Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Tor - Beatz in the Capital

More free music! This is really catching on innit? This is a promotional tool for Tor's forthcoming long player, and by golly, I must just buy it so impressive is this mixdownload (it aint or tape or CD). 'Beats International: Journey To The Album' is apparently due to drop in June so we can all save our pennies and bump this until then.

'Beatz...' is nice introduction to the East London born MC. There are some 'freestyles' (read 'verses over other beats') and some remixes and together these make for a showcase of her skills.

Beats are chosen well; my favourite has to be her wonderful take on Wu-Tang's 'M.E.T.H.O.D. Man' and tracks from Lupe, Baby J and TI also get blessed. The remix of 'Strivin' by DJ Mentat is top class stuff and it features a pretty chilled out Klashnekoff. Faith SFX also busts some beatboxing as Tor raps quite jawdroppingly on 'Faith SFX Jam'. Following Bashy's success with 'Black Boy's' Tor has recorded, yes you guessed it, 'Black Girls' and its proper.

If you're in Japan you get to pick up the album next month but this mix should be enough for you now. And please don't be put off by the fact she's a female. I know there aren't many good ones but there are a few and Tor is one of them. Take notice of this girl because she out-raps most of your favourite MC's. Respect.

Download the mix here and see her myspace here.

Tor - Black Girls
Tor - Method Man Freestyle
Tor - Time of Reflect vs. Baby J
Tor - Superstar.mp3
Tor - Faith SFX Jam
Tor - Strivin' Harder ft. Klashnekoff (DJ Mentat remix)

Mystic Man & Eshamanjaro – 'In Heavy Weather' Review

Mystic Man, with an approach to production that's just that bit too elusive to put your finger on, has crafted a superb set of sonic canvasses for rapper Eshamanjaro to wave his lyrical brush over, and he does it with the flourish of a true master too. In the art world you'd be hard pushed to find a master without a maverick streak and whilst Esha's lyrics are in someway very grounded, there is something different in them, an intelligence – he has a way with words. Half the time it's like he's just talking and it happens to rhyme brilliantly and the rest of time you're left thinking, 'where did that thought come from?'.

For a debut album, this is really outstanding, it's obvious that this duo have really gelled and used their knowledge of both the industry and their crafts to maximum effect. This is an intellectual effort, something that is reflected in the cultural references (a version of Hokusai's 'The Great Wave' on the cover), the production and the lyrics. As a result, it consciously distances itself from all Hip Hop that I know and for anyone willing to embrace something a little different this will be refreshing listen. Where most 'different' or 'leftfield' artists in any genre fail (and end up being weird and unlistenable-to), Mystic Man and Eshamanjaro have succeeded. It's enough like Hip Hop for a casual listener to recognise it as such but as you listen more deeply, it's obvious it is something quite new.

The album kicks off with 'Chesire Cat' (previously reviewed here) which is a great track to start with. 'The Rambler' does what it says on the tin: lots of rambling jazz samples spliced together (expertly mind you) and a rap that strolls in after 1 minute and 34 seconds. 'Keeper of the Flame' is a favourite due to the eastern sound captured in the samples and the lyric 'You might wonder who that girl is singing//I tell ya, she represents same one bringing//Joy to my life, Pain to my life//Her claims that she loves me cut like a knife' really displays the interaction between producer and MC as well as the more thoughtful take on the usual subject matter. 'Dust' is real UK Hip Hop and 'New Jack Swing' is pure bouncy party starting pleasure.

'Nervous' paints an interesting first hand picture of a guy who has done the dirty with his mates missus and lets us into the mind of someone in this position (whether this is how folk actually feel, I wouldn't know!). 'Minds I' is the second single and whilst it's more relaxed than the first, it retains a sense of urgency and keeps you nodding along although I'm not sure the reference to 'Littlewoods' being a 'Style Catalogue' is exactly accurate! If you want you to be stirred into a range of emotions and have a rainy day to lie and listen to an album in its entirety (it really is best that way) then you'd do well to get a copy of this on Fat! Records. It'll cheer you up, then make you think, then make you drift away and then bring you back home again. Worth your spondoolies, for real. Try before you buy at the Fat! website.

