HIP HOP Revue
Words: Matt Oliver
The usual dollops of gunpowder, treason and plot in this month’s Rapture & Verse, with Krept & Konan triumphing as the MOBOs’ best hip-hop act, word of a Beastie Boys musical coming to London, Questlove penning a food hardback that hopefully isn’t a challenger to the Coolio cookbook, Rza beginning a chess foundation to help straighten out St Louis youths, and most believably, Drake having a lipstick named after him.
A snazzy reprint of OutKast’s ‘Stankonia’ celebrated the landmark album’s 15th anniversary, and Raekwon’s ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx’ got dressed in a slinky, 20th birthday purple cassette number to send the auto-reverse massive delirious. Then there’s A Tribe Called Quest, and their ‘People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm’ coming resurrected as a 25th anniversary, 45s box set. Holy flip.
Threatening your Christmas shopping schedules this November and December are the massed ranks of The Mouse Outfit, with a 17-date UK tour under way. Those playing the long game should bear in mind a rare DJ Krush appearance, coming to London this March.
Two scoops of the usual from old faithful DJ Format & Abdominal – ever maturing B-Boyisms on ‘We Say’, and ‘Reflective Meditation Rhymes’ settling on a gentleman’s funk agreement that nonetheless whacks out rhymes. When Joker Starr and Durrty Goodz tell you ‘Don’t Watch Man’, cock an ear instead. Micall Parknsun’s piano nodder, mellow with a hint of friction, is flanked by strong and varied remixes from S’Strumental, Jazz T, Ophqi and Karnate.
Even if the music’s overly simple in its empathy, Chino XL’s ‘Hush’ shares unparalleled wordplay about fighting addiction. Skanks airs out the world’s dirty laundry with Endemic as peacemaker pianist trying to avert ‘Trouble’, going on to pitch soul over the top for Bugsy da God’s ‘Skill Mathematics’. Your fitness playlist ahead of eggnog season should include these no-nonsense seeking of personal bests: Fong Sai U & Prodigal Sunn’s ‘Enough’, Kahlee’s ‘For My People’, and Sheek Louch & Pusha T’s ‘Bang Bang’.
Spreading his wares from the stout ‘Marching to the Sound of My Own Drum’, Toronto’s MosS tells Onyx & Havoc to go organ grinding on ‘Nobody Move’ and gives Joell Ortiz attacking carte blanche on ‘Kids’. Solidity seems to be theme for the month, with the devastatingly ID’d Bruse Wane stumping up seven such tracks of Bronx breezes and beatings as the ‘Earl Manigault of Rap’, with Chris Rivers and Sean Price chipping in. Most surprising is DJ Cam hooking up with MC Eiht for gangster drag ‘Street Life’.
If diet-dodging drums and loops yanking you by the ears are causing you neck pain, see Jazz T and ‘Run the Changes’. Full of rough diamonds that don’t hang around, T’s sliding scale of pressure and long-certified skills set up a guestlist to be greeted with gulps. J-Zone, Cappo, Confucius MC, Diversion Tactics, Ramson Badbonez and buckets more fling this into the year’s top 10 lists.
Berets on tilt – ‘Jazz Cats’, pairing producer Fredfades & trumpeter Eikrem, gives instrumentals a warm and precise spring and step. Likely to be lumped in with all things golden era, fly guys come through on the mic to add to the vibe of beat club slash post-midnight drinking den. B-boys wanting feet up time, this one’s yours.
UK elbow grease in spades comes from the temple-creasing concentration of Pro P & Northern Structure. ‘Tunnel Vision’ gets sleeves up and blows in from the North West with funk brought up on a stodgy diet and shifty looks reserved for chancers. Definitively clear cut, with no artificial additives or preservatives.
Playing it fast and loose and viewing the world through an X-ray machine, Dead Players get ‘Freshly Skeletal’. Anything but brittle boned, even if the accordions of ‘Nah’ kook up the place, Jam Baxter and Dabbla plough through like their brakes are shot and crash helmets are for wusses (‘Cooked’ is an absolute ram-raid), endorsing classic traits of destructive duo battleplans also seeking satisfaction in single player mode. Bona fide.
Master grudge holders Triple Darkness look to exceed their own high standards in doom and gloom mongering with ‘Darker than Black’. A hard-hitting, educated cycle of cynicism, continuing to be consumed by vintage hip-hop dark arts, London’s sunset henchmen pin you down into their world and won’t let go.
Doing what he does best, there’s good, strong front foot stuff to be had when Talib Kweli uses the gospel according to 9th Wonder on beats rhymes and life guide ‘Indie 500’. A pack of like-minded move makers (Brother Ali, Pharoahe Monch, Slug, with board work from Nottz and Hi-Tek) are lead under a blanket of soul equal parts strident and smoochable.
If you were listening to ‘Home Sweet Home’, you’d be at Nottz and Big Pooh’s HQ right now. Billed as “an audible feast” and “a form of mental science”, it’s a rousing come together with a soulful spine. Both revel in an album partnership you can kick back to and push things forward by. Nothing but a FG thing when Freddie Gibbs drops ‘Shadow of a Doubt’, the total experience of how to live and die in Indiana. Back to his bread and butter, Gibbs oozes bad news, with old skool stick-up ‘Extradite’ a whole new menace.
The latest Madlib outpouring, with Blu and MED swelling the ranks until the seams are on critical, plants deeply buried, boogie-burdened jewels in the garden of their ‘Bad Neighbor’ – a lot of roundabout kerfuffle/’intuition’, featuring some absolute straight-up gold. In a month for maintaining individual standards, the newest batch of improbable Kool Keith quotable joins Ray West for ‘A Couple of Slices’, and Blackalicious break a 10 year duck on ‘Imani’. Syllables don’t get such care and attention anywhere else, to the tune of lovingly constructed funk both brash and rationalizing – cue huge sighs of relief all round. J-Live is busy circulating question marks again, ‘How Much is Water?’ a haven of considered thoughtfulness and assertion, coming out fighting when the time’s right.
Including the celebrated diss ‘Acknowledge’, Donnie Propa’s superb round-up of Masta Ace’s best bits and lesser known legends makes ‘The Ace Tape’ a November nutcracker. One-stop round-up business from DJ TMB deals a 20-strong pack of UK fire and overseas assistance, freestyles and thirst – ‘Beats & Bars’ is the name of the game, with Novar FLIP, Genesis Elijah, 7even Spherez, LATE and Jae Sosa reading the riot act. ‘A Retrospective’ of Savvy is well worth tucking into, nearly 90 minutes of the distinctively flowing latchkey kid since ’93 firing up a batch of remixes, one-offs and ladder-borrowing greats, mixed by Therealdemo.
Manipulating forgotten soul and wax reaching its sample-by date, Jonwayne’s two-part chop-n-change ‘Here You Go’ is a bleary-eyed beat tape perfect to throw on in anticipation of the room spinning. Little hip-hop sketches laid bare, from throwaway boom bap to cameo roles made to mean something. Though criminally only 12 minutes long, cut-n-paste crown wearers Double Dee and Steinski roll back glories with their ‘Insanity Clause Mix’, a fiery funk gumbo that absolutely rifles through a job lot of wax and sploshes about in samples, including walk-ons from the Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill and…er…Ma$e. Swashbuckling, deck-buckling form from DJ Craze promotes Ivy Lab’s new ‘20/20’ LP with 360° wrists and a 26-minute throttling of instrumentalism inside and out. November, done.