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.





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Hip-Hop Revue: Matt Oliver





Singles/EPs

A bouquet of beats, Cupid-sent cuts, and rhymes to make your headboard rock – it’s the post-Valentine’s instalment of Rapture & Verse for all you horndogs. Legendary London Posse rhymer Bionic returns as the GreenCryptoKnight, showing you never lose your superpowers as he tears into Jazz T and Zygote’s face slapping, emerald-vinyled ‘Superman’, before adjusting the slicked back specs and tie look on the sombre ‘It Set In Stone’. Circling the drain and enjoying the sensation of tenterhooks snagging the skin, Press1, Sylla B and Dr Syntax face up to the facts of ‘Smartphone Zombies’, far gloomier than the amusing title insinuates. Taking you to down to ‘Suicide City’, where the grass is decidedly not greener and you can decide for yourself about the girls, Onoe Capone turns on the rapid fire with nothing to lose as the “bad guy that’s misunderstood”.





Bonus heat from Nolan the Ninja on the quiet storm ‘IMG’ slickly goes from casual retrospective to show-n-prove tying you up in knots. On some grimy underdog biz, Lee Ricks grits his teeth fully aware that ‘Life’s a Bitch’, fired up by being fed up, peering over the edge to BigBob’s fatefully wistful nodder. Similar grit out of necessity is displayed by the granite-carved David May, right on time when grinding hard on ‘Black Box’ with Lake Indigo pairing Celtic wonder with bass pushing the reds. Yamin Semali passionately defining what it means to be ‘Immortal’ comes with strings leaping from the speakers and a banquet of soul food for thought. Nothing but honest energy on seven amped tracks from DJ Nu-Mark, Slimkid3 and Austin Antoine creates a ‘TRDMRK’. Beats and rhymes loosen the screws on your speakers and make the front row spring-loaded, with Guilty Simpson and Dillon Cooper coming through for the jump-ups.






Albums

Round four of the Czarface chronicles, this time with Ghostface Killah in the guest hot seat. There are times when an isolated Tony Starks feels like a fourth wheel/fifth Beatle – 7L & Esoteric 1, Wu-Tang Clan 0 – but compared to some of his more recent long players his appetite on ‘Czarface Meets Ghostface’ is well up. In amongst the usual play-your-position hurricane of uppercut-landing beats and career-ending 16s from the cipher to the comic book store, is confirmation of what an amazingly consistent emcee Esoteric is. Don’t expect Czarface to relinquish their infinite lives status any time soon.





The unquenchable thirst for blood that motivates Ramson Badbonez, makes ‘Mic Day the 13th’ a date to both revere and fear. RB’s considered decapitations, referencing all your favourite madmen, accomplish carnage with the level-headedness of a double agent whose shift changes under a full moon. While beats go bump in the night, a pokerfaced accomplice of the slasher going about his business, it’s a very British campaign of murder-murder-kill-kill.





You are about to witness the strength of street knowledge. The ‘G.A.W.D.’ complex of Joker Starr is his usual bustling style putting an F word to what you heard, hitting you with a bunch of robustly educational reducers set up by Micall Parknsun with a Blaxploitative nod on the boards. Jack Jetson and Illinformed are the ushers to ‘Strange Cinema’, tuneful head nodders galore until necks feel swollen, and an impactful flow with very little histrionics, even when “I lost my mind, now I found it, but it’s missing bits”: a watertight combination. The latest round of two minute warnings from Bisk, sticky, lo-fi claustrophobia from a peak NYC housing project, makes you squint through the abrupt ‘Gunsmoke’: an absolutely deadly spell of fully clipped relaxation.





Your neckline firmly in his sights, Pitch 92 runs a tight ship in representing ‘3rd Culture’ with a steady hand at the wheel. The Manchester producer must’ve sprinkled some sort of emcee catnip in the booth however, as he brings out some excellent performances from Jehst, Kashmere, Sparkz, Fliptrix, Foreign Beggars, the Four Owls and more. While there’s no doubting that the guests would have come through, you have to give credit to Pitch on the boards for giving them the right and clean balance of canvas to do so.





