ALBUM REVIEW/MATT OLIVER

Guillotine Crowns ‘Hills to Die On’
(Uncommon Records)

Do not read between the lines: these crowns haven’t been made to sit comfortably atop underground sovereigns. Hills To Die On is an uprising as well as an upholding of 80s-made disaster, predicting a New York-Chicago futurism that’s actually right under your fingernails, dirt and all. In orators Uncommon Nasa, whose clipped bravado, capable of coiling ad infinitum until he’s constricting your windpipe, and Short Fuze, no less strident but a case of always having to watch the quieter ones in times of distraction, Guillotine Crowns fuck up the b-boy stance and the front rows they’re liable to jump into. Dystopia may be the easy catch-all term to apply to this album of margin-ignoring hip-hop, and these are no gilded garlands on display; but when added to its deeply rooted survivalist spirit, just being without ever seeking hero status, Hills To Die On becomes music to spray skyscrapers by.

As with the Monolith Cocktail-approved, 2019 Uncommon Nasa project City As School with Kount Fif, indie/leftfield hip-hop titans Company Flow and Cannibal Ox, both of whom are referenced in rhyme, are where yardstick parallels are drawn and which give the album a weird throwback status caught in forward thinking-retro fantasy-modern living crossfire. Throw this back to times of Anticon/Def Jux etc (in which Nasa earned his stripes) and you’re hopeful for the scene all over again, thrilled by the likes of ‘Horseman Armour’ and ‘Scope of the Guillotine’ spewing out abstract angles hiding as straight lines and taking no shortcuts in unseating speakers.  

The duo recognise the need to mobilise, but also the parameters of the friends/enemies axis. Whereas the resistance of ‘They Can’t Kill Us All’ is comparable to an all-for-one zombie outbreak, ‘The Product’ has Guillotine Crowns accepting the Sword of Damocles as both potential sealer of fate and a means of going for self amongst online/media minefields. Dense, dry and pretty unforgiving without being indecipherable, GC embark on “around-the-clock stakeouts to reset history” with enough ear catching references – Pelle Pelle sweatshirts, shouts to EPMD, Wu-Tang, DOOM and “Flava Flav with the 12Gauge” – to ease furrowed brows. The pertinence of their streams of consciousness will eventually emerge like a word balloon, forced into your eyeballs as a revision of the Clockwork Orange syllabus.

“My life is fast forward, while yours is a series of pauses” says the crushing headswim of ‘Rebel Crowns’, proposing the question of “do you want to be right, or do you want to be correct?” that through the wrong mic would just be look at me-level pretentious. And like any hip-hop act, underground or mainstream, the pair know the worth of a good hook that punters can take as gospel or make a tattoo of, acknowledging rap’s saviour-like status on the come up and pledging allegiance to the grind. The two leaders are joined on the mic by a bunch of street corner-dwelling savages slash town criers – Jyroscope, Duke01, Gajah, Tracy Jones, Skech185 a sometimes improbable cross-section of survivors and reinforcements to reroute the tide.

The sound of everyday anarchy is dominated by drum machines bullying backdrops like they’re about to cause the 80s music scene to splinter. Guitar chords are crowbarred if not sawn off, and holographic, peace-seeking synths become something more gothic and sinister, analogous to arcade machines becoming sentient. The programming of effects and percussion make tracks itch, irritating your inner ear. ‘Art Dealers’ sounds like ‘Brooklyn Zoo’ in a backpack. The scarily beautiful ‘Generosity’, with its damning hook sample, sounds jettisoned in space, while providing rhymes for the ages that measure the distance of returning to reality.

The dissonant ‘Bare Hands’ projects a robot uprising with the metropolis as its playground, whose hook of “I will destroy you with my bare hands…my power is limitless, you can’t come close to stopping me” both boosts and belies its Gotham-like setting, with ‘Hills’ providing a triumphant, comic book-coloured sci-fi fanfare and a chorus to leap headlong into for anyone needing a new manifesto. Rarely does the Hills… have time to check its pulse across 46 minutes; ‘Tape Deck’ tries to act dreamy, but can’t get no sleep. The industrial grind of ‘City Breathing’ is made for tank-as-low rider, and ‘Killer’, with Short Fuze calculating villainously, reaches the apex of the album’s claustrophobia living in a police state.

Hills To Die On is classic anti-socialism in the shock-of-the-new, ghettoblaster on full blast sense, though suffering the establishment, rather than just being anti-establishment, seems to be the Guillotine mindstate. All hail the Crown rulers setting standards from home to the Terrordome.

PLAYLIST SPECIAL

An encapsulation of the last month, the Monolith Cocktail team (Dominic Valvona, Matt Oliver, Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea and Graham Domain) chose some of the choicest and favourite tracks from February. It may have been the shortest of months, yet we’ve probably put together our largest playlist in ages: all good signs that despite everything, from Covid to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, artists, bands everywhere are continuing to create.

65 tracks, over 4 hours of music, February’s edition can be found below:

That exhaustive track list in full:::

