Matt Oliver’s Hip Hop Revue
A man in demand as they say, Matt Oliver might ave skipped a month but he’s back with a bumper bi-monthly edition of his hip hop grande tour Rapture & Verse. Strange esoteric, hallucinatory psych from Hey!Zeus.I , a lyrical strewn homage of a sort to Stanley Kubrick from Stig of the Dump, straight talking from MNSR Frites, B-movie horror schlock from Ghostface Killah & Adrian Young, and Chali 2na goes undercover in this ripe collection of the best new rap cuts, videos, singles, albums and remixes.
Scraping itself off the tarmac post-heatwave, the newly refrigerated Rapture & Verse is playing catch-up with Tyler, The Creator announcing the passing of Odd Future, Gucci Mane becoming an Agony Uncle, and super-producer Scott Storch declaring bankruptcy. Coming to a tavern near you – Wu-Tang and Run the Jewels beer? Looking to put rappers out of business, a Finnish scientist claims to have a built a rhyme-generating robot that can out-flow the best humankind has to offer. This column is not bricking it at all. Thankfully the newest supergroup to save us all is reportedly Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, and 9th Wonder.
Black Milk is top of the tree at The Jazz Cafe this coming Sunday, with Pro Era’s CJ Fly hot on his heels on the 18th and Peanut Butter Wolf bringing his bag of 45s to the same venue in August. Cannibal Ox’s UK tour is in gear with six dates across the country this month, but save some pennies for a first vinyl reissue of BDP’s ‘Sex and Violence’ from 1992. Dead Prez’ ‘Let’s Get Free’ also get replenished on wax, and the collector-caring Jukebox series offers all-time classics from Mobb Deep, Raekwon and MOP and more on 7” for the first time.
Adjust the bass and let the Alpine blast with something a bit rocky, a bit pimped and a bit poppy on hip-hop’s outside edge: Royal race through the costume changes on a six-track EP chunky enough to slip through the cracks of categorisation. Nametag Alexander is this month’s financial advisor by investing ‘Paper’ over a classically dusty Detroit jitter. Passing on personal wisdom, Joker Starr tells everyone ‘I’m All About Everything’; the original has Micall Parknsun boxing clever on the boards, followed by three nod-ready remixes. Light-headed clarification from Hey!Zeus.I features Strange U getting cross-legged with Jehst, before Dr Zygote’s remix sends the trip spiralling. ‘Holy Cow’ indeed.
Sean Anonymous’ high-speed theories on the highly-strung ‘Big Bang’ burst with drama that’s more from the stage than street, with Lizzo and P.O.S. along for the ride. References galore from Jakk Frost meet DJ Premier’s funk bullion for the true skooler ‘Dope Boy Talk’, and priming itself as a summer smash is SuperSTah Snuk’s ‘Falling in Love’, linking arms with Statik Selektah for the benefit of all smitten soft-top pushers. Straining from the wrong side of tracks, Bobby Capri & Michael Christmas’ ‘Never Fall Short’, Supreme the Eloheem’s ‘The Corner’, Napoleon & Ghostface’s ‘Game’, and Apollo Ali’s ‘Pray 4 Us’ all put hoods up and barge through traffic.
The announcement of ‘I’m Good’ by Confz is an East London go-slow at high-speed, made to make you relax on an intense scale. Peckham prankster Mr Mini entertains and proves he’s ’StreetSmart BookSmart’ with seven impudent, Slim Shady-meets-Kano bounces off walls. Over in Manchester, Red Venom goes hell for leather on ‘There’s No Killing What Can Not Be Killed’ and sunbathes in the furnace heat of a house of horrors, and Clubs & Spades’ strongly-built ‘Clearer Coast’ is a big-sounding break-up song full of Sheffield steel.
Stig of the Dump ain’t playing on ‘Kubrick’. Supremely focused as he turns his routine aggravations into a concentrated burst of informed fire-breathing, and pretty much made foolproof by Jehst being on the boards throughout , it’s his best work to date. With a slick set of promotional materials to go with it, it’s a block of heaviness to send the springs on scales flying.
Another fabled fairytale of instrumentalism from 2econd Class Citizen bubbles towards toil and trouble on the fittingly titled ‘A Hall of Mirrors’. Brighton’s audio apothecary stirs his thought provoking signature of darkly mediaeval magic and lute-thrashing funk, pored over until it reaches the outer recesses of your skull. Gratifying, regressive relaxation.
