Wednesday, 27 October 2010

'You Need This Music' - Nottz (review)

Before I start, I'll just say that I like this album. I really like this album.

It's obvious that Nottz and Black Milk are mates (BM features on the LP on 'Blast That'), and with Black Milk's recent album employing heavy live drums, kicking of 'You Need This Music' with a track featuring Travis Barker makes so much sense. The aforementioned 'Blast That' will make your head nod more than 99% of the Hip Hop out there this year. The heavily distorted electric guitar sounds absolutely at home too on this beat.

'Shine So Brite' seems to be a tribute to Dilla and it's this track that first really proves that Nottz is an engaging and entertaining rapper. I guess it's this track that some would also cite as proof that Nottz is like Kanye. Nottz is like Kanye, to a certain extent. He can produce, really well, and he can rap - better than Kanye could ever dream of rapping, yet he still has that mass appeal.

I love 'I Do It For Yawl' (the beat reminds me of 'Amores Como El Nuestro', but I guess it's some other sample) and Little Brother and Kardinal Offishall revive Eminem's concept of rapping letters from fans - thumbs up. 'A Dream Come True' is just a joy to listen to as Nottz creates a story featuring all your favourite dead black musicians over a laid-back and lazily happy beat. 'I Still Love You' featuring Mayor Hawthorn is the perfect Hip Hop love song.

Asher Roth comes really correct on 'Dontcha Wanna Be (My Neighbor)' (video is here), as does Colin Munroe on the chorus. This a really quirky track, with definite radio play-ability. There are other tracks featuring Snoop Dogg and Royce Da 5'9 and Joell Ortiz before the album closes with the soothing Bilal featuring track 'Right Here' on which Nottz re-asserts his lyricism as he prays out loud over his own heavenly production.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

'Mood Swings' - Stig Of The Dump (review)

I really don't remember Stig Of The Dump being this offensive before. For most of you, that sentence will tell you everything you need to know - you'll either want to hear this, or you won't. Now, I've met the guy, had good conversation with him, and think he's a nice guy but his new music is different - it's aggressive and coarse. Yes, he's a great MC, he's witty and certainly has a way with words. Again, some of you right now will be salivating and rushing out to buy a copy of 'Mood Swings'.

The album is a weighty thing, with exceedingly heavy production from the likes of Beat Butcha, Jehst and Pete Cannon to match Stig's non-stop flow and the inclusion of Stig's track with R.A. The Rugged Man, 'Braindead'.

'What's Up' is more introspective and pushes the message that the masses need to hear: fame and money isn't everything, in fact, it's nothing. 'Planet Hollywood' pushes home the message later on in the album as Stig and Enlish role play a rich people with everything in ridiculous amounts. 'Big City Blues' is a perceptive take on life in the metropolis and the Pete Cannon beat is nothing short of excellent. 'I Know What You're Thinking' is a pretty funny slamming of pop culture which features Dr. Syntax.

'Mood Swings' was released on 11th October on Lewis Recordings and can be gotten from usual good places, including Bandcamp for your digital download.

'Force Of Habit' - Prose (album review)

You may have seen me waxing lyrical (in 140 characters, on Twitter) about this album. My position has not changed. This review could be one the easiest I've had to write because I could just insert a few positive words and then tell you to buy it. But that's not what you've come to expect from you and I wouldn't want to let you down now, would I?

Essentially, Prose (that's producer Steady and MC Efeks) do Hip Hop in just the way I want to hear it. The beats are banging yet melodic, traditional yet never samey, the rhyming is clear, concise and listener friendly, the subject matter is varied and there are cuts (courtesy of DJ Matman).

Single 'Life Times' comes early on in the playlist and it still sounds great. Previously heard (as a free download) 'Run For The Hills' featuring Ed Strong and King Kaiow of The IRS still sounds fresh and heavy too. 'Broke' featuring Reef The Lost Cauze is the better of the two transatlantic hookups on the album, the other being 'More Than Before' featuring Side Effect and Killer Rellik;a track that just doesn't wash with me. To be honest the album doesn't need these artists - Efeks is better.