Animal Collective ‘Walker’
Modern Nature ‘Performance’
Gabrielle Ornate ‘Spirit Of The Times’
The Conspiracy ‘Red Bird’
Cubbiebear/Seez Mics ‘All Friended Up’
Dubbledge/Chemo ‘Itchy Itchy’
Dirty Dike ‘Bucket Kicker’
Future Kult ‘Beasts With No Name’
Lunch Money Life ‘Jimmy J Sunset’
Ben Corrigan/Hannah Peel ‘Unbox’
Uncommon Nasa ‘Epiphany’
War Women Of Kosovo ‘War Is Very Hard’
Ben Corrigan/Douglas Dare ‘Ministry 101’
Sven Helbig ‘Repetition (Ft. Surachai)’
Ayver ‘Reconciliacion Con La Vida’
Lucidvox ‘Swarm’
Provincials ‘Planetary Stand-Off’
Wovenhand ‘Acacia’
Aesop Rock ‘Kodokushi (Blockhead Remix)’
Junglepussy ‘Critiqua’
Tanya Morgan/Brickbeats ‘No Tricks (Chris Crack) Remix’
Buckwild ‘Savage Mons (Ft. Daniel Son, Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon & Eto) Remix’
Che Noir ‘Praises’
Koma Saxo w/Sofia Jernberg ‘Croydon Koma’
Medicine Singers/Yontan Gat/Jamie Branch ‘Sanctuary’
Black Josh/Milkavelli/Lee Scott ‘Die To This’
Funky DL ‘I Can Never Tell (Ft. Stee Moglie)’
Mopes ‘Home Is Like A Tough Leather Jacket’
ANY Given TWOSDAY ‘Hot Sauce (Ft. Sum)’
Split Prophets/Res One/Bil Next/Upfront Mc/0079 ‘Bet Fred’
Nelson Dialect/Mr. Slipz/Vitamin G/Verbz ‘Oxford Scholars’
Immi Larusso/Morriarchi ‘Inland’
Homeboy Sandman ‘Keep That Same Energy’
Wax Tailor/Mick Jenkins ‘No More Magical’
Ilmiliekki Quartet ‘Sgr A*’
Your Old Droog/The God Fahim ‘War Of Millionz’
Ramson Badbonez/Jehst ‘Alpha’
Ghosts Of Torrez ‘The Wailing’
Pom Poko ‘Time’
Daisy Glaze ‘Statues Of Villians’
Orange Crate Art ‘Wendy Underway’
Seigo Aoyama ‘Overture/Loop’
Duncan Park ‘Rivers Are A Place Of Power’
Drug Couple ‘Linda’s Tripp’
Ebi Soda/Yazz Ahmed ‘Chandler’
Brian Bordello ‘Yes, I Am The New Nick Drake’
Psychedelic Porn Crumpets ‘Bubblegum Infinity’
Steve Gunn ‘Protection (Ft. Mdou Moctar)’
Jane Inc. ‘Contortionists’
Black Flower ‘Morning in The Jungle (Ft. Meskerem Mees)’
Jo Schornikow ‘Visions’
The Goa Express ‘Everybody In The UK’
Pintandwefall ‘Aihai’
Thomas Dollbaum ‘God’s Country’
Crystal Eyes ‘Don’t Turn Around’
Glue ‘Red Pants’
Super Hit ‘New Day’
Legless Trials ‘Junior Sales Club Of America’
Monoscopes ‘The Edge Of The Day’
Alabaster DePlume ‘Don’t Forget You’re Precious’
Orlando Weeks ‘High Kicking’
Carl Schilde ‘The Master Tape’
Bank Myna ‘Los Ojos de un Cielo sin Luz’
Park Jiha ‘Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans’
Simon McCorry ‘Interstices’



Playlist: Selected by Dominic Valvona/ Matt Oliver





Priding ourselves on the diverse, pan-global playlists we collate for your aural pleasure and indulgence, the Monolith Cocktail Quarterly Revue series is the eclectic behemoth of them all. With no demarcation of any kind or rules we mix the harrowing and gothic with beckoning polyrhythmic dancefloor screamers, flights of panoramic fantasy with raging protestations, and the most sublime peregrinations with experimental cries from the wilderness.

Everything you find on this playlist has either featured on the site over the last three months or been in our general orbit (the sheer volume of music we get sent means there is inevitably issues of space and time, and so some great tracks just don’t make it; this is our chance to feature those lost tracks).

We’ve also included the previous three playlists. And only leaves me to say on behalf of the Monolith Cocktail, thank you for supporting us during 2018.


Tracks:

Deerhunter  ‘Death in Midsummer’
Psychedelic Porn Crumpets  ‘My Friend’s A Liquid’
Brace! Brace!  ‘Whales’
Slift  ‘Fearless Eye’
Stika Sun  ‘Psychedelic Three’
Jimi Tenor  ‘Walzeth’
Fofoulah ‘Kaddy’
Paula Rae Gibson & Kit Downes  ‘If You Ask Me’
The Alchemist  ‘Mac 10 Wounds (Instrumental)’
François de Roubaix  ‘Amour Sur Les Rails’
Homeboy Sandman & Edan  ‘The Gut’
Thom Yorke  ‘Suspirium’
Open Mike Eagle  ‘Single Ghosts’
Westside Gunn & Benny  ‘B.I.G Luther Freestyle’
Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz  ‘That Place’
Lyrics Born & Aloe Blacc  ‘Can’t Lose My Joy’
Chuck D  ‘freedBLACK’
Beans with ZVK & Dan Wenniger  ‘The Ugly, The Ugly, And The Ugly’
Unloved  ‘Love’
Marianne Faithfull  ‘They Come At Night’
Ex:Re  ‘I Can’t Keep You’
Masta Ace & Marco Polo ft. Pearl Gates  ‘Still Love Her’
Damu The Fudgemunk  ‘Fire’
MysDiggi  ‘Evil Within’
Bixiga 70  ‘Primeiramente’
The Scorpios  ‘Mashena’
Moulay Ahmed El Hassani  ‘Lklam Lakhar’
The Rebels Of Tijuana  ‘Erotique’
Cappo & Cyrus Malachi  ‘Aqua Lungi’
Annexe The Moon  ‘Full Stop’
Paul Jacobs  ‘Easy (Warm Weather)’
Gloria  ‘Heavy’
Deanna Petcoff  ‘Stress’
David Cronenberg’s Wife  ‘Rules’
Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam  ‘Running From My Ghost’
Insolito UniVerso  ‘Vuelve’
François de Roubaix  ‘Daughters Of Darkness Opening’
Vukovar & Michael Cashmore  ‘Little Gods’
Cousin Silas & The Glove Of Bones  ‘Saturn Incoming Dub’
Qluster  ‘Lindow’
Refree  ‘Tirania’
Society Of The Silver Cross  ‘When You’re Gone’
Steve Gunn  ‘New Moon’
Ben Osborn  ‘Fast Awake’
Panda Bear  ‘Dolphin’
Delicate Steve  ‘O Little Town Of Bethlehem’