Certified Bangers: 'Chesire Cat', 'Keeper of the Flame' & 'New Jack Swing'
Top Lyrics: 'Beaming my music back to universe//Back to galactic, back to first//Back to verse blow up like bacteria' (The Rambler)


Thursday, 24 April 2008

UK Royal Fam Vol. 3

When it comes to walking the fine line between Hip Hop and Grime in the UK there a few names that might spring to mind. Someone whose mind it obviously sprung to was the guy who track listed ‘The UK Royal Fam Mixtape Vol. 3’. Lethal Bizzle, JME, Skepta, Wiley, Ghetto, Klashnekoff, Roll Deep, Bigz, Bashy, Sway, Pyrelli…the list does go on. Believe this mixtape is big, if this type of music is your bag.

Also it’s not so much of a mixtape, more of a tape, well, a CD. It’s just the full tracks collected and sequenced – and I like it that way. And don’t make the mistake I did when I had the 1st instalment (which actually was pretty poor): I thought it was called the ‘Royal FARM Mixtape’! Ha! What an idiot I am.

This particular sub genre of Hip Hop is probably at it’s apex right now. It’s so full of energy yet it’s not as underdeveloped as it was and it’s not got too big for it’s own boots (that’s why Dizzee aint on here!) – it’s in that good old middle ground like Hip Hop was in the 90’s; it’s just coming of age.

It’s hosted by Manchester bod Solja too, who I once encountered outside of a J5 show in Manchester as he hustled his CD to my brother. Solja, shows promise here as one who may ride the dual waves of interest in the Manc scene and the aforementioned impending maturity of Hip Hop/Grime crossover music – usually poorly labelled as ‘Urban’.

It’s actually hard to pick a standout track here, it’s all surprisingly quality! Sincere’s ‘Once Upon a Time’ which features one of radio’s current pets, Natty (even my Dad liked him after seeing him on Jools Holland) is pretty jolly, it’s just annoying that it fades out (good job I've got the full track already then). Either of the Ghetto tracks display that raw rawness that can only be described as raw – check out 'Who's Got'. ‘What’s Your Grind’ comes courtesy of Swiss and has a beat that makes me say ‘Yeah, nice’, so that’s good innit? He talks about something we can all to relate to – the 9 to 5 grind, I know it’s been done, but, he does it well so it’s OK. Lethal Bizzle’s genre bending track ‘Police on my Back’ is here too - a fantastic ode to TWOCing. Skepta's tune 'Blood, Sweat & Tears' is awesome for managing to reference Rosa Parks and Pogs in the same track amongst other great things too.

The last point I must make is that this is free. A great chance to see what this side of UK things is really about because this does feature top album tracks and not just hastily recorded ‘exclusive’ freestyles over someone else’s beats. Go get it.

Some new tunes...

‘No Rims’ is a nice track by LoDeck & Omega One, I can’t really read the biographies that I was sent because instead of being typed they’re a well distorted JPEG. Anyway, there’s some link with Stetsasonic and both artists have previous work of their own. If you ask me, well, even if you don’t I’m gonna tell you, this is a nice track…oh, I already said that. Well IT IS nice. It has that summery soul vibe and a head nodding beat, not quite like one of those crafted in the 90’s but the noughties version of that. It’s also chilling to hear a track about NOT having rims and all that stuff. Simple things - that’s the order of the day here.

I’ve not been a previous fan of Vast Aire, I never got into him, because I was too busy being into other stuff really but also cos he’s one of those awkward, indie rappers who are a bit hit and miss. Well his new album is promising (Pete Rock’s on there) and this track, ‘TV Land’ is cool. It’s got a parpy beat with some funky little ringy guitar riffs which make the raps easier on the ear. Get ya shoulders pumping.