'My Baby' featuring Belle is a definite stand out to me, maybe because I can relate to the topic being a new father myself, maybe just because Efeks pours out his heart emotively yet without sounding soppy. It's hard to pick out any other tracks because this release is so fluid as an album - it's not a thing you'll pick and choose tracks from, it's something you'll listen to the whole of, and you'll enjoy all 76 minutes of it. In some ways it's hard to put a finger on why this LP is so good, but I think I said it back in my second paragraph; they just do Hip Hop perfectly.

'Force Of Habit' is out on the Boombap Professionals label on 22nd November 2010.

'Treading Water' - Stylah (album review)

After hearing 'Please Listen' back in April 2009, featuring Stylah on my 'On The Radar' series and posting his music on the site many times, I would say that I was looking forward to Stylah's album dropping.

I have to say now that I do feel a bit disappointed. It's not that Stylah lacks ability as an MC, or that the beats are weak - even a cursory flick through the album would affirm that Stylah can rhyme and pick decent beats. It's just that listening through the album, I can't help feeling that an artist with such skill could have injected a little more creativity and created something memorable. The LP does stand up to many UK releases, and is better than many others, it's simply that to make a mark there needs to be more originality in the approach.

Good points are the inclusion of 'Please Listen', the awesome double-timing from the pair Stylah and Smiler on 'Killa', the menacing beat and flows on 'Treading Water' (reminds me of D12) and the socially aware, challenging commentary on tracks such as 'What's Your Poison?'.

Many would construe this review to be negative, but I assure you it isn't. Maybe it's just that I listen to so much UK Hip Hop and am looking for something too perfect or different. I know that there will be plenty of you out there who just want some good, solid Hip Hop and 'Treading Water' is just that. Try it for yourself.

'Treading Water' is out on 22nd November on LDN Global Records.

Monday, 25 October 2010

'Harry EP' ft. Skrein & Verb T - Medison (review)

Skrein might just be one of this country's best on-track story tellers. Producer Medison has cooked up a haunting and live sounding background for Skrein to tell his macabre tale over on 'Harry'. The plucked guitar and the real drums combine perfectly with the ghostly female vocal making Medison a producer I'll be looking out for in the future.

Remixes come courtesy of Bare Noize (with some filthy, filthy, frenzied dubstep), Plan B (an acoustic version) and Ruckspin (Drum n Bass).

Also included in the 'Harry EP' is 'The Thrill Is Gone' with also features Skrein alongside Verb T. This time, stories about two young men are interwoven over another eerie harp-laden beat.

This is a great little package featuring a heap of talent over the 5 tracks. The 'Harry EP' is available now from Dented Records.

'Welcome To My City' ft. KT Forrester - F.O.A.K

F.O.A.K. (First of a Kind, amongst another acronyms) hail from Manchester and 'Welcome To My City' is their ode to the place where it rains a lot and where you're either a blue or a red. The boys come distinctively northern whilst KT provides beautiful sung BGVs and a chorus. Extra track 'Underground' is worth having too. The track is out on 15th November, check out their website for more, including a free track.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Track Of The Day: 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' - Sway

Sway dropped his new mixtape 'The Delivery 2: Lost In Transit' and this track had me in awe for sure.

All Swar (seems to be a new nickname his given himself) does is drop loads of Hip Hop quotables followed by a gap for the listener/crowd to finish off. Such a simple concept yet so fun to join in with - the missus and I had great fun on our road trip last night.

The rest of the mixtape is full of brand new classic Sway rhymes and regardless of your opinion on the man, you have to hand it to him; he's continually improving and has ensured that all audiences are covered with this free download release. His new trick seems to be fast rapping and tongue twisting multi-syllabic rhymes and the first track '2nd Delivery' is nothing short of jaw-dropping!

'The 140 Show' - Franko Fraize (review)

Franko Fraize is an MC I've been supporting for a couple of years now. I featured him on the 'On The Radar' series and have seen him go from strength to strength.