Part Three




Part Two




Part One



Hip-Hop Roundup/Matt Oliver





Singles

A miniature singles round-up this month – blame it on the boogie – but a good pair of twofers all the same to kick off the latest referendum-ready Rapture & Verse. Ken Masters articulating like the clappers over a glitzy gala of a bossa nova loop is a very good thing indeed: hear now the sweet sound of ‘Fresh Air’. As part of the Badroaches team with Torb the Roach, he also sets sail on a mystic river as an ambassador of ‘Cosmic Viking Wizard Funk’, capable of administering bad juju. Open Mike Eagle continues to go from strength to strength, ‘What Happens When I Try to Relax’ a half dozen cracking open of his brick bodied skull that blasts arena-sized synths and shrunken beats equally projecting unique visions made gospel truth. Entertaining wordplay that’s as much about satisfying his own high standards in syllable practice. He then teams with Pan Amsterdam on the calmingly engrossing ‘No Snare’, a sharing and airing of respective kooks over a jazzy groove to be welcomed like a summer flashback.

 

Albums

Beneath the floorboards of ‘Mansion 38’, Jam Baxter orchestrates ‘Touching Scenes’, lo-fi gloom and scarred wit capable of exploding off the page. Appearances from Rag n Bone Man and Kate Tempest show the strength of Baxter’s blurred mind racing into HD – still no slouch when everything says otherwise – as he and Chemo on production ooze into every nook and cranny, handing you a surgeon’s blade to dissect the depth of their dark circles. A tightrope walk slumping against a pressure cooker.





Back in no time at all, Lee Scott continues to skewer the world, this time bringing the lung butter to the soiled surveillance camera sounds of Reklews as Hock Tu Down. Both exhibit punch-drunkardness on ‘Hock Tu 3’, like looking at the world through a spoon, yet are unputdownable: mind control by and for misfits and malevolent spirits – after all, “reality is what you make it, even if there’s no-one to corroborate it”. No need to read between the lines when CNT come to town, the Code Name Theory of Manage and Blitz insisting you cup an ear on ‘Sounds About Right!’ Beats and rhymes are soaked in honest Brit bitterness, mind’s eye doing double shifts on the beguiling ‘Need Guidance’, and the care with which they take their craft means their messages always carry in the right way.

‘The Post Apocalyptic Story Teller’ is a role where Chester P earns his golden handcuffs, casting end day tales and folk-angled parables fit for today’s diminishing civilisation. Long a master of vividly narrating from the no man’s land beyond the street corner, the mediaeval and the evil that men do will have you huddling round, but in full blast of a frosty Task Force reception. No slip-ups on D Tail’s ‘Happy Accident’, slick and swift grime-trained rhymes taking to hip-hop funk with impudence and asking some searching questions along the way. Toss a mic in his direction and he’ll always be ready to respond en masse: a final posse cut involving Ras Kass and Leaf Dog shows he’s got the goods. A compact cross section of instrumental despair and beats seeking emcees to bruise knuckles with, Nick Roberts dips into ‘False Consciousness’, with Dizzy Dustin, Pudgee tha Phat Bastard, Ash the Author and Cyrus Malachi taking advantage of when the producer isn’t longingly working the MPC with a wistful glint. No false moves made by anyone here.

Rugged but always smooth, Apollo Brown painting pictures with Joell Ortiz on ‘Mona Lisa’ is a great, late end of year candidate that’s reflective with a forked tongue and makes the stoop sofa-soft. Able to turn nasty on a sixpence (‘Cocaine Fingertips’ is as sharp as a Kruger manicure), there’s a lot of comfort to be taken from the union of two opposing authority figures exercising supreme quality control, transfixing you like you’re intimately eyeballing the pair’s much ogled muse.





Many parallels can be drawn from Masta Ace and Marco Polo’s ‘A Breukelen Story’, which save for tired skits piping up, is a similar exertion of concentrated strength. An immovable flow that has never let the former down, inimitably representin’, knowing the ‘ledge or reeling off what might have been, takes over production capitalising on a previous hook-up and taking in plenty of fresh, buzzing for autumn air, content on letting the words take the spotlight (even if Pharoahe Monch threatens to upstage everyone on final track ‘The Fight Song’).





The moreish ‘Pieces of a Man’ is Mick Jenkins knowing how to work a crowd. Powered by the woozy, a retreat nudging over into the club with keys constantly paddling, just when you think he’s coasting with the heat off, the Chicagoan plucks it out of the fire with a turn of phrase, concept, or one-liner more damaging than the casual ear can locate. “I be on my show and prove, not my show and tell” – persevere with it and the layers will reveal themselves. A mix of reluctant popstar, drifter hip-hop and traditional Midwest spin, deM atlaS tells the crowd to get lighters up in anticipation of jumping into them. Produced by Ant of Atmosphere, ‘Bad Actress’ is all showman, taming himself after exuberant opening exchanges. The wearing of multiple hats won’t be for everyone: the vulnerability, rap/rockstar/R&B whims, heart-to-hearts, including a remake of Mobb Deep’s ‘Where Your Heart At’, and development of a spectacle, could unlock a lot of new ears.

This month’s Ronseal album: ‘Grimey Life’ by Big Twins, a 15 track upkeep of realness delivered in shredded ghetto baritone. All the street consumption you could possibly ask for, flooded with blood, sweat and tears. Meanwhile in mid-apocalypse Ontario, Lee Reed’s ‘Before & Aftermath’ announces itself as a timebomb, an anti-establishment front row provocateur refusing to accept easy answers. Drums and funk kick down doors like the crooked figures in Reed’s crosshairs, with a twang dragging Your Old Droog and Vast Aire into the fire. Cherried by the all inclusive ‘Fuck Em’, you can’t spell renegade without the name Reed: burn speakers burn.