Why is that some old rappers still use the same boring clich├ęs? Ice Cube reckons he’s the 8th wonder of the world. Oh yeah? And how often has an MC claimed that? Boring. Having said that, this track is pretty hard despite the fact that he’s also revisited the whole ‘It takes a nation…’ concept. I think he’s really trying to make himself cool again after the whole cheesy movie outing: “And understand that you looking at the famous//west coast rapper who acts like an anus//Hollywood they thought they could tame this//pitbull//But I know what the game is” and he might just do it. He’ll never be the old Ice Cube but this track DOES bang.

Chali 2na may soon be upon us again with the follow to the ‘Fish Market’ mixtape. From what I can gather it’s gonna be called ‘Fish Market 2’, a good job his music is more innovative than his mixtape titling. Well, I say innovative, if you can call rapping over an old and classic beat innovative. Actually, I think you can. 2na rhythm for rhythm, note for not raps to ‘Rockit’ by Herbie Hancock and it comes out sooooo fresh, its called ‘Rock It’….hmmm, we’re seeing a theme here with titling! 2na just know how to do things though and in no way does he murder this beat, apart from in the good sense of the word, you know, the one used by cool people off the street – he murks it blud.

Oh yeah! Nas! ‘Be a Nigger Too’! I can’t decide whether this is good or not, it’s just downright confusing. He’s gone beyond claiming the N word, so far as to say we can all be niggers. I’m not at all into this Nas who constantly is trying to shock us with his crazy concepts and ideas, he’s off the chain – but in the bad way. Plus he’s causing extra controversy because everyone thinks this track is similar to one done by NYOIL (who I must check out more from, he sounds pretty good) called ‘ What’s up my Wigga Wigga’ or something like that. This is pretty mediocre when divorced from the controversial side of things, which by the way, must be his new selling point. To be honest, no one (including myself and I apologise and hereby vow never to mention the Hip Hop is D… thing again) has stopped talking about his last gimmicky, beat-recycling bit of radio fodder. AND he’s got tired of ripping off his own old lyrics and has now moved onto ripping off NWA lyrics it seems.

Billy Danze has got a new track. Seems he’s been listening to some grimey UK production, or at least his producer has. Aside from the voice and the gritty gutterness (OK so it’s just the beat) it doesn’t sound entirely like classic M.O.P. Anyway, it’s imaginatively titled ‘Gangsta’. Haven’t I heard a track about that somewhere else before? Ah, yeah, only about a million times. But with Billy’s aggressive flow the whole G thang is believable.

And to finish off, for those RATM fans who also like funk and dubs, The Apples, who appear to be from Israel have done a couple of really cool covers of my favourite Rage track, ‘Killing In The Name Of’. One is funky, one is dubby.

Interview with Instance

To coincide with the release of his first album, I met up with Leeds MC, Instance. We had a chat, a couple of jars (one in The Bourbon where the music was too loud and they charged a quid to get in and another in a Wetherspoons of all places… well, they had no music did they?) and we did an interview that we recorded on my brothers phone. That was the same phone that he lost in the pit at Vagabondz later that night but fortunately, through the magical power of Bluetooth, I’d already secured a copy of it on my phone. Instance brought along his ex/friend, Louise, and we all had a laugh at his expense when he started talking a lot about gay icons…see below. He told me not to put that in but I did, because you do, don’t you?

We’ll start off with all the usual stuff, like background, musical influences, other influences...

OK, well I guess I started off as a drum n bass mc which you may or may not know, I started rhyming in my bedroom about 5 years ago. It wasn’t until I met the PCP of Crackhouse Recordings who was part of the Smackdaddy MC’z and he dragged me on a track called Kansas to L.A. which is about a girl who moves from the countryside in Kansas to try to be a movie star but ends up in a porno with Max Hardcore - that was my first track.

Not heard that one but heard of it!

Yeah, I can get you copy any time. But my lyrical style is a bit different to what I’ve developed into now. I guess my big heroes are Roni Size, MC Skibadee, MC Fearless, old school Drum ‘n’ Bass mc. We used to listen to a very strange blend of Happy Hardcore and Techno back in Burnley but I like to think I’ve moved on from there now.

If you’ve moved out of Burnley you’ve gotta move on!

Yeah! (laughing, obviously)

Desert Island Discs; what would you take with you? What are your most important CD’s or vinyls or whatever?

