HIP-HOP REVUE
Words: Matt Oliver




The latest edition of Rapture & Verse has put itself forward for an ‘Old Town Road’ remix (#1 in the year 2056), but will not be writing any top 50 lists for fear of admonishment when omitting Morris Minor and the Majors. Some singles first: a whodunit tiptoe from Pitch 92 allows justice-serving Verb T and TrueMendous to catch a ‘Cold Case’, nimble, mean-streaked rhymes leaving no stone unturned. Four instrumentals from the mighty Chairman Maf are nice, summery and don’t ‘Muff’ their lines, cheeky samples warping the beats in the sun. DJ Shadow and De La Soul’s old skool autopilot guzzles ‘Rocket Fuel’, a simple, effective weapon held down by horn overtures moving overground: a nation of breakers, poppers and lockers can be found greasing their joints in anticipation. ‘It’s Not That Simple’ claim Pawz One and John Henry, when actually the opposite is true, giving the front row what they want across eight tracks like it’s a regular day at the office. Beats and rhymes for the win, getting straight into a gold-reflected groove. Celph Titled’s ‘Paragraphs of Murder’ is not a fuzzy wuzzy Hallmark card; fact. The more obvious answer is, head banging music in an invincibility cloak.

 

Albums

Anchored by the indomitable ‘Reeboks’, Baileys Brown stirs the pot so everything’s ‘Still Fresh’, in the name of accommodating a bunch of microphone herberts. Datkid, Axel Holy, Lee Scott, Dabbla and Hozay rise up to run their mouth and take advantage of BB’s background diligence, skimming the scummy but with buckets of fizz and a little soul stardust answering the title’s call, keeping the hottest point of the club within striking distance of a couch and headphones combo.





Live at the barbecue, Giallo Point and Juga-Naut make the grind look easy when heading ‘Back to the Grill Again’. For the most part GP is weighing up which yacht to rock rather than measuring you for concrete shoes, and Jugz’ designs on alt-opulence are ones listeners want to achieve themselves rather than being put off by claims bordering on the outlandish. Running through crews like a hot knife through butter, from now only order these cordon bleu beats and rhymes, a gangster gourmet with an all important UK garnish.





Apex’ twins Ash the Author, forcing the issue and leaving pauses for thought to leave you defenceless (“raps like Moe Syzslak, straight ugly”), and Ded Tebiase, a double bluffer on the beats seeking dusty sunrises through the blinds and spreading bad voodoo to make you jerk your head back. The pair haven’t got time to be messing about and have got you covered, in tune with the changeable British summertime. One for a shoulder-high ghettoblaster.





Taking the form of the staunch Chester P, The Nameless Project surveys the wreckage of the world, wrapped in yellow and black barricade tape. It reaches a conclusion of dislocated beats under extra terrestrial duress, and disdainful observations, hauled straight from the corner, that you better start believing quick. Uneasy listening where you daren’t touch that dial.

‘The Return’ of Sampa the Great is a mind, body and soul experience requiring complete immersion (clock watchers – this isn’t for you), the indigenous explorations and fearless art of performance making it more odyssey than album. Lead by that trickily playful, Bahamadian flow sounding like it’s chewing a ton of bubblegum ready to spew napalm, funk wrecking ball ‘Final Form’ becomes a bit of a one-off in a meandering, richly textured, provocative astro/political soul installation, able to slot in a rework of The Stylistics. A debut to have critics clamouring.

A new Kool Keith album, entirely produced by Psycho Les: ‘Keith’ is the album dreams are made of to some hopeless hip-hop romantics (Jeru the Damaja and B-Real pop in to propagate the fantasy). In the real world of 2019, it’s another day of the Spankmaster’s unmatched imagination running feral, throwing his “jockstrap to the critics” and in the direction of stocky Beatnuts fare that sides with the eerily vacant, and the sometimes peppy over the sleazy. ‘Holy Water’ doing Barry White is the headline treat, yet the album improbably goes about its business with minimum bother.





Superhero worship and hip-hop purism: birds of a feather, supremely executed across eight tracks by P.SO and 2 Hungry Bros on ‘American Anime’, detailing the vagaries of the respective scenes so both the nerds and the B-Boys can have their revenge. The mild-mannered everyman by day brings out the superpowers of beats, rhymes and managing the concept like its second nature, just like your favourite lycra clad centrefold.





Grieves’ ‘The Collections of Mr Nice Guy’ uncomplicatedly detangles affairs of the heart, including self assessment, before undermining the album’s title in a kindness-for-weakness dismissal. His switch in focus with no discernible change up, means eight softly bedded lullabies bite back and keep everyone interested and entertained, as well as being a perfect introduction to latecomers.

“A varied album documenting stressful trials, psychedelic endeavours, and copious inhalations of marijuana” – that’s the lowdown on YUNGMORPHEUS and Fumitake Tamura’s ‘Mazal’. Suffice to say, side effects may cause drowsiness, though in fairness the lyrics are as much as blunt as they are blunted, red mist over red eyes looking over an out-of speakers-experience that still manages a surprise sneak attack of Shadez of Brooklyn’s ‘Change’.

Ambitiously advertised as an EP, Black Milk continues to show he knows exactly how to work the sweet spot of soulful hip-hop with something to say on the album length ‘Dive’, never stooping low to conquer. A soundtrack for heat waves and cool for the eye of the storm, it’s that movement around and manipulation of sounds that sets him apart, not to mention his rhymes sitting between confident/authentic open mic night performer bringing with him a disarming bedside manner.

‘One Word No Space’ = no space for wasted words – standard procedure from Donwill, another expertly, effortlessly concentrated spectacle (35 minutes long brings the repeat button quickly into play). Soulful but with a kick (production from Tanya Morgan teammate Von Pea), laidback but with lessons to take from, it’s another backing track for a barbeque going long into the evening.