‘The Beat Tape Co-Op’ 10th anniversary compilation from 77 Rise rounds up 30 instrumental cameos and bite-sized boom bap bops, laced with soul slipping down the hourglass. The likes of Kuartz, Dr Drumah, Ben Boogz, Klim Beats and Profound79 put in the neck work and make their presence felt on a selection where it’s okay to touch that dial. ‘Dressed for CCTV’ by Aver avoids being a Hard-Fi tribute and gets knee-deep in instrumental murk glistening with a sharp film, dredging for drums and coming up with intriguing droplets of gold to create an atmosphere where emcees fear to tread, save for Cappo manning up on ‘Something from Nothing’. A classy retread of trip hop’s noir-ish particulars.





The spectre of the late Alias looms large on ‘Less is Orchestra’, enabling the supervillain flow of Doseone’s effusive battery acid gargles – scarier when he reaches dog whistle levels – with a cavernous, chrome-finished bunker of wires, pulses and logical mechanoid scurries. A game of good cap bad cop launching the Anticon equivalent of the bat signal.





Taking the street into the club and vice versa, Swizz Beatz’ strong ‘Poison’ brings the fuel, Lil Wayne, Giggs, Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz and Young Thug add the fire. It was never gonna be an album of modest contemplation (though quieter storms reserved for Nas and Pusha T don’t disrupt the sequence), but it’s still a pretty good, well condensed elbow sharpener with everyone on their game.

 

Look out for the Monolith Cocktail end of year album roundup coming soon, chock full of Rapture & Verse’s favourites from over the last 12 months.

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.









 

The essential Hip-Hop Review/Words: Matt Oliver





With the eight LP Eric B and Rakim vinyl reissue under our arm and tickets for both the B-Boy Championships (October, Kentish Town) and DMC World DJ Championship Finals (October, Camden, with the reigning champion being a stupefying 12 years old) in the back pocket, Rapture & Verse has a spring in its step and something special for sunburnt ears. South London producer Charles Edison, whose ‘My Name Is’, ‘Bitstorm’ and ‘Waking Up’ EP have done the business in this column down the years, lets us in on a sneak preview EP of five instrumentals from his forthcoming upcoming full length. Seamless with the sampler and as inventive as his surname demands, this exclusive preview of ‘Beats from the Seventh Floor’ reads between the lines of relaxation and tension, delivering head nodding from on high.




Singles/EPs

We love nothing more than the smell of ‘Sulphur’ in the morning. Britcore pioneers Gunshot return to set the record straight with a dramatic re-entry seizing a widescreen tracking shot and provocatively resonant lyricism. ‘2 Feel So Good’ by Tha 4orce and Poynt Blak is to acknowledge a morose head nodder looking for the change in seasons, before coming one time ‘4 The Mind & Soul’ with something to roll out red carpet lino for.





A reissue of classic Def Jux between Mr Lif and El-P brings back robotics from the lab and for the tracksuit at 45RPM, announcing the ‘Return of the B-Boy’. On his own version of Beast Mode, Mick Jenkins goes ‘Bruce Banner’ on an absolutely stone cold four minutes, taking his time before clicking into gear over a nervous lullaby. How about some hardcore? DJ Premier slamming pianos is a red rag to the bull that is Casanova, ‘Wut U Said?’ a certified dome cracker coating speakers in saliva and the kickback of a ton of guns. The ivories are quieter on Reks’ ‘Planz’, but the tirade is just as fierce, launching into ‘Bread and Roses’ with Shortfyuz with a sustained appetite for destruction.

Making headway through woozy neo-soul and underground cool, Blu, MED and Lojii supply quick on the draw rhymes for the star-dusted Oscillations project, seven tracks split between producers Dizz1, Swarvy and Teebs. Following the ‘Signs’ marked ‘snug coffee shop corner in Autumn’, Ace Clark breaks bread with Talib Kweli and Joell Oritz over some of the mellowest jazz on the menu. You probably couldn’t ask for a more Atmosphere track than ‘Make It All Better Again’, their requisite, relatable, days of our lives bitter sweetness getting lighters up and devotees swaying across the land. If you’ve ever wondered what the greatest hits of Slick Rick and Audio Two would sound like in an episode of Peanuts, wonder no more – Will C’s ‘Don’t Break Down’ re-houses a couple of old skool classics with folk-B-Boy whimsy.






Albums

Filled with gastro quotable, Scran Cartel nominate themselves as ‘Blue Plaque Candidates’. Master chefs MNSR Frites and Benny Diction stack up and snack on salivary stimulation, joined at the table by Oliver Sudden, Chemo, Morriarchi, Downstroke and more. Primarily smooth with a piquant palette rising from under the tongue, it’s a great, belt-loosening spread grilling you with much more than just a bunch of culinary one-liners.





Behind ‘The Purple Door’ you’ll find boss hogs Juga-Naut and Sonnyjim, spreading their rule over the Midlands and beyond with celebratory funk and status elevation prepared to take it outside when desired. Their usual, indomitable personas on the mic never skimp on Michelin-starred quality – a buffet of rhymes to return to, if you will – and they still aren’t the ones to test if you think they’re pushing their luck.





If you need sharp, accurate, dark and clean UK hip-hop, give the secret knock and ask for ‘617 Black Label’, where you’ll be met by Heavy Links’ Habitat. Moving like a safecracker slipping detection, Kuartz, Evil Ed, El Tel, DJ Obsolete and Cappo all keep a watch out for a rhymer whose strength is all in the stealth, smooth enough to make sure bad boys stay silent. ‘Crowns and Camo’ is the coat of arms for UK grafter Reds, an unapologetic spitter with an East Anglian ear for rocking clubs to their core. The album doesn’t get more complicated than that, posing crossover questions without dilution or losing any firepower, and riding basslines to turn spines to jelly. For as long as the sun stays out, this one will pose a threat. Man-machine rhymes and boom bap vectors mean a straight ahead onset of the Plague. ‘Where’s the World Gone?’ is the question of Xeno and Secondson, rising phoenix-like to dominate the skyline with a dominant distaste. Powerful stuff.