I’m gonna be slated across the whole Hip Hop community in Leeds for this but, I’d take Lil’ Wayne ‘Tha Carter’, Crazy P ‘The Wickedest Music’ which is a funky, soul Jamiroquai twist on stuff and…how many choices do I get? 3? Probably…I’m a big house fan to be honest…and Drum ‘n’ Bass fan so it’d have to be either a house or Drum ‘n’ Bass CD but I think it’s that sort of musical eclectiveness that’s steered me away from making such a straight Hip Hop album.

Why Lil’ Wayne?

He’s just got a crazy flow, he’s dirty, he doesn’t apologise for anything. He’s just a dirty boy from the dirty south with crazy styles.

He’s a bit weird though innee?

He’s a weird dude, he is. He’s been in the hip hop game since 11 and I’ve heard he’s got an addiction to cough syrup which is a mix of codeine and promethadine which is gonna make you even weirder if you’re already weird. They all drink it….drinking that (together) SIZZURP! (more laughter)

How would you describe yourself as a rapper? You’ve already said you’ve got quite a diverse influence but how would you describe your style and contents?

My lyrical content ranges from the unique to the typical. I’ve got the whole spectrum in there. I’ve got a lot of the content of some of the tracks is what you’d compare to the tracks on Channel U (I pull a face)… I know!

You sure you wanna admit to that?!

No well I don’t but, I dunno it ranges from your standard stuff but a lot of the stuff is a lot more political, socially aware. I’ve got a track on ‘Demographic’ called ‘Slaves’, the first verse is about sweatshops, stitching stuff for Primark and brothels. People don’t realise, they think that slaves….they think to themselves, coffee and sugar plantations. But it’s there on your back doorstep. ‘Tomorrows World’ focuses on social breakdown, climate change. ‘Mass Produced’. Especially my outro, ‘Nomad’, is looking through the eyes of a drug addict, who’s strung out on smack or crack. It’s just him wandering the streets trying to make money and persuade people to take drugs with him. My personal experience of taking drugs is that you feel better about taking drugs if you’re with someone else. ‘Questions’ is also loosely based around drug addiction as well. ‘Jackanory Stories’ is 3 separate short stories about how fate can come around and bite you. ‘Demographic’ is loosely based on characteristics of people really although there are a couple of tracks with me having a rant, pissed off. And it’s loosely based around issues that affect us globally.

Is that your motivation for rapping, for making this CD? For this project anyway?

For this CD definitely, I’m just trying to open people’s eyes and introduce myself at the same time.

Is there one issue that concerns you the most?

I’ve always been a big fan of Geography and I think what I want to say that although we live in a modern world that things are changing very fast and I guarantee the way we live now, 50 years down the line we’ll have to accept some major changes. Tracks such as ‘Tomorrow’s World’, ‘As the world turns’, ‘Demographic’…I hope people listen and take something away from that and accept that things are going to change. That was my motivation.

Because of that focus, it might come across that you don’t want to rap about anything else. Is there a place for other topics in rap?

Yeah, there is. Music as a medium is meant to evoke emotions. ‘Demographic’ itself, from the lyrics, the beats and the artwork everyone can tell it’s a dark piece of work. That’s one side of me. I’m a split personality sort of person; I’m split straight down the middle. Although there is a dark side of my which I do embrace, ‘cause I find it the most creative side of me at the moment, that’s not to say that in the future… I want to make some happier tracks. I wrote a track last night that was wicked, it’s about alley cats…My other stuff with Crackhouse Allstars is a lot more chilled out, happier and tongue in cheek. We’re serious about having fun at Crackhouse.

How important is it to have this CD out as a physical product?

It’s a big part of it. I want people to look at it and think, as a label, as an individual, he takes his work seriously and is proud of it. People look at it and want to buy it. I’ve seen projects by other people and no disrespect cos I know everyone’s got a big passion for music but I think, if you’re going to put all that passion into your music, why not put as much effort into the presentation and I’m being realistic about it, I want my hobby to pay for itself. I want people to buy the album, I don’t want to just spend all money my on hip hop, I want to come away from it having made money. I think that presentation is a big part of helping me achieve that.