HIP-HOP REVUE
Words: Matt Oliver




Singles/EPs

Love Island audition failed once again, Rapture & Verse reverts to bringing you the tastiest hip-hop to tango your chops with. Redbeard’s ‘Misc’ EP packs a fistful of strong, down-to-earth rhymes, triumphing with joypad flex ‘Dead Pixels’, as the iron-chinned guardian to dreamlike assurance that veers into knocks sponsored by seven bells. Loose lips sink ships, but Sinking Ships bite back with the three-track conundrum ‘Foudroyant’, Leviathan and Rat Bastard pushing the everyday into the abstract along a high wire and striding comfortably through a no man’s land defined by one false move. Brollies up for when the ‘Tidal Wave’ of Cappo and Senz Beats breaks defences and provides blunt counsel that shouldn’t be slept on. A superlative remix package has Jazz T, Uncommon NASA, REDA and Lex Boogie all coping with catastrophe with individual adapt/survive tactics. J Lawson’s search for ‘Fools Gold’ over a mean Senz Beats brawler isn’t a bad look either.

Unlikely to put his ‘Reeboks’ on and have a little dance, Baileys Brown bites into a dub bludgeon laced with cosmic sparkles and Axel Holy, Stinking Slumrok and Datkid in tow. A steamroller acting like it ain’t nothing. ‘The Green House’ effect of Eric the Red and El Grobbo is straight goading music by the half dozen, going nose to nose with the crowd in an odd couple throwdown: thickset beats provide shadow when catching rhymes bouncing off the walls. The super ‘Final Form’ is Sampa the Great flattening opposition to the fattest of disco-funk fanfares: get up-stand up multiplied by can’t stop-won’t stop, generates something unstoppable.








Both scholarly and bathed in sunshine, Blu & Exile’s welcome ‘True & Livin’ EP wants to get everyone together, whether that be within cypher, backyard barbeque or think tank, packing more within three tracks than most manage across whole albums. Blu also makes an appearance on the drowsy ‘What Ifs?’, a drifter from Morriarchi and Confucius MC in Old Paradice mode, the subtle spike of discomfort funked up in cool loungewear by Swarvy on the remix. An ode to the ‘Night Shift’ from Murs looks back to set the record straight with some pertinent quotable, Kash’s blooming piano nodding in agreement, before a re-team with 9th Wonder parades a ‘Ga$ Station Gucci Belt’ as a heavyweight challenge staying light on its feet.



There’s no better demonstration of being in the zone than Homeboy Sandman travelling to the ‘West Coast’ and making light speed seem like a Sunday drive. Aesop Rock on the boards serves pure robot-chasing Def Juxism for the circuitous purpose of making complete sense. Ringing bells with boom bap to leave you hunchbacked, J57 and Blame One stoke the fire that causes Mark Ski’s ‘Voodoo’, answering the question that there is such a thing as joyous demolition lasting under two and half minutes. Finland’s Cut Beetlez and New York’s Good People to and fro for the fun ‘Cut People’ EP, an anything goes six tracker of rhymes wounding like a sarcastic slow clap, and a smorgasbord of boom bap rammed into by raw samples and the Beetlez’ trademark contempt for turntables.




Albums

Entwining the concepts of lo-fi and low life and guaranteed to get under your skin, Jack Danz’ germ peddling ‘TMIB’ gets stone cold/cold stoned as the walls start to drip and reality disintegrates. Mesmeric on his own terms, the voice of someone who’s seen too much but knows exactly what’s going on, manipulates the midnight hour into a seedy object of disdain, remaining heavy enough to give environmental health the finger.





Jazz instrumentalism to a tee from DJ Obsolete induces ‘The Mandela Effect II’, complemented by a crew of emcees to be reckoned with, hurrying up the queue to the booth until another head clocker from the German producer comes through. Nice and relaxed, but with that mean streak made easy, like the 90s used to do. The second volume of Rhettmatic’s ‘Loops, Chops, Beats & Vibes’ is precisely not just that. Early doors the instrumentals are certainly coming from inside the house, the Beat Junkie’s slasher-in-waiting boom bap headlining a bulk load of work for that neck. A premium rate number is DJ Drinks’ ‘Nightline’, switching between getting jazz to force the issue so a red mist starts to fall, and easing on back until ears get warm and blurry. Half an hour of beats that won’t leave you hanging.

The Revorg label compilation ‘Est 2013’ brings up to speed the rock-dwelling community with all of its biggest hitters. Big Toast, Gee Bag, Gatecrasherz, Jack Diggs, CNT, as well as Phoenix da Icefire and MysDiggi, all steam in on a 16-track expo of British firepower: melodious, speaker-tipping beats, and rhymes running ridiculing rings around the unenlightened. Essential.

A seen-it-all-before eye roll set to surprisingly pleasant music – a classic in brave-facing it when the contrary is obvious. Chris Orrick is ‘Out to Sea’, treading water to survive but never leaving you high and dry. A concise collection of Detroit straight talking and a specialist in which battles can and can’t be won, Orrick is able to cut himself some slack with entertaining odes to the munchies and online fraternising.





The serving suggestion for the new Pro album is ‘After Dinner Before Dawn’, and is an album you can’t fault for honesty, in terms of both professional and personal integrity. Someone who won’t stutter, will project his voice and speak clearly, easily slip into a West Coast groove out of East Coast bumps, and whose wisdom fully comes to the fore as the album moves along. Good value.

 Chaotic scenes abound when Injury Reserve’s self-titled album climbs off the bench, though you probably shouldn’t expect anything else from a crew who recorded their first mixtape in a dentist’s office. Tails are up when Rico Nasty, Cakes da Killa and Freddie Gibbs join the trio in creating aggro, when generally they’re not looking to cause trouble or bother nobody. An abrasive leftfield pile-on that levels out, just short of delivering a hotchpotch. Talking of chaotic, Beast Coast are hardly subtle in their ‘Escape from New York’, the massed ranks including Joey Bada$$, Flatbush Zombies, The Underachievers, Kirk Knight and Nyck Caution riding trap-for-all like a wave machine before creating perplexing sensations when smoothing it out. Strength in numbers barges this one past the winning post.





