Hip-Hop Review – Matt Oliver




An overdue happy new year from Rapture & Verse – it’s safe to say that once our back was turned for Christmas duty, all the while resisting a trip to Soulja Boy’s house of electronic bargains, the UK dropped an absolute glut of Yuletide goodness. Into the singles first, and it’s heads down hoods up for Baileys Brown’s ‘Horses Mouth’, a gloomy, watery gift for Datkid and Jinxsta JX to stare down in waiting for vengeance to take shape. Should you keep spending most of your life listening to Old Paradice, you’re doing well – Confucius MC and Morriarchi make ‘The Last Resort’ a nice six-track resting place for ears, while a wary eye keeps watch to keep it all business. The ‘2018 Switch Up’ by Benjicong sets a stall out for the new year by niftily weaving in out of Charles Edison’s crystalline stepper, without spilling a drop of the pint his delivery orders.





Jaroo will bruise a few good men when in cahoots with Aver, the six-track ‘Inner Process’ ensuring none shall pass until an epiphany with Tony Skank and Benny Diction lightens the load. A top notch quintet of remixes from Evil Ed includes the geeing up of Ric Branson, and going in to give extra legs to Triple Darkness and Tesla’s Ghost. ‘Heavy Baggage’ has beats and rhymes academics Gee Bag and Downstroke answering the question as to who’s gonna take the weight, a flavourful four tracks to hoist onto your shoulder via ghettoblaster so the whole street knows. Drums to dislocate jugulars already feeling the gust of one-way verbal traffic, IMS and Joey Menza are less about being woke and all about ‘The Wake’: no naps allowed.






Albums

A collaboration that nearly fell through the cracks, Cappo and Cyrus Malachi embodying ‘Postmodernism’ rise from classified coordinates to torch the whole underground radius. A contrast of lyrical imperiousness, to productions from Evil Ed, Chemo, DJ Drinks, Mr Brown and Wytfang that manage to be both modest and a seething reflection of its orators, this is rap combat carried out by chess grandmasters. Exceptional underground hip-hop.

Few fucks are given by Black Josh, running wild towards a smoke-damaged throne stained by cold sweat, doing so by the light of a blood moon, and reminding those who think it’s grim up North that they really have no idea. Then settling into something approaching a more contented train of thought about halfway through where angles start to blur, ‘Yung Sweg Lawd’ stays fluid in intimidation.

Continuing to live a life of diamonds and fun, Juga-Naut’s ‘Bon Vivant’ is always freshly dipped, full of ear-catching pearls of wisdom in his own version of La Vida Loca. Always with the goods to back up the flash, you get gourmet Notts know-how and a tightening game face as the album progresses. Unconvinced? “I dare you to keep up with the wave”. Let MysDiggi entertain you as he scales the ‘Tip of Da Mysberg’ for a third time, a wordsmith whose batteries will never run out, able to pants emcees before they realise their career is around their ankles. Witty and wily as ever, and easygoing even at his most spiteful, a firm UK favourite has your full attention for 18 tracks.





Hey babe, take a walk on the mild side with Lee Scott’s ‘Lou Reed 2000’, a more reticent outing than you may expect, but still inimitably sweating the small stuff. The curtains are drawn back and the sunglasses are off, but Scott as undisputed bard of the bedsit is still “in a league of me own, losing to me self”, when not announcing “compared to me, the speed of light is slow”. You could argue there’s nowt slower than an ‘Acrylic Snail’, but Dirty Dike is a whirlwind with scant regard for the destructive trail he ploughs. Once his mollusc is in motion there’s no point arguing the toss – no holds barred, and painting some pretty repugnant pictures without ever missing a stroke. An endangered species who can flip the script and look into the depths of his soul when not – or peaking at – being “dumb, numb and comfortably ill”.





Proven shit-stirrers BVA and Leaf Dog ‘Return to Stoney Island’ as the Brothers of the Stone, riling front rows as Illinformed dresses soul in steel toecaps and initiates old fashioned bar brawls. You can’t spell boisterous without BoTS, with MoP and Inspectah Deck nailing their colours to the mast so the album crashes through its destination. For all the stink that’s kicked up, a marksman’s precision underlines everything they do – not the only bros to spark recent conversation.





For as long as the world prices up handcarts and one-way tickets to hell, Big Toast’s megaphone will always be in play. Cranked up by 184 on the boards, yet wise enough not to get in Panini Grande’s way, ‘Prolefeed’ maintains the “you are not special” manifesto, passionate defence and cold fact meeting unconcealed incredulity. Like a red cap to a bull, all Hooray Henrys best button their lip or get their ballot box punted down the river.

Boom time for the B-boy union once Chrome winds up and laces a ‘Dopamine Hit’, headlined by the super sprint ‘Shockwave’ with Andy Cooper. Perpetual motion never dwelling on just the nostalgic, Chrome’s dope dealership knows what’s really real, giving the party some perspective amongst the jump-ups. Triumphantly flicking V signs, Damu the Fudgemunk casts ‘Victorious Visions’ of upbeat instrumental boom-bap that checks itself, and a feelgood factor that doesn’t get cosy. Remoulded from his prior ‘Dreams and Vibrations’ project, the purist hallmarks and soul core are what make the visions loud and clear, while ‘Back in the Trenches’ does rugged with the best of ‘em. Beats to set your body clock by. Depending on how hard your hormones are raging, The Doppelgangaz’ latest ‘Beats for Brothels’ appointment has got you covered, all of their instrumentals marked with a certain strut as they move from room to room, from hard thrusts to smooth touches. ‘Volume 4’ is money well spent. Klim Beats provides the soundtrack to a B-boy retreat providing relaxation and pleasant aromas on ‘Crystals’, beginning with mystical orientation before letting breaks simply do their thing so listeners can you use their own imagination.

Full moon scientist Yugen Blakrok is on a relentless grind to the summit on ‘Anima Mysterium’, prophecies and riddles raining down like an RPG sherpa, where you best take the right path or else. Her totem-like standing as the elements rage around her, sounds like she’s memorized every single scripture the universe has to offer. In an apocalyptic world telling you to believe everything and nothing, producer Kanif the Jhatmaster drives on as a similarly irresistible force.





Street cinema to have ‘em hiding in the aisles, the dark arts of ‘A Piece of the Action’/’Motion Picture’ from FLU, ETO and RGZ keeps the situation critical, capitalising on wild west slinging against modern mobster rules. The provision of balance from Blockhead comes with the offer of ‘Free Sweatpants’. Some fine deep space, backpack readies for Homeboy Sandman, Marq Spekt and Armand Hammer, mix in with instrumentals vaulting you out your seat before returning to sender. Aesop Rock uniting with TOBACCO for ‘Malibu Ken’ builds an instant reputation of being a raw synthed, Rubik’s cube of rhymes , yet both happen upon a sharp splinter of hip-hop pitching to the left, but not way out left. Rock’s visual skill and enthusiasm and TOBACCO’s electro neons jumping with VHS flicker and musical 8-bit strain, create a spacious, well paced, Technicolor bounce, easing any trepidation.




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.











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