When I got it, I was well impressed by the artwork. I thought, ‘They’re doing it properly!’

Make no mistake, it’s a proper CD. The level everyone claims to be at, we should be making proper CD’s. Don’t say you are something and not back it up with the product.

We managed to talk about that without touching on online stuff like mp3.

It’s a massive part; online distribution. I’ve found a site that’s gonna take it. I’d planned to get it on itunes but it seemed to fall through. I hadn’t realised how much they demand of you. I think it’s a great way for artists to honestly distribute themselves but for me, it’s all about hustling it on the streets. I’ve gotta move these units hand to hand as well.

A lot of other MC’s and artists are gonna be reading this. What sort of process do you go through when you’re writing a track.

With ‘Demographic’ I wrote 50% of the material without a beat and then the other half I hooked up with Mike D of Subterrania studios and got a load of beats off him and wrote the second half. My main inspiration was purely watching the news. If there was a major event happened tomorrow then I’d write about it. I’ve woken up in cold sweats with lyrics popping out of my head. ‘Questions’ was a bad dream I’ve had.

How involved are you at Crackhouse Recordings?

Very. Me and PCP run it. We manage 15 other individuals. We do all the promotion. We run all the nights. We don’t do it all but we do all the coordination. He’s the face of it and I’m a bit more behind the scenes.

What do you think of the Leeds scene?

I can’t compare it to other scenes cos I’ve not really experienced any others. There’s a lot of talent but it’s slightly in a bubble, maybe. I think people are ambitious but it’s hard to break out. Everyone talks about how we need to integrate and stick together but we don’t. We need to focus on ourselves and break out of the city and I don’t care how, we just need to do it. I can only focus on myself…what CD’s have I listened to over the last few weeks? My stuff and my mates stuff, and a bit of Lil Wayne. (chuckles all round) It’s not about repping Leeds. True stars, you don’t know where they’re from, they’re truly universal. Where’s Elton John from? I’m not comparing him to this lot but…where’s George Michael from? I’ve got no idea! What I’m trying to say, all the big stars, we don’t know where they’re from.

We’ll rap it up with anything you want to say.

‘Demographic’ clearly bridges Hip Hop and more electronic styles. I’m a big electronic music fan. On a Saturday night you can catch me listening to house and garage. I’m not necessarily going to be bumping Dr. Dre or Jehst. It’s a truly eclectic album, it’s contemporary, it touches on a lot of social issues, it’s raw in parts, it’s soft in parts. It features some truly talented people. We’re representing Leeds, people in India, people everywhere. Buy it, you can get it at Tribe, Crash. I’m doing a live gig at Zavvi’s…


Yeah formerly Virgin and got a few gigs coming up. Check my Myspace. I’ve got an obsession with how many views I get so check me out!

When you do go to his Myspace so he gets those all important hits, be sure to click the paypal button to purchase his CD (called ‘Demographic’ if you didn’t catch it!) for a mere fiver!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Lupe interviews Sway, Sway interviews Lupe

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Triple Darkness Support Red and Meth

Triple Darkness are supporting Hip Hop legends Method Man and Redman tonight at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire. If you're around there, get yourself there. There are still some tickets left here.

Also have a look at their video for 'Anathema', made by Baby J's film company:

Monday, 14 April 2008

We got it for Cheap - 'Lowlife is 40' & 'UK Takeover Vol. 4'

There's a bit of a Braintax track (possibly 'Monsoon Funk' off 'Panorama') where he says something about how he's mixed down half the UK classics. Well, it's true, it may be a slight underestimation when considering UK Hip Hop from at least the last 10 years.

This CD, that you can get for a ridiculously low price (59p, anyone?!) here on the wonderful Amazon marketplace features some great tracks from Braintax, Task Force, Jehst, Rodney P, Mystro, Asaviour, Kashmere, Skinnyman, Verb T and Lewis Parker. It was created to celebrate the 40th Lowlife release and it really helps to prove Joey's point although it's not an exhaustive list and there are plenty more classics where these came from. It also features what is becoming UK industry standard for packaging: Classy gatefold style cardboard, and that makes it nicer to own, OK not so good for keeping in the car if you want it to stay nice!