His latest release is the free download 'The 140 Show'. Franko has never hidden his love for both Hip Hop and Grime and this release sees him perform both styles admirably. Mosttracks are a fusion of both styles whilst many tracks stray into Dubstep territory, with a general slant towards electronica. All tracks are produced by long-time collaborator DJ I.C.

Tracks like 'Locking It Down' display pure skill from all involved, as well as a potential for mass appeal (without any watering down as is usual). 'Grinding Forever' has a West Coast feel to it, without sounding anything like something, say Dr. Dre, would produce. 'Spar With The Master' is the perfect combination of MC and Dubstep, the sword sound effects sound awesome too!

'STP' ft.PyroBarz & Mentalist - Skillit (video)

Always feeling Skillit's music and this one is straight up Hip Hop, bound to get you nodding at least. 'STP' is featured on Skillit's new free to download EP 'As Seen On TV'.

'Life Is' ft. Kyza & Dani Appadoo - Grit Grammar (video)

Monday, 18 October 2010

'The Lion Goes From Strength To Strength (No Compromise)' - Blade (re-issue review)

In some ways, this review (or feature?), is easy to write. In others it's more difficult.

The easy bit is this: It's undeniable that the music contained is classic material and has had great bearing on UK Hip Hop's progression. Many of you will know the music from its release in 1993 and therefore don't need me to dissect it in the usual manner - all you'll need to decide is whether or not you need a remastered, CD version of this brilliant album. For those of you who don't know the music but consider yourself to be a UK Hip Hop fan, then you just need to trust me, all the people who bought this on vinyl at its original release and the good folk over at Original Dope, that this is something you need to have.

The difficult bit is this: This is a re-release and thousands of people before me have formed an opinion on the music contained within this double-disc CD with extra liner notes. This leaves me with very little to actually add without putting my own opinions on a pedestal. What I can say is that the price is great, the presentation is excellent, the included booklet, written by Blade himself, is a fascinating read and the sound quality is second to none (way better than the old vinyl rips!).

All in all, I hope I've given you just cause to buy this release. The re-issue of Blade's 'The Lion Goes From Strength To Strength (No Compromise)' is available now at Original Dope for £11.99 plus postage (which is 99p).

Saturday, 16 October 2010

'Mixed' - Scratch Perverts (video)

A video mini-mix of every track from the latest Scratch Perverts mix which is out on the 18th October. Not UK Hip Hop but with their roots firmly in our scene the boys deserve our support, even if this release is on Ministry of Sound! Oh, and the music is stuff that I'm sure you'll all bug out to anyway.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

'Classic Material' - Chris Read (free download)

What's not to like here? The kind of music we all harp on about all mixed together with more to come!

Chris Read (remember his diaries?) has put these together and this isn't just a download. It's much more than that: "This mixtape, together with an unreleased megamix, is available on an extremely limited edition CD as part of a box set also containing a T-Shirt and 7inch artwork print available exclusively from Classic Material events and the Classic Material website".

The first mix covers 1979 to 1983 (see the tracklist and listen here) and the second covers 1984 to 1987 (see the tracklist and listen here). The mixes are free to download although after hearing them you might just want to get the special CD which also contains a bonus mix of Electro-Rap and Electro-Funk from the early to mid 80s.

The first Classic Material event takes place at The CAMP (City Arts and Music Project) on Saturday 16th October 2010 with special guest DJ Format playing a 7inch only set of early 80s Hip Hop alongside Chris Read, DJ Nickname and Daily Diggers. Entry is Free!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Instance Interview #2

"I think properly blowing in the UK would present any underground artist with a dilemma. Do you want to make serious money out of music or not?"

The second Certified Banger interview with rapper Instance was about due and with a new free EP just dropping and a long player just around the corner, now seemed like a good time:

Certified Banger: Yo Instance. What’s going on? What’s been happening since the last time we interviewed you?

