Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Verb T - Serious Games (Album Review)

Consistent is probably the best word to describe Verb T. In a recording career now nearly 10 years old, he has certainly dropped new releases more consistently than your average UK artist. Whilst Serious Games is only his second truly solo, full length album, and first on the ever-impressive YNR records, there have been collaborative LPs with producers Juice, Harry Love and The Last Skeptik, and the 'double-EP' with Kashmere on Low Life that really launched his career. When you add to that the Invisible Inc project, the somewhat throwaway Spaar Zoot mixtape, a string of guest verses and a few (rather unsuccessful) Don't Flop battles, you get the picture that Verbs is one of the hardest working MCs in the country.

It's fair to say that the music has been of a consistent standard as well. With an instantly recognisable flow, albeit occasionally slightly monotone, you know you are rarely going to get a weak verse from Verbs. Production has never been an issue either. The beat on his first single, Showbitchness, was from Harry Love, and those on the first EP, Backhand Slap Talk, were handled by Braintax, and since then he has worked with virtully everyone who is anyone in terms of UK beatsmiths. As you would expect from an established artist, the production credits and guest list on 'Serious Games' is a similarly heavyweight lineup of the usual YNR suspects. On the beats, there is Chemo and Jon Phonics, whilst on the rhymes you have Kashmere, Jehst, Kyza and Fliptrix amongst others.

Lyrically, and musically, Verbs provides a healthy mix of styles throughout. On the beats, there is a greater use of synths than you might expect judging from the production that has featured on previous Verb T albums, however, in this case it is no bad thing. In fact, one of the albums highlights is the smoothed out back-to-back of Bounce With Me and Closer, where the beats seem the perfect backdrop for Verb's typically laidback delivery. That's not to say that he can't keep up over more energetic production though. In fact, the electronic snap of Life Is… provides the canvas for what is possibly Verb's best verse of the album:

"Some want the easy life, wanna cruise by,
Other want to take, take, take and abuse lives,
With hidden agendas, we gotta find them out,
And life is? Life is as deep as the mind allows"

This Kyza and Dubbledge featuring joint follows on from the equally energetic, Chemo produced Sound The Alarm, with Kashmere guesting this time. So whilst his strength may lie in drifting over smooth, chilled-out instrumentals, this vibe doesn't dominate, and it is a stronger, more-rounded album as a result. Other tracks that stand out from the others are the slightly 'emo' love song, Let Me Stay, that is becoming something of a trademark for Verb T (See Just Let Me, or Frozen In Time off Ghost's Freedom Of Thought Album) and Tearing The Sky Down, a trip into sci-fi. The latter inevitably features another guest verse from Kashmere, who in the liner notes is described as "The Best Rapper In The World".

Overall though, I feel that Verb T has really found his own style on this album, perhaps predictably considering that most of his previous LPs have been collaborative efforts. As fitting a solo project, the beats have been chosen to fit with Verbs' flow, and the result is an album that is entirely Verb T's. The one theme that is continued from his previous work is the consistency. Very few weak beats or rhymes to be found here, (although I wouldn't have bothered with yet another Dick Trusay skit) and another solid release to add to his ever growing catalogue.

8/10 (Score is not meant to be definitive, just for interest/fun/discussion. I reserve the right the change my mind whenever I want to, as the number I've just come up with was probably affected by my mood on the day, the weather, how Reading did at the weekend, etc, etc. You get the point...)

The album was released a couple of weeks ago, and is available on CD and download at most, if not all, of the usual spots.

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