HIP HOP REVUE
Matt Oliver picks out the best upcoming gig and cuts from both the UK and Stateside, including KRS-One at the Jazz cafe and tracks/albums/videos from Tyler, the Creator, Oddisee, Roots Manuva & Four Tet, Ryan Bowers, Dynas and Slick Rick and Chrome & Illinspired.
This column would like to distance itself from salacious tabloid tittle-tattle reporting on Drake being snogged by a pensioner, someone on TV’s Divorce Court claiming his wife had bedded the entire Wu-Tang Clan, the whole Tidal circus, and someone updating the bible with Kanye as lord and saviour. R&V is more interested in the news of Killer Mike attending the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Mykki Blanco’s retirement into investigative journalism, De La Soul celebrating (or making a mockery of?) achieving a Kickstarter target for a new album; and a whole host of classic LPs from Common, Redman, Ice Cube, Warren G, Ghostface and more, getting a vinyl repress. Although we’re cool with Slick Rick partnering Will.I.Am for a new range of sunglasses.
For your flyer collection this month: People Under the Stairs, Onyx and KRS-One are all playing The Jazz Cafe throughout May. Black Milk’s European Tour squeezes in a Bristol date on May 2 – ‘I Guess’ sees him sear a soulful sway as an appetizer – and Phife Dawg hits up London and Manchester in the year’s merriest month which also sees the Boom Bap Festival get an East End warm up headed by Lewis Parker. EPMD and Lords of the Underground school The Scala mid-June, and Akala is currently up and down the country knowing the ledge.
‘Stone Soup’ sees Huddersfield’s Jack Flash offer four sharp perspectives and sweet/sour tales you’ll be rooting for. Another gaining strength from pain is DRS’s wispily fluted ‘Try Out’, and there’s none better than Cyrus Malachi at channelling the hurt of the streets, as he does with Ray Vendetta and Tesla’s Ghost on ‘Pariah’/’Who Are They.’ Undecided as to whether he’s Oxford or Cambridge, Roots Manuva is in the box seat for Four Tet curiosity ‘Facety 2:11.’
J-Zone’s inimitable bump-n-bawdiness crashes the good old days through a plate glass window on ’Time for a Crime Wave’. Apathy’s controlled ‘How to Breathe Underwater’ is the milder of two beatdowns – second-in-command ‘Warfare’ bowls through the streets with a real lung-squeezer, a technique shared by Wildcard and Celph Titled’s dangerous score-settler ‘Prince of Vengeance’. From the left of NYC, Aly Aboushaca measures the angles of the express ‘Xprmnts’ EP as the terse captain of a ship on the verge of shedding fluorescent cargo. The resurrection of Rammellzee reveals a ‘Brainstorm’ of B-boy electro/turntable futurism; the daunting intensity comes aligned with a remix from the equally fervent filler of the soundbed, Divine Styler.
A sunny stroll from Don Miguel, that Rapsody and Rashad do their best to cower from, puts ‘Forever’ up there with caffeine and yoga as a good way to start your day. Dynas and Slick Rick’s ‘Who U?’ is a cracking old skooler adding itself to the list of 9-5 brighteners, along with the smoothed out ‘Monster’s Ball’ presided over by South London’s Benjamin AD. Should your day come crashing down before bedtime, Nosaj Thing and Chance the Rapper’s delicately threadbare ‘Cold Stares’ is probably the sedative for you, but if you wanna ride into the dusk on the low, Ande Bishop’s muggy ‘Ocean$’ EP will have you hustling to the last. For dozing in a cold sweat, head to Nick Black and Stinkin Slumrock’s ‘Luxor’.
In a clutch of pre-album tempters, new Czarface takes over the metropolis – ‘Deadly Class’ teams with Meyhem Lauren and beats its chest like the most infamous of skyscraper apes.’ RJD2 and STS mix the gritty, grandiose and beguiling at once and for all seasons on ‘Hold On Here It Go’, and the usual Lyrics Born song and dance has Galactic helping ‘Rock-Rock-Away’ yee-haw and kick high.