Instance: Hello sirrrrr, good to be back, it’s been a while (early 2008 I think). Things have been sweet man. Since we last spoke I dropped my last LP ‘Demographic’, and got on the grind promoting that out of Leeds. We had the usual problem of getting a decent distribution deal for the physical product. We thought f**k it so and me and Mike D from Subterrania rinsed the North with street promotion, think we sold/blagged/traded to the tune of 2000 copies. Since then there’s been another 2 free mixtapes; ‘Collision Course’ and ‘Heavy Rotation’ which were pretty unconstrained and lots of fun. Apart from the studio stuff, I put on a few hip hop nights in Leeds. Despite having a few run-ins with the council and environmental health our nights were always packed and live-o! Big up to everyone who came, even if you did graff up the toilets! NOTHING compares to the nerves you feel before you hold an event that you’ve put £1000 of your own money into - your balls are on the chopping block as a promoter! It’s a different sort of rush though! Erm, what else? I’ve been expanding my design portfolio, including a handful of album art work covers namely for Defenders of Style and Northern Hostility. I’ve made some more links, burnt a few bridges, but that’s life.

Track Of The Day: 'Black Milk' ft. Ddubble - Ill Move Sporadic

Black Milk - two words often of the lips of Hip Hop fans at the moment. But here's another reason why you might utter them:

Ill Move Sporadic and Ddubble bring you the single 'Black Milk' which is actually featured on their free-to-download release 'The Magnetic Mixtape'. The track is an ode to Guinness, a beer worthy of such treatment in my humble opinion. The beat is happy and celebratory and the lyrics are pretty funny - all in all, something I can get with.

'The Magnetic Mixtape' features some more great UK Hip Hop from some MCs you may not yet have heard of: Oliver Sudden, Joey Menza and Ddubble all ride some of the coolest beats, beats which hark back to the Hip Hop of the 90s yet sound fresh and original. Other featured artists are O'Sudds (on 'The Throwdown' with a very unique rhyme style (edit: Same person as Oliver Sudden?)), 2 Man Army and Baska. Parisian rapper Katha features on Bunny - a spooky production with harsh vocal stylings from the MC.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

'Hey' ft. Sincere - Chima Anya (video)

Monday, 11 October 2010

'Questions' - Skandal (video)

Friday, 8 October 2010

'Terrorist City: Beta Version' - Kal Sereousz (review)

Sounding like a veteran Kal Sereousz bursts onto the underground scene with much confidence. 'Terrorist City: Beta Version' has been in my inbox and on my ipod for a while now but it seems like it's just surfacing now.

With his swagger, street commentary, forceful delivery and penchant for militarily heavy beats (courtesy of Chemo, Jon Phonics, Kelakovski and others) fans of the likes of Klashnekoff won't be disappointed by this new artist. If my recommendation isn't enough then maybe the fact that Mystro and Ramson Badbonez both feature on the same track on this album will. 'Tired' sees each MC do their thing with Kal bridging the gap between the styles of Mys and Ramson.

If you want to get hold of a copy Suspect Packages are stocking it on CD and Datpiff are offering it as a free download (not sure if this is official or not so I'll let you search for the link!).

'Postcards From The Edge' - Ghost (review)

Although abstract, the title couldn't be more apt. You might imagine the edge in question to belong to Hip Hop, probably at its border with the leftfield. Ghost sends home a taste of what it sounds like in that far off and foreign place.

The title track, which is free believe it or not, really sums up the project and is definitely for those small hours when relaxation is the order of the day. Immerse yourself in Ghost's sounds and sink deep into the comfort of the producer's proficiencies.

But don't get too comfortable! Kashmere and Jehst lend the vocals from 'No More' for a heavily Dubstep influenced remix - whoof! 'Neon City' provides the stepping stone between the two previously mentioned psyches with its ethereal synths marrying perfectly to the lolloping bass and drums. Certainly something worth writing home about.

The rest of the album falls between the two bookends set out at the beginning with Aeries providing more rap on 'Time Will Tell' and 'Way With Words' and tracks like 'Hearts and Minds' bringing that real wonk to proceedings.

'The Enigma EP' - Capital R (review)

Searching for some Hip Hop that sounds something like it used to in this mire of mushy music? You might turn your ear to Capital R and his 'The Enigma EP' for half an hour.