Seethingly succinct and planning your downfall at his most matey, Rick Fury isn’t quiet in giving his targets what for, signalling the ‘Death of Autumn’ from the North East. Expertly manoeuvring soulful strike-outs from DJ ADS, in tune with the changing colour of the leaves and cannily reworking a trance classic on the album’s finale, Fury intertwines the mutual exclusivity of a simmering glare and a playful bounce to his rhymes, suggesting that if you make yourself comfortable, don’t do overdo it. An emcee able to cancel all challengers.

Boom bap, original rap: Bronx Slang’s self-titled album systematically sorts the wheat from the chaff. On paper their method is foolproof: high protein funk prone to espionage (and from surprise sources), mic-crumbling rhymes, 11 tracks, tag team performance, concepts and comment, plentiful lines to rewind…if all of this sounds overly nostalgic at pains to keep it real, Jerry Beeks and Miggs are more sages than saviours, proving you don’t have to settle for what’s supposedly trending. Proper hip-hop citizenship.





How do you like your eggs in the morning? Jazzy, sunny side up and with plenty of snap? Remulak’s plate of ‘Scrambled Eggs’ gets a dusting down and offers an instrumental challenge to any plucky master of ceremonies, doing very nicely for itself when you’re taking a break from putting on the Ritz and wearing spats with a swoosh. Most dapper, and no faking either. A decade’s worth of Oliver Sudden in 46 minutes is a fine flick through the racks that sails down like the first pint of summer. The ‘10 Year Mixtape’, put together by Downstroke and featuring assists from Luca Brazi, Sam Zircon and Ill Move Sporadic, is guaranteed to remove all accumulated crud from your ears: pretty much unskippable.

 

Presenting old skool rules from Positive K and MC Lyte, and the greatness of the Train Robbers.








Words: Matt Oliver

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.









 

THE ESSENTIAL HIP-HOP REVIEW
WORDS: MATT OLIVER





Prodigy, Mobb Deep, 1974-2017




The clickbait-certified Rapture & Verse has been keeping its cool by ducking into reissues of old skool watersheds from Boogie Down Productions, Special Ed, Run DMC, Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Souls of Mischief, and noting Main Source are on their way to London for a 25th anniversary ‘Breakin Atoms’ tour. Everywhere else, the heat has been melting minds and addling brains, what with 90s legends found sporting socialite attire, the honourable Ugly God cornering a battle rap niche by slagging himself off, Chance the Rapper in a supposed trademark dispute with a pastry chain, and of course Jay-Z releasing a new album, belatedly working out what to do when life gives you lemons.

Singles/EPs

Confucius MC and Mr Brown are all about ‘The Artform’, a straight up seven track EP radiating heat from an undisclosed location. Rhymes retort with polar-level poise to beats turning the screw, and both send the temperature rising until it becomes an interrogation tactic. In ‘The Garden of Eden’, Benaddict stays true, a leisurely stroll allowing his thoughts to roam freely and find their target with finely detailed accuracy. ‘I Arrived Late’ announces Verb T, but you’ll forgive his tardiness when the chipper yet advisory rhymes and bubbly organ-pushed beats of Pitch 92 get you out your seat. Not quite a fascist regime and requiring little instruction, Too Many T’s’ ‘God Save the T’s’ bounces on through, mics attached to wrecking ball elastic.





To an itchy, tripped out beat from BBS, Lost Identity cuts through the haze on ‘Plaque’, spitting hard and unperturbed by the shadows inching up towards him. New York-Yorkshire monopoly Madison Washington show the power of non-conformity on the ‘Code Switchin’ EP, a half dozen shake up where Malik Ameer and thatmanmonkz keep their cool when mixing rolling funk and flows, and creating scenes with arch alchemy. Spectacular Diagnostics gets close to the edge, so don’t push him – ‘Rambo Bars’ a big boom bap deal thrashed out by Conway the Machine, Chris Crack and Nolan the Ninja. With Apollo Brown barely cueing a fusty, unsteady piano loop, Planet Asia and Willie the Kid reveal ‘Dalai Lama Slang’ to put the peace firmly in its place.