Matt Olivers essential Hip-Hop Revue





Singles/EPs

Rapture & Verse’s Halloween prep starts with the usual cutting of holes in a bed sheet, a liberal squirt of ketchup, and a splash of ‘The Tonic 2’ EP across the chops. Dr Syntax and Pete Cannon guarantee a minimum 24 hour protection, examining avenues few dare to visit: the self-explanatory ‘Workinout’ and ‘Facial Hair’ are modern day anthems, stared down by the solemn midpoint warning ‘Oh’. A livener in seven easy supplements. Another duo displaying a healthy sickness, Rack Mode and Elliot Fresh are married to the game ‘Till Death Do Us Part’. Toughened funk with devils horns poking out, and rhymes draining biros with quick reflexes, vow in unison to give you six of the best.





When Mistah Bohze has the ‘Momentum’, he’s hard to stop, twisting through a booming synth shunt before lifting the lid on ‘Pharaoh Dynamics’, delivering snake charming with a death grip. Following a headhunter’s thirst with time to chill, the Midlands’ perma-blunt Late rides again on ‘Elevationz’, making sure his tacks are the brassiest to the sound of Juttla lining the apocalypse with palm trees. Swatting away string orchestras and Hanna-Barbera getaways, competition is defenceless against the renegade steamroller that is Little Simz’ ‘Offence’, pedal pushed down just as hard on ‘Boss’.





A twin takedown from Cimer Amor and Side Effect won’t rest until punks are in their place, ‘Write That Down’ and ‘Gangsta Talk’ nicely to the point en route to causing front row mayhem. ‘Well, Well, Well’ by Bronx Slang styles out the concept of wanting it all, helping themselves to the individual strengths of uncle Tom Cobley’s extended family as a rewindable hypothesis; come for the namechecking, stay for the swagger. Winter’s icy grip is manoeuvred puppet master-style by Yugen Blakrok, part outlaw part cyborg breaking civilisation down into ‘Carbon Form’. Fiercely underground, intimidating, but creating fascinating parables as she goes. ‘The Bone Collector’ by V Don is pure law-breaking music while trying to retain a respectable air, six tracks of fair means and foul carried out by Westside Gunn, Crimeapple and more. “Shave the hair off their fingers so nothing gets stuck on hammers” is a gangsta credential to aspire to.



Albums

The hotly tipped ‘Humble Pi’ divided between Homeboy Sandman and Edan may only be a miserly seven tracks long, but is a banquet of slaps that will become one of your five a day, and ultimately year. Sandman as people’s champ, underground avenger and backpack laureate, and Edan tying an extra double knot in the Madvillain tapestry, are a sixth sense-powered twin threat, embroiled in their own battle royale with each other to reach the summit.

Because ‘Home is Where the Art Is’, the easygoing Barney Artist helps put feet up, but with a darker edge waiting in the next room. For want of a better phrase, his is a rapper next door persona making easy progress to eardrums enjoying a lie-in, deepened when his heart and head begin skirmishing, with appearances from Tom Misch, Jordan Rakei and George the Poet sealing an excellent album of broad appeal.





A quick follow-up to this year’s ‘No Brainer’, Coops’ ‘Life in the Flesh’ continues to look at the world through the blinds; late night but wide awake, survival instincts to the fore and maintaining the momentum of his previous profile that balances retreating wisdom and patiently lying in wait. A master of overlapping the effortlessly tense and the testily comfortable, this is both shelter of and from the streets.

The Madison Washington dossier of ‘Facts’ compiles the personal, intellectual, challenging and sometimes just plain funky. One way or another the US-to-UK pair are gonna light a fire under you with their outpouring of ideas. “Equal parts west coast funk and desert trip-hop” – thanks to great beats from top to bottom from The Lasso, the always lyrical Lando Chill makes his point as a continued threat from whatever angle he examines ‘Black Ego’, though perhaps because of the scenery behind him, a (positively) different proposition from ‘For Mark, Your Son’.





Smooth, slick and possibly dangerous to know, Boog Brown pushes her sophisticated self-titled album at a speakeasy on the low, manned by Tom Caruana. The immediate coffee shop connotations are much more treacherous and ultimately stirring than a simple after hours slam – the Atlanta-via-Detroit emcee and producer feed off one another to create a dusky work of art streaked with comforting light.

Twiddling the dial from left to right for the perfect score of chopped up loops, hardcore head nods, needle fluffers and sunny stop-start soul, Jansport J gets ‘Low’ but ends up with an instrumental album on high. Tweaks of Redman and Al Green are the highlights of a roadtrip where sunglasses and chill are compulsory. That well known fact that nothing rhymes with ‘orange’ is good news for Chariman Maf’s ‘Ginger’, bounding in with a ten track instrumental set full of get-up-and-go and then smoothing it on out for headphone clientele. Funk and fun encourages biros to get scribbling if they’ve got the brio. It ain’t no fun if Illingsworth don’t get some, the some in question on ‘You’re No Fun’ being instrumentals laced with varying amounts of Detroit dustiness and leftism, and the occasional rhyme – Open Mike Eagle and Denmark Vessey temp on the mic – that flicks ears back into action.





A cracked, chainsmoked delivery between Jeezy and The Game seems ideal for Recognize Ali to enter the arid realms of suited and booting mobsterdom. The opposite is true, and ‘The Outlawed’ partly has the UK to blame – Farma Beats, Smellington Piff, El Ay and Da Fly Hooligan all contribute to his running wild into the china shop. Gradually the handbrake is applied, but Ali’s chokehold clamps down on all wannabe thugs and keeps squeezing. ‘Behold a Dark Horse’ by arch dehydrator Roc Marciano is in a similar bracket, a ride you should back once he’s “cocked a nine back like a hand jive”. For someone who claps on instinct – notwithstanding a dip into Chaka Khan on ‘Amethyst’ – he remains a deceivingly slippery character, transfixing you when weaving from ambassador reception to swinging 60s to street brawl.

