Thursday, 27 January 2011

Seasoned prose by Northern Structure Records (Review by Tom Clements)

The brainchild of Blackpool emcee Disciple (a.k.a. Spider Jaroo), Northern Structure Records deals in unadulterated, gimmick-free Northern hip hop and the collective’s latest EP is no exception to that founding principle. Produced entirely by Manchester-based Pro P, "Seasoned Prose" is about as hard-nosed and Northern as it gets in the UK hip hop scene, with Disciple, Evileyz and Amos (all out of Blackpool) plus J-Toker from Preston imparting a great mix of friendly, blithesome Northern wit, candour and straight talk. Production wise, Pro P aces a style characterised by boom baps and claps reminiscent of the mid-90's, old-school samples punctuated with masterful cuts, scratches and some skilled turntablism; it's certainly a heady and intoxicating mix overall.
For the sake of brevity, here's a track-by-track synopsis of the EP:

"Seasoned Prose" is the EP’s first and eponymous track. From the outset, it’s a plain and concentrated statement of the group’s intent and sets the EP’s tone suitably. Musical call-and-response and straight lyricism are the key features of this track;  "I quickly react like fire to magnesium".

"Keeping it Fresh" is the EP's posse cut. The track is stirred by a wistful, introspective acoustic guitar loop over which are some quick-fire double-time vocals from all except Evileyz who chants the chorus. A great display of syllabic range and variation from the emcees.

"Spider Jaroo" is Disciple's solo track and provides a temporary foray for the listener into the emcee’s slightly brooding personality; featuring some darker, more twisted lyrical imagery and stirrings of working-class discontent.

"Heavy as Ever" seamlessly fuses brassy 60's Ska samples with heavily rhythmic, boom-bap hip hop syncopations and it's definitely a track you can vibe, dance and even relax to. Indeed, Evileyz’s relaxed style suits this track most combined with his comedic bars and descriptions of Blackpool being "the best resort for skets and whores". Amos has a choppier staccato delivery that provides a natty contrast to Evileyz, plus it’s clear the two have a real natural chemistry on tracks (as well as in battles).

"How I Get Down" is Evileyz’s solo track and really displays his excellent syllable placement, intonation and enunciation. The track in terms of technical ability is the EP's tightest package with a solid hook, tight rhyme schemes and musical structure.

“Northern Slang", with quotables like “we’ve go that Northern slang like 'Ee bah gum!' is an explicit assertion of the group's staunch regional pride and identity without coming across as gimmicky or exploitative of that fact. Refreshing and honest.

"Cryptology" is J-Toker's solo track and from the outset, it's typically heavy on creative wordplay, similes, metaphors and hyperbole;  "fuck beef, devour a cow when I sit down for dinner". There are slight shades of horrorcore without becoming crass or sophomoric and it's definitely a welcome digression in style from the blasé wit of Evileyz and Amos and the more harsher tones of Disciple.

"Thoughtful Kombat" is laced with seriously skuzzy, edgy and dissonant synthy sounds, heavy boom baps and claps and is a stand out track on the EP. Amos’ somewhat jerky vocal trembles and hasty delivery are a perfect fit for this particular track.

"Ode to the Realest" is a more reflective but equally hard-edged assertion of the collective’s loyal values to their North of England roots and to hip hop itself, with Disciple standing out as a passionate spokesman for the group as well as a decent wordsmith in his own right with a clear statement of purpose. There are also some more sobering undertones betrayed by the emcees, plus a general tinge of bitterness about the dire state of a hip hop industry full of fakery.

"Miss You" is a bit of a take or it leave it, mawkish and sentimental rap with high-pitched, sped-up soul vocals which I felt didn't really fit in with the CD's overall vibe and was a bit of a limp ending to an otherwise raw and emphatic EP. Amos is quite a decent storyteller himself but his talents go slightly by the wayside on this particular track.

Overall, "Seasoned Prose" is a massively enjoyable listen. The combination of soulful, masterfully crafted beats from Pro P laced with those gravelly Northern vocal inflections and hard-nosed street poetics will be simply irresistible to any underground hip hop fan. Although it's an EP, "Seasoned Prose" practically has the finesse of an album and for just £4, you can't really complain.

Purchase “Seasoned Prose” from

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