Napoleon da Legend and Giallo Point cause a ‘Coup D’Etat’, casual gangsterisms unflinching when reporting the unspeakable and the opulent, and the latter’s signature of taking soap opera themes down dark alleys until they’re shook for the rest of their days. ‘Societal Pressure’ starring Micall Parknsun, is the album’s significant turn for the worse. We still need a ‘Resolution’, so Paten Locke engineers a seven-track remix of 2017’s Perceptionists reunion, with an added bonus original. Putting Akrobatik and Mr Lif in the fresh new light of ‘Low Resolution’ sometimes sounds unerringly familiar – there’s a feeling the three have been discussing what’s left on Def Jux’s post-millennium to-do list. Additional subtle switch-ups create a high quality cross referencing.





For those that like their hip-hop on the verge of sleepwalking, Kev Brown offers you his ‘Homework’, the low-key exertions of a distracted doodler. Smoke filled listening booths are the target for retrained funk, sometimes done brusquely, other times with kid gloves, to the tutelage of a scholarly-sleepy voice “looking at the credits: if it says Kev Brown – get it”. The restless soul of Jeremiah Jae under his Daffi guise – fractured, hazy, clammy, intense, and unaffected – sharpens razors as night time therapy. A mind illuminated at the same it can shift backwards, processes and destabilises folk, funk, beats and pieces to a happy medium where he’d “rather be underrated than over-hyped”. Both are given a rude awakening by Q-Unique’s lesson in roach-stomping street cinema: ‘The Mechanic’ is all dramatic strings, drums of death and Arsonist threats never to be taken lightly.




Essential Hip-Hop Revue: Words: Matt Oliver





Singles/EPs

The bunting’s down, the facepaint has been ruined by teardrops, the class of 2018 failed to graduate…but worry not, Rapture & Verse is here to wipe the World Cup slate clean. Starting with some jazz to get horizontal to from Talos, with Coops stopping by and making the ‘Lowlight’ EP one to reach for when your soul needs a spritz of aftersun. Cross the Final Boss and expect to get your crash helmet cracked through the seat of your pants on the intriguing ‘Renegade’, a juddering slalom mixing joypad sci-fi and rock ready to brawl, piloted by a maverick on the verge of dangerous. ‘Est 92’ has Farma and Remus putting in a diverse five-track shift and pushing chips off the old block the size of boulders that shatter the mirror dividing fantasy and reality.





Doing what he does best with all of his strong arm steadiness, Rasco’s ‘Where the Heart’s At’ stomps down, a rugged size 9 carrying a little club favour to it thanks to Tom Caruana. Unashamedly summary, The Aztext will have you a blast once ‘Everyday Sun’ hits your speakers; the honeyed hook, the pianos and horns, and rhymes rolling up their sleeves, get parasols popping. Get yourself to the low-rider showroom as well and demand a Sean Elliot paint job while you’re at it, ‘Big Boy’ a funky-assed baller blasted with Southern rays and Big Sant on the passenger side. Madison Washington continue their hot streak with the laidback ‘No Cliché’, an after-party groove with the right amount of nous behind it.




Albums

Take a look ‘Under the Patio’ and you’ll find the excellent return of The Last Skeptik, stumping up a string of vibing, dusky beats that never fade to black, understated in their genre reach. Star turns around the honeypot from Bonkaz, Mikill Pane, Cosmo, Kojey Radical and plenty more feed off the unseen electricity that eventually overloads into a sneering punk climax. An album simmering down the summer’s sticky restlessness, but Skeptik’s lot ain’t soft by a long stretch.

Micall Parknsun and Mr Thing are unequivocal on ‘Finish What We Started’, mainstays trusted with hip-hop restoration and consumed by the decency of “this is real, this is raw, this ain’t pop shit”. Park-E’s unmistakable stony flow draining stamina from challengers, and Thing adjusting the degrees of boom bap drama – including scheming countdowns and old skool windmills landing like a haymaker – have all the answers for those exaggerating hip-hop’s downfall.





‘Sugar Like Salt’ is the taste of Louis VI. A cunning operator sounding a little like Loyle Carner, the Londoner flavours the album just as the title says by working jazz angles and stories from midnight into the sunshine, and smarts from both sides of the equation. Hazy, but a firer on all cylinders. A third round of ‘Blackcurrent Jazz’ has Funky DL reaching his usual pro-jazz professionalism. Smoothness shaking out all the strains of the day comes with some refreshing twists on love and life, and even when the album’s at its most down in the mouth, the funky def lyrics can raise spirits and get a toe tapped.





Roll up roll up, Vanderslice is offering you the chance to grab ‘The Best Album Money Can Buy’. Ghostface, Freddie Gibbs, Prodigy, Slug and Evidence on guest duties up the exchange rate of the producer’s skinny set, a mob playground slash foreign film dub with Vic Spencer’s ‘Bone Museum’ the heaviest on the door, and rubbed up the wrong way by J-Zone crashing a ‘Chevrolet’.

You only have to skim through past R&V columns to see old skool institutions coming a cropper in the modern game. AG isn’t one to stumble, ensuring ‘The Taste of AMbrosia’ doesn’t lose any of that DITC flavour. “For mature rap devotees who’ve grown tired of contemporary rhymesayer laziness”, sounds like corporate blurb: “the flow is so simple but the words are so heavy” is AG chasing artificial additives out of town.

After last month’s explosion of seven track elitism, we should probably give a mention to Drake’s ‘Scorpion’. The good quality moments and educated/cryptic referencing are overcome by the usual sing-song peacocking (you don’t judge a battle by Drake out-singing Pusha T), and a tracklisting that’s in itself seems like a direct response to his competitors’ funsize selections. That hasn’t stopped it selling/streaming by the squillion, so what do we know.