Still holding the steadiest of lines for what seems like forever, Atmosphere load up on their indelible variables so ‘Mi Vida Local’ always offers something to cling onto. The persistent acoustic drizzle, the hope of cloud-breaking sunshine when an amp gets kicked up or a bottle smashes, the passive/aggressive set-plays modelled as passion/aggression – not to mention the downright sickly ‘Trim’ – preserve their position as both fulcrum and window to the world.

A tumultuous DJ Muggs on the boards, and B-Real and Sen Dog personifying cold-blooded calmness in the eye of the storm – or too stoned to be affected. Cypress Hill’s ‘Elephants on Acid’ is a psychedelic stampede magnified by hallucinations, incantations and Judgement Day dominating the calendar. Old habits obviously die hard – ‘Oh Na Na’ and ‘Crazy’ sound like ‘Insane in the Brain’ remixed by ‘Gravel Pit’ – but the saga that unfolds and breathes down the neck of their 90s heyday takes the band into a new dimension.

 

Looking good this month: Riz MC, Sa Roc and Shockwave with Andy Cooper.











Matt Oliver’s essential Hip-Hop revue





Handbags at dawn for Rapture & Verse this month, with Cardi B and Nicki Minaj almost inevitably auditioning for a future Pay-Per-View bout, and Eminem dropping the sneak attack ‘Kamikaze’, a hitlist trying to avoid becoming an old-man-shouts-at-cloud meme. Thus far, only Machine Gun Kelly, with a fair-to-middling amount of invective, has taken the bait and dragged it back to the playground. The album itself is full of uninspired/overegged production and one glaring ‘Sing for the Moment’ moment of redemption, swept aside by Mathers going supersonic in burying post-‘Revival’ hatchets and sacking frontline figures.

 

Singles/EPs

Hello darkness, my old friend. There’s getting low, and then there’s ‘Low and Behold’, a scathing cellar dweller with no escape from Final Boss and Harry the Bastard. Pair it with Dirty Dike’s ‘Permanent Midnight’, a wrathful rhyme execution dumping you somewhere near the valley of the shadow of death, and Dead End’s ‘Let the Music Talk’, bodying a symphony, getting ice cold on the warpath and issuing a warrant for all ears. The digitally druggy ‘Helsinki Knights’ ain’t playing either, ThisIsDa getting isometric as he plays fact against fiction.





Back to beat up your boombox, Mongrels crack skulls and shells on ‘Over Eggin’ It’, Kid Acne and Benjamin yoking jokers with Sleaford ModsJason Williamson. ‘Shoot the Breeze’ on the flip has Cappo and Juganaut dropping knowledge like a cinder block from the top floor. Th£ Gaffa and Mikispeakz put Mitcham on the map by getting into a ‘Soul Off’, handling the smooth with a great, bristling will to win. The warmth of Pitch 92’s ‘Lost in Space’ serves funk and soul silk, with frayed edges kept in, for Verb T, Jehst and Sparkz, and has the producer giving himself some alone time on top: less astro, all artisan.





If deM atlaS offers you an invite to his ‘Tomorrow Party’, notify your loved ones, a rage blowing out the Midwest waiting for the apocalypse to gatecrash any minute. Party bags = hell in a handcart. Present at that moment your brain descrambles after waking, Akinyemi and Birocratic pull back the duvet before issuing a rat-a-tat to-do list: ‘Dream On’ ensures you won’t stay static. Staying out for the summer, Von Pea and The Other Guys mean no ill when they assert ‘I’m Good Luv, Enjoy’, five tracks of coolly hailing a Californian lab-cab, as they always seem to do, and thoughtfully including the instrumentals to cruise to.





Rugged in uppercase, Marvi Marx and DJ Squigz announce ‘My Resignation’, a Michigan-via-England-via-Thailand turning of the screw, sounding off with vigilantism on their mind. For one brilliant moment, we imagined Ghostface’s ‘Buckingham Palace’ being a belated response to Fergie’s ‘London Bridge’. Instead it’s a traditional, testosterone ticker tape parade of horns, taking aim with 38 Spesh, KXNG Crooked and Benny the Butcher.

 

Albums

Rhyming from his highest plain yet, Fliptrix remodelling the Lotus position on ‘Inexhale’ masters the art of knocking you down with a feather. Ocean Wisdom, Capo Lee and Skinnyman join the inner circle of auditory enlightenment that would freak out the unaware. Even when reverting to a slacker, more stoned flow, using the mic as both jostick and Excalibur’s edge, the pugilistic psychoanalysis is untouchable, recalibrating the percentages between inspiration, perspiration and respiration.





Street struck with a shrug, King Grubb’s potently dour ‘Droopy’, shaken with a yardstick dose of Blah Records apathy, is done with summer and just wants to hunker down. For what is essentially hip-hop shoegazing, Grubb paradoxically develops a warming cocoon out of isolated, unsympathetic beats and rhymes (“forget more lines than I memorise/which is wack, so I don’t empathise”).

“Do I look as if I’m bothered by some little squabble?”- a flying kick to the ear and a gob that can go all day are Dabbla’s signature ‘Death Moves’. Long disciplined in schooling any beat that knocks, whether it keeps heads down or jumps up, the bounce of his court jester sustains the ability to clown you at any given opportunity, and yet still make you grin when he’s giving you an unrelenting earful.





