Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Chief Wigz Speaks Ill

Despite citing Hip Hop stalwarts, Wu-Tang Clan as an influence and relative newcomer, Lupe Fiasco as a superstar lyricist, Chief Wigz isn’t in the habit of imitating idols. Even the styles of Jehst and Roots Manuva, who Wigz claims as UK inspiration, are not aped on ‘Never Speak Ill of the Dead Vol. 1’. What you get here is a personal interpretation of what Hip Hop is. ‘Never Speak Ill…’ is in an explanation of one man’s understanding of his relationship with Hip Hop. The music of Chief Wigz may not be the way you perceive Hip Hop but after listening to this CD your mind will be expanded 8 tracks in a new direction.

Working with producers Dashiel, Plus Bell, 2 Sheets and Eliphino, Wigz has crafted a window into his world that reveals a multiculture of sounds. The album kicks off with a nice soul sampling Dashiel beat (‘Feel’) which is topped off with some answering phone messages, quite why I’m unsure but it leads onto ‘Welcome’ - the first proper track. ‘Welcome’ is a brooding, verging on threatening, track that features fellow 9 Lives Clik member, Proptic. The way Wigz flows here, as and indeed he does throughout the CD, makes up for the fact that he has restricted himself to only 6 tracks with lyrics. The words flow furiously over the brim of the beats as you are treated to a fast moving word association game that is structured around rhyme and assonance. ‘Occupations’ is a mellow track this time produced by Eliphino and featuring Skuf. Here Wigz displays his knack of writing a catchy but definitely un-poppy hook, which will leave his respect intact but will leave you singing ‘We’re making music’ under your breath. ‘Drunk & Tired’, an instrumental by Eliphino serves as a transition point to track 5 and maintains the momentum that gathers over the 25 minutes of this CD.

If this were in the old days you’d get up right now and turn the record over. And so now, we move on to what would be side 2 of the record. The second half begins with ‘Moves’, again produced by Eliphino, but this time the beat is heavier; more hard hitting. If Wigz flowed acapella you’d be hard pushed to understand how the words could fit around a beat but this track serves to demonstrate that it does work, and it works so well. After a skit with an answer phone freestyle, Chief Wigz and Eliphino continue to pick the tempo up with the dub-infused ‘Don’t Believe You’. The simple concept is delivered perfectly, the chorus shines memorably and the beat is a hazy summer’s day making it the highlight of the EP. ‘Hour’ momentarily takes the pace down a bit with its lazy but relentless piano loop and a more laid back (but still mysteriously hungry sounding) vocal from the Chief. Then, as ‘Hour’ finishes some upbeat folk guitar finger picking heralds what I presume to be freestyling but almost as soon starts it begins to fade out to make way for the closing track. ‘One Line’ proves Dashiel to be diverse in his production skills as the finale is a grimey, dub-step driven heater. ‘One Line’ leaves ample room for Chief Wigz’s wordplay and ultimately showcases the vocal style that seems to come so naturally to him.

The EP was released in the final throws of the 4th quarter of 2007, a year that will go down in Hip Hop history as the year in which we all tried to recover from the death of Hip Hop, apparently. Speaking on a personal level, and hopefully for other rap fans in Leeds, 2007 was a year of life for our Hip Hop scene and the release of this EP is a physical reminder of that truth.

Get in touch with or take a trip to Jumbo Records or Crash Records in Leeds to get your copy.

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