Don’t expect ‘Therapeutic’ by A Minus and Chanes to take you somewhere New Age. Do expect plenty of that ol’ Detroit drowse button to blow you on course, smog soul and rhymes keeping upright but never uptight and with some good plots to pore over. One to spend time on the couch with. An even bigger smoke break with levels submerged until eyes turn red, MIKE’s ‘Renaissance Man’, with a Guilty Simpson-esque swagger, teeters through heavy cloud cover, an unfazed baritone dragging the lapse-hop project up by its bootlaces. Roughness around the edges that can still strike a chord with the keep it realists. No nonsense, WYSIWYG, Ronseal hip-hop from Scoob Rock – ‘Be You’ is his uncomplicated proclamation, and he follows his own advice with a weathered, hoarse flow dipping into a patois that maintains a snake-like squeeze on the beats. Will stare you down, administer a one punch TKO before continuing about his day.

L’Orange continues his long and successful run of collaborative albums with ‘Marlowe’, in partnership with fellow North Carolinan Solemn Brigham. As usual the producer’s beats are full of character, detailing colourful scenarios, surprise witnesses and funkiness found in every archive discovery. Brigham clamps the mic from the get-go and is an imperious ringleader to the circus, challenging but never difficult. Both excel in never revealing what’s steaming around the next corner, even when you’ve grabbed your tooth comb for the umpteenth time.






Mixtapes/remix LPs

Fans have thought it; purists have wished for it, speculators have theorized it – a whole album of Nas rhyming over DJ Premier beats. Shortee Blitz and Turkish Dcypha give you a taste of what might have been (and what still could be), their dexterous, catalogue-cherry picking ‘NaSir’ mash-up supplying enough theoretical bangers to get petitioners for the real thing hot under the collar. Not to be outdone, the Steel Town Sounds Crew remix their own Nas favourites, prepared to push out the boat and up the risk factor (as well as keep the peace) with a collection of familiarities and the lesser picked – worth a listen on a name your price basis. Golden agers wanting some of that DITC TNT for the ear are in luck as well. Donnie Propa steps back up to the mixtape plate for a ‘Diggin in the Crate Cave’ double sider, Big L, Fat Joe, OC and co replayed in all their suede Timbs and sleigh bells finery. 90s quality to make your jeans that lil’ bit baggier.

Two DOOM features to gaze at: one with DJ Muggs and Freddie Gibbs, the other overseeing the Youth of the Apocalypse. Plus Wiki and Your Old Droog hit the city.










Words: Matt Oliver


Matt Oliver’s Essential Hip-Hop Review




So, it turns out that 50 Cent isn’t a bitcoin millionaire after all. And that Talib Kweli found about the Black Star album reunion on the internet, like the rest of us. So Rapture & Verse has had its fingers burnt while attempting to keep ‘em on the pulse. We’ve been consoling ourselves instead with the possibility of that zillion dollar Wu-Tang album being relisted on eBay – we’re more likely to bid on that than go for a Record Store day reissue of Cam’ron’s finest hour – and that a trip to Busta Rhymes Island (a legitimate map location, not a Flipmode Squad theme park) could be just the job to escape this frightful weather.






Singles/EPs

Del the Funky Homosapien and Amp Live – not in the roles of Nicky Campbell and Carol Smillie – wheel up the ‘Wheel of Fortune’, a banger that pleasingly doesn’t travel straight up and down as the club dictates. Music to fry by, ‘Fajita Effect’ is the Doppelgangaz letting loose another dollop of that ‘Dopp Hopp’, East-to-West funk that’ll make you guard your grill. MED and Guilty Simpson pledge ‘Loyalty’ with a set of easygoing back-and-forths nudging you to fling your windows wide open, save for ‘Face Down’ making you eat mat.





‘Donkey Punch!’ from Wundrop & Kemastry is here to make an ass of us all, an unsteady hallucination turned into actual fact. More Juga-Naut for you on ‘Found Objects’ means more East Midlands elitism, striking blows and a pose over half-inched favourites and rocking some of his own wares with a dissertation worth of references to chew over. The right honourable Harvs le Toad gives the airwaves some zing with ivory tinkler ‘Minty Fresh’, Vitamin G and Louis Loan tipping their hat to a beatsmith taking his jazz all the way to Walford.



Pragmatic in the face of joy, lo-fi curio ‘Plus One’ by Pan Amsterdam balances spring-has-sprung strings with a deadweight flow locked between Jonwayne and Count Bass D. Killer horns lift the firing Bishop Nehru up to the ‘Rooftops’, and ‘The Mood’ lifted by Smoke DZA featuring Joey Bada$$ would be relegated to just another trapper by numbers were it not saved by a lovely ice cream van riff wafting over the top. Back with a new set of scalpels, Dr OctagonKool Keith, Q-Bert and Dan the Automator – prescribe a one-way ticket to ‘Area 54’, full of that ‘cosmetic, kinetic, ultramagnetic” good stuff measuring you for a bodybag.




Albums

Calming yet still able to speak up, Ty’s ‘A Work of Heart’ almost feels like a magic carpet ride over the capital’s skyline, especially with singles ‘Brixton Baby’ and ‘Eyes Open’. Or the navigating of London backstreets like it’s a gambol though the countryside, despite there always being potholes en route. Or set adrift on memory bliss before stubbing its toe. You get the idea, so come and spread your arms if you really need a hug.

Apathy’s continued research into finding six million new ways for you to pop your clogs, means ‘The Widow’s Son’ is a fourteen round fight for your life (the title track calling in a favour from He-Man). Producers DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Buckwild, Nottz and Stu Bangas spread out in a bid to keep up with punchlines and wordplay battling into the fantastical. Remember, “while you rocking man-buns, I’m cocking handguns”. The second Prhyme instalment of Premier and Royce 5’9” continues their restoration job of hip-hop integrity. It still might not be enough for hardcore dream team assemblers, yet there are far worse concepts than an emcee extending his hot streak right from the off, and the producer richly rounding out the boom bap rat-a-tat, without either stuttering in stride.