The beats are all sample based and soulful and form a cohesive backdrop despite being produced by several different beatmakers. DJ 456's cuts are a welcome proof that Capital R is intent on respecting the art form. Capital R's flow and voice has an old school, simple feel to it and is certainly pretty unique in this saturated scene. His chatty style is easy to digest and never lacks in clarity. On 'You don't Own Me', in amongst his peers (who include Genesis Elijah and Mr. Flex) his voice is instantly recognisable.

Bonus track 'I Represent (For Hip Hop)' is an ode to the music that many of us know and love from our formative years.

The 8 tracks on offer here are enough to introduce a promising artist and his chosen compadres and 'The Enigma EP' can be downloaded at Bandcamp now.

'State of the Art' - Hilltop Hoods (review)

OK, not UK Hip Hop, but perhaps the closest thing to it? Hilltop Hoods are perhaps the most well known Hip Hop crew in Australia and are definitely worthy of a global audience.

By all accounts 'State of the Art' is a coming-of-age type release however I couldn't comment on this since I've only heard single tracks from the crew in the past. It does seem, however, that these claims could be pretty accurate as the LP has some very thought provoking moments.

On 'Super Official' the crew get thinky about the work involved in being an underground Hip Hop group over a very triumphant and well-produced beat. Oh and they've included a pretty catchy chorus too. 'Still Standing' and its sampling of Scientist's 'Your Teeth In My Neck' keeps things musically addictive.

'Classic Example' - produced by DJ Nu-Mark of Jurassic 5 fame and Pharoahe Monch? Good? Yeah, no half. You'll love this one. 'Chris Farley' is a bit silly - the MCs imagine dying in the way that several different celebrities have done - other than the name checking of some important musicians and actors this is a pit pointless. 'The Light You Burned' featuring Trial angrily mourns lost relation - directed at lovers or an ex-record label?

Suffa's production on 'Last Confession' and 'Hillatoppa' cement the suspicion that the beats are this album's strength. It's not that they lyrics a re bad - they're extremely well written and actually lyrical, it's just that there's not too much new in the way of subject matter.

It's the closing track that struck me the most upon listening: 'Fifty in Five'. Suffa accompanies his production with over 100 bars of recent history commenting on everything from Amercian politics, cult films, wars, dead rappers and British politicians. If you only hear one track on this track, make it this one - this is where the coming-of-age comments originated. Excellent.

'RRRare' - Inkrument

Inkrument - good Hip Hop? Yes. Their album 'RRRare' is out now and from the few tracks I've heard it's definitely worth a buy.

UK Hip Hop fans need to start looking to some of these newer artists as well as their old favourites for stuff to be bumping.

'I, Wise' is a funky mash-up of 90s Hip Hop sounds and some nice synths and should probably come with a guarantee of head nodding. 'I'm In Love With The Sky' is way harder than the title might suggest, although the thoughtful, refreshing lyrics re sure to sooth. 'Everything I Am' scraps the new-fangledness and just goes straight for that boom bap sound and totally embodies what we love about that golden era. The Elementz remix of 'Rrrare' is a fast and furious affair incorporating bleeps AND beatboxing and lyrics about all things rare, safe and waste. Quality.

'RRRare' is out now on Dealmaker Records' and you can find info about buying the CD or the download here.

'Perculating' - Big Cakes (video)

Big Cakes may have changed the definition of the word 'percolating' (and the person who uploaded it may have just spelt it wrong), but whatever - a pretty cool little track.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Track Of The Day: 'People Say' - TPS Fam

'People Say' is a great way to close an album. You've got to be confident to put a strong track at the end - people might never reach it.

'People Say' is kinda like a modern day version of Stetsasonic's 'Talkin' All That Jazz' and the TPS boys defend our culture and art against those who might think Hip Hop is not real music.

The added bonus is that this is two tracks in one - the second being a mickey take of the ringtone, autotuned 'rappers'.

