence’. DJ Spinna’s world renown and Kriminul always standing up to be counted, one-twos back into view with breezy loungers and compressed heat. A strong comeback making you wonder where they went, it’s something for true skoolers to pocket for the rest of the year. Instrumentals to go with are a big help too.

 

Curator of a spotless engine room for Brad Strut, Benny Diction, Verb T, Cappo, Efeks and more, Ghost’s return is a smooth canvas of elegance and sincerity. ‘Shards of Memories’ takes pride in its components and takes care of its guests as it puts minds and ears at ease, unafraid to throw in B-boy truisms en route.





Two of the Def Jux dynasty are still going from strength to strength. Mr Lif is at his lyrical, insightful best, with a lot to be gained from his recommendation of ‘Don’t Look Down’. Those thinking of some sort of rollercoaster to hell insinuation – it’s not that drastic, but the challenge of keeping your head up is significant. Straight to the point, his distinctive flow that can go 19 to the dozen before dominating through deliberation and man-marking the beat, finds Atlas-like might to fight through the weight on his shoulders.





As personal and unique is the ever laser-tongued Aesop Rock; still full of the Jukie spirit, particularly with the funky beat blocks that introduce ‘The Impossible Kid’, his formidable waterfall of words, snide quips and intricate stories recalled from both close to home and far away worlds, are as good as he’s ever done. Still keeping fine tooth combs vendors in business.

 

Unwise as it is to put Kool Keith projects on a sliding scale of weirdness, 2000’s conceptual/bluffed ‘Pimp to Eat’, with KK as the captain of the Analog Brothers, is worth revisiting. The millennial intergalactic supergroup, with Ice T on deck and helmed by follicular anthem ‘Perms Baldheads Afros and Dreads’ (aka hip-hop’s greatest ever hook), gets reissued back from the not too distant future. As B-movies go it’s a solid spacesuit shambles – very Keith, as a sci-fi multi-purpose offender and mind boggler.





Videos

Check out the Mouse Outfit’s rum deal, the shrugs of Lee Scott, Moose Funk Squad clocking on, Ill Move Sporadic & Tenchoo’s checkmate mastery, and Masta Ace teaming with AG.
















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