Black Milk confidently advises you to catch his ‘Fever’, smooth neo-soul style that keeps your ear pressed hard to the speaker, and whose live band wisdom is velvety enough to give you a universally appealing education that cuts through the smoke. 2018 has another seat filled for best of reservations come Christmas.

It’s rare for an instrumental album/beat tape to sound so luxurious, but Calvin Valentine isn’t skimping when putting his feet up in the ‘Plush Seats’, 20, sub two minute silk cuts of soul and funk to have you glued to your pew. On the clunkier but no less funkier side, Exile’s excerpt in the ‘Baker’s Dozen’ series chops away to great effect, treating the MPC like a punch bag and still able to get smooth with it. ‘Sunlight Grace/O\Moonlight Vibes’ tells you all you need to know about Sai Wai, a pulse-steadying emcee keeping fires burning once jazz has closed shop for the day and has a date with a long hot bath in mind. Good for what ails you.





Still sounding like they’re working on Her Majesty’s Secret Service and still not giving the game away, The Herbaliser’s ‘Bring Out the Sound’ mixes lavish funk escapades with hip-hop involving peak-time Rodney P and beats styled as B-boy informants. Also eating away at hip-hop’s wider possibilities, Cut Chemist steps up to add songs and scope to his signature turntable torque. Edan, Mr Lif, Chali 2na, Myka 9 and Biz Markie fulfil mic duties as wings are spread into dusty, enquiring indie-dance and electronica that helps build an intriguing album that’s more a fluid soundclash than dazed collision.

Germany’s DJ Obsolete lays down jazzy failsafes in the field of pleasantly mature, springtime-in-the-90s boom bap, with features from Blabbermouf, Gee Bag, Warpath and Nomadic. ‘The Mandela Effect’ pays careful attention to expectations of the headnodders panel, and keeps it swift and to the point. Inviting you to wallow with them in sour times, the dejection of Dove Rock and Jackson Jones’ ‘A Pretty Way of Saying Ugly Things’ points loops downwards and posts spiritedly accepting lyrics peering over the fence, way too smart for being moored in the back of beyond. Gritty, windswept drama on a countdown to D-day, you shouldn’t expect anything else from the John Does also known as The Incredible Disappearing Man. On their eponymous album, grimly determined rhymes keep their head, buffeted and taunted by beats bound by the hands of fate.

For those up for some “unapologetic nerdcore boom bap schizophrenia”, Dngr Eyelnd open ‘A Lovely Room of DEATH’, a destination plastered in warning signs yet one where the madness is kept methodical, an intimidator honouring beats and rhymes protocol by arguing that “if this ain’t real hip-hop, then Taylor Swift is classic rock”. Make your reservation now. The tumultuously grungy Moodie Black and their symbol for ‘Lucas Acid’ fill the moshpit with feedback and threats, death rattles and loud, industrial spite; not a place for smiley faces. ‘Bulletproof Luh’ comes cultish – an at-odds flow from Mach Hommy stone-facedly seeks a ride or die chick, over far more adventurous, self-produced sampledelic beats.






Mixtapes

He’s been there, done that, got the T-shirt and now has the Presidential cap to match. DJ Yoda’s ‘Make Mixtapes Great Again’ is his usual long shot of heavyweight hip-hop, TV and pop nostalgia, declassified secret weapons and mischief closing the gaps in between. Expect Prodigy in combat with Bob Holness, KRS-One duetting with Bobby Brown, Paul Barman taking a sleigh ride, a 128K version of ‘Forgot about Dre’, Huey Lewis and The News, and so on and so on.

This month’s moving pictures: C.A.M. takes to the streets, Quelle Chris & Jean Grae take it to the arcade, 4orce and King Kashmere take a hike, and the late Craig Mack shows who’s boss.













MATT OLIVER’S ESSENTIAL HIP-HOP ROUNDUP





Singles/EPs

No time to celebrate 50 Cent becoming a bitcoin millionaire or Snoop releasing a gospel album, or Mos Def and Talib Kweli touting a Black Star reunion produced by Madlib. Right about now, groggy jazz from Jazz T and bleary digs from Lee Scott make potent points on ‘Ceiling’/’Urn Money’, matched by sweet and sour remixes from Pitch92 and Sleepwalker. The superior, subliminal sales technique of Genesis Elijah primes ‘How to Lose Fans and Alienate Listeners’ as a bestseller and puts a police cordon around the club. Weighing in at a headbanging ‘310 Pounds’, Juga-Naut and Mr Brown use the devil’s horns as their finishing move. A good heart these days is hard to find, so Ty giving you the benefit of his 20/20 vision is like a shot from Cupid on the breezy seesaw ‘Eyes Open’ featuring Durrty Goodz.





Wise-past-midnight pair Summers Sons are ones to cling to when the next weather warning comes calling, ‘Undertones’ an EP of sticky jazz drifts keeping it moving while remaining perfectly still. In the same postcode, Fanshore & Tropic’s touch of the ‘Reaper’ finds Hawaiian flutter in the Big Smoke, and the softly spoken stream of Coops’ ‘That Jazz’ means now he’s gonna rip you apart. Thug paradise, J Rocc-style, is to blend Mobb Deep and Sade into a whole new bunch of quiet storms. Tasked with the smooth operation of hijacking every 80s wine bar ever, six ‘Thug Ballads’ copy-and-paste their way up for coffee.