Whoever you are, where ever you're at, just get yourself a copy of this and enjoy. I've already copped 3 for me and my bro and my mate.

You wouldn't go far wrong either by ordering this: UK Takeover Volume 4, the soundtrack to the night. It's packed with classics ('Survival of the Hardest Working' by Blade), some personal favourites of mine (Baby J's 'Let it Go remix' and 'So You Want More' by Ty and Roots Manuva')and other tracks by great UK MC's (Yungun, Estelle etc) . You can pick this up for around the 50p mark too, awesome!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Have you heard? Old Estelle

With Estelle's 'American Boy' at number one on the itunes download chart and with goodness only knows how many radio stations playing it every hour I thought I'd better just dig back a few tracks and make sure peeps know where she's come from.

Estelle worked with UK group 57th Dynasty (Whose name apparently inspired Jay-Z to name the Roc La Familia album 'The Dynasty' after a meeting with them). On 'Break Free' Estelle sings "Well we're moving along in our lifetimes//From the good to the bad..." and she certainly has moved along.

She featured on 'Countryman', the classic UK album by Skitz on female posse cut 'Domestic Science' alongside Wildflower, Tempa and Harry Love. Unsurprisingly, this isn't a tune about how women should do chores around the house.

Her first solo album '18th Day' contained the brilliantly uplifting rap track '1980'; Estelle's reminiscatory tune.

She spits fire (Yes, Estelle is a rapper) AND sings sweet harmonies on her track 'Too Long' on 'The National Anthem Mixtape' from the 'UK Runnings' series - check 10Shott get his name in on the end of this!

Last year she featured on Hi-Tek's latest offering (imaginatively entitled 'Hi-Teknology 3) on the chilled out 'Life To Me'.

And now here she is making huge moves with Kanye and Will.i.am; pop's two biggest Hip Hop imports at the moment - 'American Boy'.

Download all tracks, plus 2 more here, brought to you in association with Zshare!

and here's Mr Gaspar's electro pumping remix

Triple Darkness - 'Anathema' review

Reviewing an album whose title you’re scared of wrongly pronouncing is a daunting task but here I am listening to ‘Anathema’ by Triple Darkness and writing some words about it. According to the wealth of all knowledge, Wikipedia, Anathema can mean any of a few things: “something lifted up as an offering to the gods”, “banished” or “set apart”. Any of those definitions could be the reason for the naming of this album.

It was whilst MC Cyrus Malachi was “banished” from society with what may have been just a dictionary and a book on ancient systems of religion, that he really sharpened his lyrical skills, leading eventually, post release, to the line up of him, Nasheron and M9 (aka Melanin9). – Triple Darkness.

The beats, provided entirely by Beat Butcher and Chemo, really hit hard (as you’d expect) – I don’t recommend listening to this quietly. The production is largely dark and haunting, suiting the lyrics to a T. The guest list features features some high profile names in UK Hip Hop: Kyza, Skriblah and Blind Alphabetz.

The intelligent rhymes are what really “set apart” this crew from the rest, whether commenting on today’s streets or civilizations of days bygone you can rely on them to provoke thought; even if it is ‘What on earth does that word mean?’. The MC’s are not only socially and historically minded; Triple Darkness boast spiritual awareness unrivalled in the UK scene. That’s not to say they’re religious nuts, it’s just that they think of more than the usual carnal delights associated with Hip Hop – the reason why they may consider this album to be an “offering to the gods”, not that it’s easy to tell which gods they believe in.

I really recommend picking up a copy of this well presented piece of work unless, that is, you’re scared of having to think a bit more than during the average Hip Hop listening session.

Certified Bangers: ‘Anathema’, ‘Pyramid Warz’ & ‘Guerilla Penmanship’
Top Lyric: “Certified mic veterans, codex adeptus//With no thoughts of penance, only steel vengeance” (Hook from ‘Anathema’)

Sunday, 6 April 2008

10Shott - 'Tin Soldiers' video