Gruff roughhouse Gi3mo declares ‘Big Gizzy is Boss’, reminding everyone of his biggest power moves to date that include hook-ups with Stig of the Dump, Inja and Dirty Dike. The Rum Committee crown ruler sends beats running for cover, bulldozing his way through with a big bad set of show and prove that’ll blow your house down. Another necessary recap comes from Farmabeats, counting down on ‘365’ with a year’s worth of heaviness as he twists folklore, funk and mystery for the benefit of Recognize Ali, Mach Hommy, Jalal Salaam, Ty Farris and more, like shady urban myths having the record set straight by a seething underground network. Earth2Tom’s ‘One’ LP, pushed forward by appearances from Confucius MC, FRSHRZ, Holly Flo Lightly and MINX, is a neck knotter numero uno. Freshness delivered in many shades of jazz and soul and for all occasions, the inclusive, hip-hop workshop vibe and have-beats-will-travel attitude, banish the blues. A talented bunch keeping it moving with a London heartbeat.

Leading a search party by miner’s lamp through a quagmire the wrong way, Armand Hammer’s Elucid and Billy Woods come out the other side reeking of ‘Paraffin’. Unburdened and unrepentantly marching through hip-hop’s twilight zones to enhance their own cult, be warned, cos these two “are good at these ghetto games”. An album so underground that it bears beats and rhymes fossils. Now for the settling of street scores to a soundtrack of duels decided on the count of three: Knowledge the Pirate is a dry, sleep-is-the-cousin-of-death rhymer, and ‘Flintlock ’is an album of pure tooth for a tooth, eye for an eye stakes-raising. Will have you lost in the drama hook, line and sinker. The drama that Giallo Point brings is never a small thing, re-teaming with Smoovth for ‘Don Fabio: Medellin II’. Expect the usual mix of seedy underworlds and chandelier sparkle, blunt-edged collaborators such as Estee Nack, Hus Kingpin and Crimeapple, and concentration leaving all concerned gasping in fear of a shopping trip for Colombian neckties.

“A giant-size vernacular spectacular” – the Wordburglar brand of true skool entertainment is serious about showstealing stanzas without taking the game too seriously, like a Canadian branch of Ugly Duckling (especially when he turns The Wiseguys’ ‘Ooh La La’ into his own thief’s theme). ‘Rhyme Your Business’ stuffs a swag bag full of puns and engaging nostalgia exploring the core elements (digging in the crates, beef and battling). A good laugh that doesn’t forget to bring the goods. Appointing himself as guardian of vibes, ‘Keep Summer Safe’ has Calvin Valentine stepping to the mic to add an extra smooth layer to his always recline-ready, R&B-reaching roll outs. Life sounds so much simpler when Valentine starts easing the pressure under clear blue skies, though it shouldn’t stop you reaching for it when fireside positioning becomes priority.

 

Stay tuned for a game of cat and mouse with Ocean Wisdom, LoneMoon putting his back into it, and one time for the late Mac Miller.









 

ESSENTIAL HIP-HOP REVIEW: WORDS: MATT OLIVER





What a blockbuster month in hip-hop it’s been… Snoop setting the world’s biggest gin and juice record. Eminem and Nicki Minaj reportedly going steady. 50 Cent against Ja Rule, episode #89. Seven tracks being the new 18 tracks plus intro, outro and skits, plus bonus disc.

And there’s also been Pusha T versus Drake: ‘Daytona’ is a significant, title belt-claiming blow that’ll take some recovering from – the latter’s ‘Scorpion’ is imminent, with the additional angle of Martin Shkreli weighing in. Kanye’s ‘Ye’ poses more questions than answers, which is precisely what makes the man, while Nas & Kanye’s ‘Nasir’ has its moments, but falls short of what the dream team billing promises and certainly needs more room than the running length du jour. This is before we’ve even had time to take on Kid Cudi & Kanye’s ‘Kids See Ghosts’, or attempted to try and keep up with The Carters.

 

Singles/EPs

Dead Residents’ ‘Style Terrorist #1’ weighs an absolute ton, a clunky renegade barking like a sergeant major wearing influences as badges of honour. Heist vibes in full effect when Mr Brown sets a tripwire and infra red assault course and Confucius MC and Jehst come abseiling in through windows, all in the name of protecting ‘The Art-form part 2’, warning that “the ultimate high is the overdose”. One man’s lazy day on the river is another’s circled by sharks – Benofficial’s ‘Machine Gun Benny’ perfects the casual-smarting look. On the edge of grime and trap, VersesBang is sonically and sartorially sharp with seven tracker ‘Dressed to Kill…Myself’, well-paced so as to let listeners take a peek behind the big time persona (“I need to take control, like playing FIFA when it ain’t my go”).





After destroying airwaves with one of the freestyles of recent times, Black Thought rises above all of the aforementioned hullaballoo with the six track ‘Streams of Thought’. Augmented by 9th Wonder’s telepathy, soulfully shaded but a no-go zone for suckers, it’s an absolute lesson in politics, autobiography and pure battle-hardened craftsmanship that number one spots are reserved for. Parading the glamour life before denting it hard, Conway the Machine and Sonnyjim, with business-like savagery, cause ‘Death by Misadventure’, professional professors in the science of not flinching when stakes get high. To pianos that go left where ‘Still DRE’ went right, Blank Face and Tools Beastly ride the streets on ‘Gunslinger’, advising against feeling lucky. Trademark street cinema from Endemic Emerald joins with French generals 87 Escadron for the war report ‘Mercenaires’, army fatigue gruffness driving through the eye of the storm with Ruste Juxx and Tragedy resuming support. Add Apollo Brown carefully stirring emotions with boom bap going deep in thought, to Locksmith laying bare introspection, ideas and education, and the answer of ‘No Question’ is empathetic and quietly emphatic.




Albums

This year, Ramson Badbonez is ‘Jason Bonez’. That’s not Jason of the Bourne Identity, nor the Argonaut organiser or even the one-time Scott Robinson, but the mask-wearing blood and guts specialist who as with everything he does, doesn’t take his foot off the gas from the first unsheathing. Here to carve open nine swashbuckling tracks, wringing the house of horror hitman spiel out hard, there’s a new patron saint for whenever the 13th Friday of the month rolls around.