Keeping its cool throughout, Golden Rules’ ‘Golden Ticket’ is a spirited collection of hip-hop leaning towards boho status, particularly when including a slow jam of Luther Vandross appreciation. Hatched between South London and Florida – the sunshine of the latter dominating – Eric Biddines and Paul White have come up with a summer accompaniment both playful and up-to-speed.
Lunar-C spewing premium Bradford brat rap on ‘Breakdown Rebuild’ is a corruption of 16 beats made to test any competitor’s manhood. Relaxed straight talker MSNR Frites rides ‘The River Wandle’ like a thoroughbred. Unwaveringly clear cut skills punt on beats both calm and choppy – ‘That Rain’ is sumptuous go-hard-or-go-home fare – and the Granville Sessions man is never found treading water.
Cheerleaders for the cheerless Mr Key and Greenwood Sharps look at ‘Yesterday’s Futures’ with patient, articulate pessimism that’ll take pride of place in the collections of the world-weary. It may sound like nothing but grey skies throughout, but over time it generates its own kind of ear-clamping warmth. Mild-mannered beatsmith Handbook is the man on hand with audio ice cubes – and he’s even polite enough to call his album ‘Thank You’. Blissed out vibes, save for one forceful drive from Supreme Sol & Marvolus, from the York soul controller.
One-time hip-hop messiah Papoose declares ‘You Can’t Stop Destiny’ – fast-paced, urgent, Havoc, DJ Premier and Showbiz producing, and spraying bars across most bases while holding up a #1 salute throughout (‘Global Warming 2’ is that conceptual wordplay he unsheathes so easily)…there’s enough here to keep fans believing he can be rap’s redeemer. The Wu-Tang dynasty goes astral, with Killah Priest’s ‘Planet of The Gods’. Dourly rhyming his ass off as if his tin can is running out of fuel, it dovetails nicely with Cannibal Ox’s re-entry to the fold earlier this year. A weighty reading of sci-fi hieroglyphs sent back to street level. More grainy footage of reopened murder cases from Adrian Younge means a second dossier slash comic book of ‘Twelve Reasons to Die’. Ghostface Killah leads a team of investigators that includes Lyrics Born, Raekwon and Vince Staples to pick off A-grade funk, and sleuth in darkness before bursting the doors open. Deathly slick.
B Dolan‘s ‘Kill the Wolf’ blows the house down with indisputable prophecies of rage relinquishing a place on the radar, and the sound of the future having its arse kicked. Rock-edged boom bap and electronic takeovers are laid down hard and built with a springboard for the truth-seeking moshpit welcoming him below. Gaskets are left strewn all over the place – and you wouldn’t want to cross him at his calmest either.
Wringing the remaining drops from the trap/cloud rap model, A$AP Rocky’s ‘At. Long. Last. A$AP’ is a rambling follow-up but has notable moments of developed, well-delivered thought. A quick reshuffle of instrumentals from Alchemist on ‘Israeli Salad’ makes Middle Eastern mountains out of messing about on the MPC, the latest in his empire of cross-continent bangers. On some elder statesman’s reaffirmation that also doesn’t outstay its welcome, Large Professor solidly presents ‘Re Living’. Without re-writing the rulebook he helped pen back when, it’s still flecked with a lineage you can trace back to his heyday.
Jedi Mind Tricks’ eternal damnations continue on ‘The Thief and The Fallen’, whetting their axes to grind, though markedly spreading out the sonics a little more. Re-upping a bunch of J Dilla bump-n- slouch, Slum Village sound up for the role of summer sultans before settling into a groove playing to their neo-souled strengths. ‘Yes!’ is the name of the album and there’ll fist pumps for their golden touch supported by Phife Dawg and De La Soul.
Mixtapes & VT
The Nick Black mixtape ‘SMBS’ lurks on dark East London corners and turns the screw for maximum atmospheric resonance writhing into a bitter drowsiness. All about the very last detail, it cracks few smiles in adhering to the motto of badboys moving in silence.
Optical solutions this month come from The Doppelgangaz’ gangland style, PRofit’s gigawatt grin, Motive’s age-old advice and Chali 2na getting on the case.
Words/selection: Matt Oliver