Underground bout of the year is found on the comic book crash course ‘Nautical Depth’, where Czarface and DOOM cause forum frenzy with pay-off lines galore and a bassline drilling into your ears. Apathy has also been busy doing dream team deals, appearing with Pharoahe Monch on the Pete Rock-made ‘I Keep On’, then swinging hard over ‘The Order’ of DJ Premier. On the move and on the loose, Sav Killz’ ‘Thundercats’ calls to the wild for some rough and tumble sent cartwheeling by Dirty Diggs. Credit to PHZ-Sicks for turning Sisqo’s most infamous panty raid into a hard hitting address causing ‘Riot in My Memory’. Moodie Black’s punishing industrialism lead by guesting gatekeeper Ceschi sews ‘Lips’ shut; dangerously atmospheric, as hell’s gates remove their padlock. Fake news gets a brick of actual fact to the face, unexpectedly from People Under the Stairs, playing the role of upset press blowing ‘Dog Whistles’.






Albums

Dr Syntax and Pete Cannon are back in full effect, opening up essential dialogue on ‘Let’s Talk’. Ever the polite pop culture vulture, Syntax thumbs through school photos and double-barrels the handbook of how to be an upstanding citizen and a hip-hop A-Z, with Cannon’s bruising beats keeping it cheeky, including one of his infamous Commodore-sponsored jungle jump-ups. Entertaining each and every time, the double act should be kept on speed dial in case of emergencies.





The main pastimes in the 20-strong Brighton borough of ‘Wizville’ are savagery and thrill rides. Ocean Wisdom stretches his rep with that 0-to-60 flow causing heart tremors, playing with the pitch control on the beats to alter the shades of black and blue he leaves the scene with, and placing guests Method Man, Rodney P, Roots Manuva, Jehst and Dizzee Rascal as almost incidental. Just when you think he’s showing signs of flagging, the assault rages on, maintaining Wisdom’s impressive ascent and already giving 2018 plenty to ponder.

 

Farma G’s wistful beats introduce ‘The Sentimental Alien’ to the modern world. Wishful thinkers and regal peace seekers from the Task Force intel, make it easy for handpicked emcees like Recognize Ali, Ric Branson, Smellington Piff, Anyway Tha God and Dirty Dike to dirty up a sound tinted a fine shade of rose. The custom brand, don’t-care daggers flung by Lee Scott and Black Josh create the monster that is the B-Movie Millionaires. With Sam Zircon behind the camera and keeping things eerily sluggish/sluggishly eerie, ‘Attack of The 50​,​000 Ft Sweg Lawds from Outer Space’ is a slumping battle royal of a snuff flick, a beast showing how it “put two and two together and got triple six”. The cure for a sub-zero February is having Pupils of the Clock waiting on you, enterprising Cornwall pair Tok and Lazy Eyez forging a clear path through crisp beats nudging the drowse button and sixth sense connections on ‘Timeless’. No danger of them following through on the declaration that “when we’ve got nothing left to say, that’s the point that we’ll call it a day”.





From the moment he draws first breath on ‘Weather or Not’, Evidence embarks on a masterclass. The man himself states “there are no wasted words”, inspiring under grey skies (the Dilated Peoples man is always better when there’s a storm afoot), holding your attention, and making you feel he’s dismissing (though not dissing) you as he lays everything bare with no discernible change in temperament. The forecast? One of 2018’s best.

Putting “the sublime in the subliminal”, Skyzoo’s ‘In Celebration of Us’ is some of the smoothest psychology and concrete consciousness you’ll hear this year. Written in the streets, penned to stir and examine the soul with his conversion of gunfingers to quotation marks, and cornering both the lounge and the late night creep, Skyzoo raises a glass with vitamin-rich articulation undercut with provocation, and making it look easy while his does it. One to be toasted over and over.



After Adrian Younge offered you ‘Twelve Reasons to Die’, Apollo Brown gives you another dozen dirty deeds to hold your head high by/duck down to. Repackaged as ‘The Brown Tape’ with Ghostface Killah exacting sepia-toned revenge, Wu-Tang Clan members to the right (wild for the night), and Brown providing his own gentlemen’s agreements regarding dead body disposal, it’s a classy sister dynasty mixing noble finesse and brute strength. With Sonnyjim selling you glamorous 70s crime and circling the block like a vulture, Chicago’s Vic Spencer puts his business card in the shop window for the rest of the year on ‘Spencer for Higher’. Top of his CV: the perfect voice for completing a schemes and hustles to-do list, and spitting with a charm happy to chew you up and spit you out.





You can’t keep a good man down, and Planet Asia, riding beats like a son of a gun about to clean up town, gets you wise to the ways of ‘The Golden Buddha’. That West Coast flow is still in fine fettle, sounding typically parched but never found dousing his disdain for non-believers and those slow on the draw. Still a deadlock breaker you can trust.

 

Room temperature boom bap sending you to the land of head nod, Klim Beats adds to the instrumental handbook focusing on jazz and funk. Hip-hop to do your spring cleaning by, though you’ll do well to come up as spotless as the Ukrainian’s ‘Natural’ sound. Looking to goad emcees into action, Badhabitz unveils a bulk of soul flips and darker omens. Staunch kicks and snares earning top dollar throughout, ‘Beat Library Volume 1’ makes itself easily available for your ears.

 

Under the name of an end of level boss with an Esoteric twang, Rock Mecca fights for the right to earn the freedom of ‘Ironworld’. To a flood of swirling symphonies within touching distance of Armageddon and pyrotechnics bankrolled by Hollywood, Vast Aire, Roc Marciano, Kool Keith and Canibus all try on knuckle dusters for size. Those unable to stand the heat will quickly be directed to the kitchen door. Now for the new album from Ugly Duckling’s Andy Cooper, in three easy, foolproof steps: grab a microphone, despatch a bunch of funk breaks hula-hooping or celebrating Mardi Gras, and invite Blabbermouf and Abdominal to challenge the rules on tongue-twisters. Doing what he does best, that’s ‘The Layered Effect’ for you.





For your eyes only: Cut Chemist versus the photofit, and hooray for Hozay.







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