The restless sound of Rye Shabby is to ‘Die Shabby’. Worldly pressures that build up around him are absorbed by the protection of a dark, eerie glow, lyrically economical with energy but never the truth. With Verb T writing out prescriptions that enhance the dilapidated, empty experience, sling it on during the dead of night and find it how it envelopes the room, bringing silhouettes to life and an unspoken feel for consolation.

We may be a bit late on this one, but with new special editions launched and then swiped off shelves, Crimeapple and Big Ghost are the crime family with ‘nuff shots to share. ‘Aguardiente’ is a 100% proof of ferocious rhymes and slick stories making you believe everything spoken about every goon, scam and threat (the hook to ‘Five Chechnyans’ will make you laugh when it probably shouldn’t), to the tune of soul-infused onlookers and accomplices that either look the other way or are in too deep. Music to stash goods and tint windows by.





Neat and tidy true school enthusiasts who have the golden age running through them like a stick of rock, New York’s Penpals crew keep the underground on the level when penning ‘To Whom It May Concern’. Their zeal for technical perfection/pseudo-nerdery means rocking the boat extends to shouting out John Cleese, but the likes of ‘On the Roof’ are just what your garden party and fly school reunion needs. A few listens in and thou shalt not return to sender.

Time for some hip-hop corporal punishment to keep the next generation in line: Bumpy Knuckles is the elected elder statesman who won’t bend to socially mediated conventions. ‘Pop Duke’ is produced by Nottz knocking heads together, and has Chuck D, Kool G Rap and Biz Markie showing there’s no substitute for experience and a carefully sharpened stick in the mud that creditably, doesn’t ramble on.

In it to win it. Fake it til you make it. ‘Thieving as Long as I’m Breathing’. The world according to blasé boosters and old skool aestheticians Career Crooks, savvy Philly pair Zilla Rocca and Small Professor emptying a swag bag of doting remixes plus their own version of how to hold the hip-hop underground to ransom like gentlemen bandits. Do not be scared to check or scared to look. ‘Paranoid City’ by Isaac Roberts, previously known as Sleaze da Don, and Sonnyjim, is another to get repackaged by respectful well-wishers. Remixing new life into the pair’s doyens at the top table diary, Illinformed, Kelakovski, Smugii, Kosyne and the headliners themselves put up a very fine set of variations still keeping it tight knit.





Tom Caruana unveils volume six of his always exceptional ‘Rough Versions’ remix series with a collection of super funky Biggie revisions that elevate classics to new levels, made like the Son of Sam man was the real brains behind Bad Boy all along. The equally notorious David Begun is also at it again with a slice and dice job of Mobb Deep and Dr Octagon. Even if you think the format is tired (and there’s not much wrong when linking core QBC epitaphs to the ghoulish underground), the artwork alone to ‘Dr OctoMobb’ deserves a bony-fingered round of applause.





Bored of the World Cup? To finish, here’s the one man army that is Aesop Rock.




Matt Oliver

HIP-HOP REVIEW: WORDS: MATT OLIVER




Singles/EPs

If you can look away from Kanye rediscovering his Twitter password, here’s the new Rapture & Verse to clog up your social media feeds with self-amusing jpegs, resent at royal wedding snubs, and wondering who’ll step up next after J Cole’s ‘KOD’ and Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’. The saga continues when Salar examines the ‘Demigod Complex’, whose who-wants-some rhymes come wrapped in dynasty strings measuring you for a horse’s head. S. Kalibre takes the weather personal on ‘Sun and Rain’, a quiet storm looking for a sliver of light in burdened times. Bluesy keys and dipping sunshine won’t hold back Fliptrix, asserting ‘It’s Like That’ with bladed precision synching syllables against the shimmer. “If the bars don’t get ‘em, then the flow will” – Legion of Goon lump you with extra credit, ‘AIOFO’ and ‘Flashing Lights’ keeping up their strain of witty unpredictable. ‘Lock Your Doors’ is a pretty flimsy means of resistance once Ramson Badbonez does his best Jack Torrance impression, and ‘Safe’ by Kalieon won’t provide shelter from a measured pounding of the streets battling uphill.

The sweg of sarky master Lee Scott continues unabated, ‘Oh, The Fun We’re All Having’ a seven tracker finding pleasing ways to rise up from his customary wit pricking dulled psychedelica. ‘When It Rains It Pours’, and when Lewis Parker reaches cucumber temperature, it’s normally a keys and breeze classic, smoothness to the Nth degree with Verbz on the mic a good fit for street forecasting. Three times for your mind, the P Brothers’ buccaneering ‘Mentaltainment’, with Daniel Son, Doo Wop, Your Old Droog and Milano picking up and brandishing the baton, does heavyweight jail breaking you’ll lose your shoes over. On 2018’s system update of ‘don’t touch that dial’, Homeboy Sandman and Edan attempt to break superhighway shackles and ‘#NeverUseTheInternetAgain’, a fun old skool caper with a hook from the rooftops capping exasperated moral guardianship/public health warning.








Interesting spoken word/rhyming at both ends of the candle from Lausse the Cat tells the tale of ‘The Girl, The Cat and The Tree’. A cosy jazz bedding of some splendour can show its claws, and the comfortably muted storytelling joins the dots between telltale realities of love and life, and what’s going on through the looking glass. The powerful, stark prose and spectacle in the spotlight of ‘Without Certainty’ has Ceiling Demons speaking up in a bid to bring a pertinent good cause to the fore: job done if it strikes a chord or doesn’t leave you sitting comfortably. “Emotional damage, you know I’m a vet” – at the junction of heartbreak ridge and breaking point, WLK’s ‘The Gry’ EP is a bid for survival knocking you sideways: industrially scalded, claustrophobic in surround sound, and lashing out when rationality evaporates. With a Guilty Simpson-esque roughness around the edges, MIKE’s ‘Black Soap’ EP is a steel wool wash of loops and freestyle static circling the drain, that gruff command structuring and keeping heads above water.




