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.









 

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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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