Four tracks from DJ Shadow, including his recent collaboration with Nas and a typically steamin’ performance from Danny Brown, bugged out electro boom bap and cinematic cyber engineering, make ‘The Mountain Has Fallen’ an EP with plenty of chameleon behaviour. Simultaneously spacious and claustrophobic, Grieves precedes a new LP by trying to hold back encroaching walls on the eerily gracious ‘RX’. Crowning the ‘Samurai Killa’, Big Bob reading up on how to create a dynasty involving nunchucks and ancient scriptures is enough for five hungry combatants to vie for the belt. John Reilly is a sure shot smoothly cocking back when ‘High Noon’ comes around: simple as.

 

Albums

Fresh from his fine Frankenstein project fusing Nas and Madlib, David Begun introduces Eminem and Pete Rock to his bootleg laboratory. Suffice to say it’s unsettling to hear the cartoon capers and savage psychosis of Slim Shady smoothed out by The Chocolate Boy Wonder, but that’s the essence of ‘Marshall and The Soul Brother’ for you. Fresh from redressing ‘The Symphony’, the posse cut’s posse cut now found wearing daisy chains, maverick soundsmith Will C sets out to ‘Bless the Beats & Children’ with his hip-hop hot take on The Carpenters. Tastefully calibrated instrumentalism is the pleasing result to get all cynics onside.





For the hardcore head nod faction, Tone Chop and Frost Gamble make a good case for the fact ‘Respect is Earned Not Given’. New York honour is defended through raspy chew ups and spit outs, unequivocal titles such as ‘Get Beat Down’, ‘Walk the Walk’ and Guillotine Chop’, and producer process that cools down and wades in once his vocalist finds his lane. Chop and Gamble land their punches as a safe bet. Though a different beast from his old man, the one and only Big Punisher, the ‘Delorean’-riding Chris Rivers is super lyrical, coming on hardcore while still leaving plenty of room for the clubs and the ladies. Although prey to the age old quandary of attempting to nail every modern hip-hop convention, Rivers’ photo is never found fading, a good quality, next generation endorsement of capital punishment.

A drop of ‘Dopp Hopp’ a day will keep the haters away, The Doppelgangaz keeping you on your toes despite placing their worth on the cusp of a spiralized trip. The lyrical NY jabs and way of thinking from beneath superhero/clergy robes will have this creep up on the button marked ‘repeat’ until it progresses to heavy rotation. By design or otherwise, everything feels summery, completed by the G-funk themes of ‘Roll Flee’ and ‘Beak Wet’.





A free download for a limited time celebrating 30 years of shutting ‘em down, Public Enemy’s ‘Nothing is Quick in the Desert’ keeps fire in its belly, can still shred an axe and dismissively fires off messages that still can’t be argued with (particularly with social media giving them a whole new profile to blast at). Street struck off some back alley black magic are LMNO and Twiz the Beatpro. Either riding the bull into the red rag as ‘Cohorts’ or found twitching under the influence of the illusionary, there’s an unseen pull making it an album that offers more than just tough-tipped, rough lipped beats and rhymes.





More smooth criminal masterminding from that man Giallo Point, this time with the sure and spiky Smoovth leading operations, makes ‘Medellin’ a mob merry-go-round reaching out to a varied cast (Sonny Jim, Vinnie Paz but two on call) of cold hearts applying heat. Actually quite a relaxed listen, transporting you to a world of mythological opulence while secretly measuring you for concrete shoes. Vince Staples’ negotiation of fresh house, garage and twists on trap veers between foot down force and playing suitably vacant for the club’s benefit. With the miscellany of ‘Big Fish Theory’, come for the rebel, stay for the rhythms.

 

Mixtapes

A daunting reconstruction of peace out of crumpled MPCs and repurposed trap, Clams Casino’s ‘4’ gets industrially scalded hip-hop beats to smash into post-dubstep introspection, stirring a beast raging inside abstract beauty, and making you nod into a complex but satisfying headspace. Though it’s long understood there are six million ways to die, Royce da 5’9” has got the next six million trademarked with the incredible show & prove of ‘The Bar Exam 4’, destroying vernacular establishment for 28 tracks and 90 minutes at a frankly preposterous level of breaking mics down to their very last compound.





Come and watch Datkid turn the world inside out, a face-off between Tyler and A$AP Rocky, and The Mouse Outfit’s latest uprising.











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