Albums

A whiny, shrill, eyeballs bulging flow researching Cage at the height of his neuroses with a dash of Chester P: that’s the mist of Eric the Red descending on ‘Caught Red Handed’. Eric’s mugshot is front and centre while Illinformed helps himself out back, in prime form with 14 shots to the dome and his own mutinous agenda. A swift in and out job, as much about partnering in crime as trying to stitch one another up, this is a thick cut of hella lairy British beef.





Spraying bars to bleach your grey cells and decreeing “I’d rather be real shallow than fake deep”, Lunar C has got the smarts to back the undoubted brat factor. ‘Dirtbrain’ rides mischief and sledgehammers found on grime stairwells (see the scales-breaking ‘Skwolla’), with WTF wordplay goading the rewind button. But canny operations that could well take him further, show his strength for the gift of gab beyond gobbing off. Ain’t no such things as halfway crooks, but there is The Mouse Outfit’s ‘Jagged Tooth Crook’, which is neo-soul, nailed. Manchester’s late night live band stick to the script and show the usual steady steps spiced by a rota of emcees and guests.

With assistance from Earl Sweatshirt and Knxwledge, Denmark Vessey’s ‘Sun Go Nova’ is a laborious half and half of rhymes most ears won’t be ready for, and a turnaround of instrumentals riffing off of needle fluff. “For lack of a better word, it’s alternative and leftfield” says the man himself, which is putting it mildly. An insurgent radio station needing the deftest of twiddles to lock onto, follows an audience address admirable for its single-mindedness, chipping away at your defences.

If the origins and whereabouts of Pan Amsterdam lead your search engine down a dead end, ‘The Pocket Watch’ shrugs ‘so what?’ if its skittish ghetto Jackanory leads you down a rabbit hole/Never-Netherlands. Easily distracted with thought pieces of no why and wherefore, the coolest town crier refuting time and space that you’d never imagine medicates to funk, jazz and electro paying low rent but giving glints of bygone razzle dazzle. Unfazed, unconstrained, and easily up for cult listen of the year.





Instrumental scaremongering from Dew8 offers a one-way ticket to a two-way street of the outer limits and no man’s land with lo-fi ghoulishness, ‘Pigeon Feed’ perfecting the classic of letting your ears fill in the gaps for what horrors will follow. Parallel altered state ambience and patent anxiety from Sam Zircon reserved ‘For Shipping and/or Storage’ is like trying to piece together the ghosts of dreams past, offering sub zero degrees of nostalgic comfort and a boom bap itch that you can never quite get to.

Solidify your summertime listening with Dumi RIGHT’s ‘Doing It The Right Way’, the Zimbabwe Legit emcee doing user-friendly consciousness with help from Mr Lif and Mike G of the Jungle Brothers; a good one to throw on once debate breaks out over beers and barbeque. Follow suit with Offwhyte’s ‘Both Sides of the Mississippi’, packing contemplative punch from that fairly gentle, ever fluent flow of his, where rhymes manifest over perfectly matched beats until he’s the last man standing. More fire from The Doppelgangaz tells you to open wide and say ‘Aaaaggghh’. Tinted a little darker than their rockingly good ‘Dopp Hopp’, still crossing from East to West but like they’ve dimmed the high beams on the low-rider (‘Slay Bells’ demands are you listening), all praise remains due to The Cloak from one of the baddest assed pairs out there.





The love of lexicon is still the apple of Paul Barman’s eye. More than meets the ear in his answer-for-everything, stimulator kook role, ‘Echo Chamber’ carries on closing the gap between potent politics, funky lounge lizard off-the-tops and bizarre hypotheses, burrowing its way through the toughest of leather bound volumes to have you picking the bones out for weeks on end. A supporting cast of ?uestlove, Mark Ronson, Open Mike Eagle, Prince Paul, DOOM and Masta Ace means it’s not far from frickin’ awesome. Blu and Shafiq Husayn’s flaky ‘The Blueprint’ has funk to be found, but sounds like it’s constantly going in and out of tunnels while it breaks down gang divisions and geography by the most basic means possible.

Some proper old skool, four-track business out of Cali produces a re-up of The Nonce’s ‘1990’, the Project Blowed affiliates finding their feet with De La Soul-style rhymes, pointers towards Peanut Butter Wolf & Charizma and The Pharcyde, and interplay and concepts (little metaphor needed for the napkin-tucking ‘Chocolate Cake’) getting the most out of raw materials. Royce da 5’9” continues to go from strength to strength when unlocking the ‘Book of Ryan’, piled high with battles and confessionals, life lessons and fears to open eyes and ears. Given the LP’s length, ‘I’m not getting better, I’m just getting started” will make you think twice if you thought you knew everything about the man already.





With so much drama in the CNT it’s kinda hard being the LDZ. Funky DL does GTA, and Sam Krats has got the cream.













MATT OLIVER’S ESSENTIAL MONTHLY HIP-HOP ROUNDUP





Singles/EPs

With Rapture & Verse writing letters to Santa asking for Record Store Day specials from Prodigy, Dilla, Three6Mafia, Latyrx and a not-safe-for-turntables Christmas ice breaker from Kool Keith, the long held preconception that bad boys move in silence proves to be nothing but fake news. To the tune of stink-eye jazz, a warning shot causing whiplash is Ocean Wisdom maintaining ‘Eye Contact’, flowing comfortably before reaching his trademark warp speed without loss of clarity. Fresh hell from Onoe Caponoe unsheathes a similar typhoon tongue, taking the form of ‘Pennywize’ to a trap hammer horror thrown under the bus with the kitchen sink. Res One’s clinical and dangerous ‘Preach Nothing’ ensures you’ll burn in hell, Vicious Creep producing a funeral hymn remembering a Wild West shoot out. Beads jangling, consider the bird well and truly flipped when Dabbla goes ‘Flying’ – only first class, of course. Even the proper Professor Elemental is sent into a tailspin when James Flamestar turns ‘Knock Knock’ into a sub-EDM battering ram.