Not finding hard to live up to his ‘Mr Wonderful’ moniker, Action Bronson rocks a dicky bow with “very loose pants”. Living on gourmet funk romps, boom-bap slants and 80s references run by Mark Ronson, Alchemist and Party Supplies, Bronson’s personality continues to bring chalk n cheese subjects/ lunacy (see his part-time crooning) to his own terms that’ll he bringing to the UK live in September. Also in the entertainment business, Ludacris defines ‘Ludaversal’ as a Full Monty of concepts, battles, tongue-twisters, call-n-responses, punchlines and energy, from pop sheen to the stickiest of club floors. Quick mention for Tyler, the Creator’s ‘Cherry Bomb’ – pleasingly more musical with soulful flourishes telling the unwieldy lose-it moments to play nice, and garnering a lot of NERD comparisons. It’s sharply spat of course, even if the levels are a bit indiscriminate.
“From the US to the White Cliffs of Dover”, class is in session again with J-Live producing another virtuoso performance. ‘His Own Self’, a fully loaded one-man show, is the latest education homing in on simple truths that simply drag your ears towards speakers. With both the sun on its back and specks of dirt on its hands, Oddisee’s vibrant, funk-smoked ‘The Good Fight’ offers abundant, scholarly showmanship, pushed on by his home bankers of skills and experience. If it triggers your interest in his back catalogue, clear your schedule for the foreseeable.
Joker Starr brings out ‘The MACKnificent’ from a secure location, a cane-swinging bawse running DJ IQ’s racket of velvet-crushing funk and depicting the pimp’s life with a healthy dose of well-meaning swagger. An album with great flow. Ramson Badbonez as ‘Silva Surfa’ – the next great alternative superhero, not a pensioner who’s just discovered Google Chrome – goes stratospheric with fantastical proof of powers and special teams featuring Jehst, Jam Baxter, Kashmere, Fliptrix and Micall Parknsun for a classic comic book carve up. In the spirit of Goliath slaying, Grimm fairytales and Sweeney Todd barbering, Emcee Killa and Grim Reaperz confront constant peril on the tightly reined ‘Zapatista’.
B-boys, take heed of the Boca45 mantra ‘Dig Eat Beats Repeat’, a diet of funk breaks, flipped samples and hip-hop honour – you know how he does – with a little soul (Stephanie McKay as the sass-pot) added to a party full of hulas and headspins. Drags of Aussie-moored funk, hip-hop, ragga and R&B bounce off one another with Dizz1 hitting the flippers. ‘In Sickness & Health’ drafts Aloe Blacc, Sadat X, Frank Nitt, Motley and Tame One for a clash of styles and twangs always keeping the dancefloor within touching distance.
“We may be independent, but we all major”: power-broking that gonna stick to the underground’s upper echelons like a limpet all year long, taken from Blueprint’s ‘King No Crown’, whose all-round game sets up his throne like a deckchair looking for a heatwave. Cutting through lazy day vibes and soul quivers with a comfortably held rapier, where minds wander before bolting upright, choose from Red Pill’s ‘Look What This World Did to Us’ (‘Leonard Letdown’ is a self-deprecating star of an album where it’s ok to accept limitations); or Big Pooh’s ‘Words Paint Pictures’ where the inevitably autumnal/sepia-vibed beats frame realities marked with blunt brush strokes.
Ceschi fights his way to the top as a modern day knight of valour, helped in no small part by the folk lineage that runs through ‘Broken Bone Ballads’, which couldn’t be better titled. There’s a funk a-brewin’ on Asphate’s ‘Closed Doors to an Open Mind’, and trouble to go with it if you don’t grab an on-point underground bubbler that probably won’t accept being one of the year’s most underrated long players.
Billed in the Madvillain mould, L’Orange and Jeremiah Jae’s rickety slickness and sample pillages are sure to Pied Piper a cult following with ‘The Night Took Us In Like Family.’ Homeboy Sandman and Gift of Gab are privy to the pair’s secret handshake. Made up of smoke clouds, synths singing at the stars and rhymes that either cut through or cling onto the low rider vapour, Vancouver’s Emotionz turns up his ‘Psychedelic Boombox’, an album that develops to put a few dents in the rainbow trail and straightens out the pimp strut.
Pay attention to Chrome & Illinspired’s wax factor, Ryan Bowers kick-flipping it, Sleaze and Sonnyjim heading to where the grass is green, and Kingpin taking it to the Tower.