'Disc-Overy' - Tinie Tempah (review)

Tinie Tempah – ‘Disc-Overy’. What on earth will a die hard Hip Hop fan like me think? Let’s see. This is a live blog of the CD:

‘Intro’ – big D’n’B style beat, robot vocals – a very imposing way to begin an LP but with lyrics likening himself to a vegetable and an awful lot of swearing for a CD that’s probably been created for the charts it’s difficult to tell where he’s aiming (or where the label are aiming him). In his favour I’ll say that Mr. Tempah sure can flow and ride a beat.

‘Simply Unstoppable’ hits without giving the listener time to draw breath but again, his questionable lyricality is evident early on in his first utterances: “Simple, Honey I’m a fine boy, no pimples”. The beat is harder than most of this sub-par urban pop so it has that in its favour and again, Tinie doesn’t miss a beat with his rapping.

‘Pass Out’ – it is what it is. You know the track – infuriatingly ingratiating production, really wack lyrics (“I’ve got so many clothes I keep some in my aunt’s house”), pointless sung bits and that D’n’B bit. A great pop track, admittedly.

‘Illusion’ – strikingly boring introduction, but wait, crikey, my flippin’ head is nodding and I actually really like what he has to say and the way he says it, well, it’s just so effortless. Oh, the chorus is another fuzzy sung bit and I can’t work out what is being said – that spoilt it a bit. Best track so far, though.

‘Just A Little’ featuring Range (what’s the betting he’s named himself after Range Rover?). Annoying singing (detecting a theme here, although the words on this are discernable) about something about a girl but some fairly eloquent, yet simple multis from Tinie Tempah. Boring song though – skip.

‘Snap’. A pretty good beat, some more wonky head nodding, at least until the vocals kick in. Also, a pretty original concept; it’s a song about photographs, digital ones at that seeing as he stores them on his Micro SD. A bit sappy though.

‘Written In The Stars’ – Eric Turner’s sing song intro gives way to a more basic beat which is preferable to the aforementioned intro which incorporates electric guitars. Seems that Tinie gave up on the lyrics in the second verse though and he even uses made up words to make things scan “leaded astray”.

‘Frisky’. Argh, more annoying singing from somebody. Ooh, the “lalala” bit is catchy – I can see why this was a single. Lyrics – garr, puke. That is all.

Miami 2 Ibiza’. TT gets ‘lyrical’ by saying lots of initials and talking dirty before the beat gets to sound something like one might hear in Ibiza. Nothing I want to hear here. Oh, apparently this is produced by Swedish House Mafia if that means anything to you?

‘Obsession’ – self indulgent and a tad boring. Skip.

Oh, I used to really like Kelly Rowland. Let’s see what she brings to ‘Invincible’. Ah, just the same old thing she’s been peddling over the last year. Tinie’s flow on this is a little stilted and staccato (as it was on ‘Obsession’) which I find fairly frustrating – you probably will too. Man! It’s really annoying!

‘Wonderman’ – the super hero track. Good lyrics about becoming famous but goodness, this Ellie Golding lass has an irritating accent – he shoulda left her off. You’d think that from this review that I hate hearing singing alongside rapping but it’s not true – I actually love it, but on this CD it’s done so badly. Ooop, bit of autotune – of course.

‘Let Go’. Won’t even mention the singing of Emilie Sande or Tempah’s once more disjointed delivery or the sloth-paced beat. A bad way for Tempah to finish up, but then again it brings the running time to the obligatory 45 minute mark so that the fans feel like they’ve not been short changed. I’ve stopped listening now and am just thinking how I’ll sum up.

‘Disc-Overy’ (why the ‘disc’ has been separated I don’t know; maybe he’s the only chart rapper to have actually pressed up some physical product?) isn’t a bad album considering its audience probably doesn’t consist of those who like Hip Hop. It contains some perfect radio fodder but doesn’t totally disguise the fact that Tinie Tempah has some skills as an MC. His flow is often spot on although his lyric writing could probably do with a few more years of maturation. It does leave me wondering what sort of album he would have put out if he had complete creative control and the knowledge that he would still get paid. Maybe one day, when he’s fallen from the chart’s grace, he’ll do something for the heads. He’ll still get a fair review then from me.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

'Life Times' - Prose (video)