Bring your bludgeoned ears to the house of Handbook, who’ll look after you (and many an emcee) with the soulfully strong instrumentals ‘Holding You’/’Nightlife’. MrE simmers down and lights up with ‘Fairy Tale’, a well executed storyteller twisting bedtime favourites and fables into a pointed Bronx lullaby. But if you’re sitting comfortably to Beatnick Dee & Allen Poe’s ‘Composure’ EP, the LA-Kentucky match-up will pull the seat from under you, soulful for body and brain, with a conscience prepared to do double shifts. Fearing the worst when a club track called ‘Opulence’ with a poolside sleeve is cued, K Gaines leads the flashy set a merry dance with funk and flow setting and nailing simple targets.

One of Sage Francis’ signature fact-finding devastations gets a re-up, ‘Hoofprints in the Sand’ remixed by SonOfKarl as homely calm tries to keep the wolves from the door. Coating bar after bar in blood, KXNG Crooked & Royce 5’9” dispense ‘Truth’, ruthlessly bursting the bubble of bleary trap whose race sounds run. One of DJ Premier’s back pocket boom bappers gets A$AP Ferg to reclaim ‘Our Streets’, a nice beats and rhymes combination operating at about 75% and still eliminating imitators and New York naysayers in their droves. Another DOOM special team – metal-faced sagging meeting the street-carbonated Westside Gunn – comes more underground than a mole’s metro system, on the picture disc payday ‘Gorilla Monsoon’/‘2 Stings’.






Albums

Cappo, Juga-Naut and Vandal Savage power up again as valued vehicle of vengeance VVV, using the pointed end of the dunce cap to gut opposition on ‘Bozo Boyz’. Wearing Nottingham swagbasco like its rockstar cologne, the trio take apart prowling club beats powered by the high beams of an 80s sportscar, a wink and a nod helping slice through lingering gunsmoke.





Reading last rites on ‘2000BD’, Babylon Dead are the governing body of Illinformed, in bedevilled form on the boards, and Jman, riding dirty with ragga rawness on the mic. An uncompromising last days scorch that can you make jump and shout as much as sending you cowering to the corner. The ever bloodshot Bisk and his supply of dropped out hip-hop continues unabated, the typically fitful ‘Fly Sh!t’ and his affiliation of anything but tranquil tranquilizers, Morriarchi, Lee Scott, Sam Zircon and Drae da Skimask, dealing in lo-fi at extreme pressure. Back for seconds, DJ Format and Abdominal adjust the napkin for ‘Still Hungry: The Remixes’, eight extra courses of funkiness that you don’t even have to tip the dynamic duo for.





We’ve all thought it – Armand van Helden and Jan Hammer would make a toothpaste-selling dream team. For now, it’s Armand Hammer leaving Chelsea smiles, New York duo Elucid and Billy Woods heading to ‘Rome’ as underground gladiators whose coat of arms reads “I’m the solution, I’m the condition, I’m a symptom”. Dense, sprawling heat, headed by Messiah Musik and August Fanon on some press-record-and-go business, ‘Rome’ becomes a coliseum-sized battle when reality and ill illusions converge.

The dapper delights of L’Orange’s ‘The Ordinary Man’, instrumental top hat and tails with the creases kept in, create an evocative performance capturing in black and white a concerto producer forming his own magic circle. Right hand men drop in on the mic – Blu, Elzhi, Del, Oddisee – to flank a fantastic sample archive wearing a slightly world-weary pose, from a producer whose trick-from-sleeve ratio remains visionary.





Bringing bangers from the Balkans to Boston, Mr Lif runs with Brass Menažeri for an album of oompah-pa power. ‘Resilient’ sees Lif’s customary nose for a cautionary tale and willingness to occupy outside space, woven to a backdrop of massive horns and cosmopolitan live musicianship let off the leash. Hearty but no novelty, the odd couple/fantasy lineup raises smiles and earns respect.

D4rksid3’s ‘The Dark Tape’ is an envoy of gloom, but slick with it, nestling in hip-hop’s recesses but keeping it moving and able to scoop victory from the jaws of defeat. What starts as groggy gangsterism sparks into life when Meyhem Lauren & DJ Muggs strike gold in uncovering ‘Gems from the Equinox’, a shady, honour-shattering set that with Roc Marciano Action Bronson, Conway, and Mr MFN eXquire in tow, gets into the groove of steam rollering suckers stoopid. Music to out-train Rocky to, Stoneface’s ‘The Stone Age’ runs strictly on rugged terrain on his way to affirmation, quiet storms dive-bombing off clifftops. Do not listen if you’re not up for the fight.



“Boom bap be the music of choice, baritone be the range of the voice”: on an album called ‘Back to the Basics (The Boom Bap)’, the demands of LS Camp are pretty plain. Defenders of the faith who sail smoothly through beats and rhymes, without viewing the world through rose (or golden) tinted glasses. Talking of smooth, Blu & Exile’s ‘In The Beginning: Before the Heavens’ is a prequel talking a lot of sense as it sits atop its predecessor like California cream on top of flavourful pie.

 

Mixtapes

Accomplished enough to be an album in its own right, Sampa the Great’s ‘Birds and The Bee9’ brings to mind the best of Bahamadia. As much as a relaxant as a pricker of ears, global vibes and soulful, gossamer licks consistently dropping shamanic B-girl jewels, confirm one-to-watch status. Chris Read reruns the fun of The Pharcyde’s ‘Bizarre Ride II…’ with a 25th anniversary mix giving you 48 minutes of all the band’s celebrated, accelerated funk and foibles, plus the finger food in between.



On this week’s Gogglebox: Chester P’s premonitions, Rye Shabby’s hometown tour, and Rapsody’s ascension.










Look out for Rapture & Verse’s picks of the year in Monolith Cocktail’s comprehensive 2017 round up, coming soon.


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