When I first started hearing early Grime anthems like "Icepole" and "I Love U", I felt sensations similar to hearing Schooly D or even the first LL Cool J album back in the mid '80s. It was minimal, avant garde anti-music, which was what I always believed Hip Hop could or should be. The sort of thing that nobody over a certain age could possibly understand. To me, MC-orientated Grime was the most exciting, outrageous, revolutionary form of Hip Hop I'd heard since...well, since before UKG started getting boring. Whenever I listen to music, I'm inevitably focusing on the background sonics, so one of the initially disappointing things about "Run The Road" is how normal some of the music sounds. Regardless of the edgy lyrical delivery, Roll Deep's "Let It Out" seems far too polite musically, suggesting that reports of a move towards more easily-digestible grooves might be true. Similarly, Wonder & Plan B's "Cap Back" features an orthodox r'n'b backing that is frankly unremarkable. Demon's "I Won't Change" employs a workmanlike breakbeat loop and flute sample that could've been put together by Gang Starr fifteen years ago. Perhaps I'm listening for the wrong things. After all, this album is about showcasing the verbal skillz of the hottest MC talent on the block, which it does more than adequately. Who could fail to be knocked-out by Duurty Goodz's 90-miles-an-hour delivery or Terror Danjah and friends jaw-dropping opening salvo on "Cock Back V1.2"? There's no doubt that this new breed of microphone fiends are leaving just about everybody else in the Rap establishment eating their dust.
But I like to hear form matched with content. Appropriately enough it's left to the most established artist, Dizzie Rascal, to show how it's done. Even though it's 'only' a previously released b-side, his "Give U More" still stands out as truly 'out-there' in it's overall construction. It may not be as incredible as "I Love U", but give the guy a break. That's like expecting Suicide to create a new "Frankie Teardrop" every year. These sort of career-defining moments only come once in a while, and the artists themselves probably aren't entirely sure how the tracks came into existence. "Give U More" features suitably off-kilter beats, pinned-down by mercilessly economical squarewave stabs and a skewed loop of crowd-noise atmospherics that give an effect that's hardly celebratory, more like a bad dream where every face in the crowd seems unreal and horrific. Coupled with Dizzie and D Double E's terse, unrelenting rhymes, the overall effect is exhaustingly intense.
Then there's Lady Sovereign and her contribution "Cha Ching". There's been an awful lot of controversy surrounding this lady, not least the huge thread over at Dissensus. Some people call her talent and 'authenticity' into question. Regarding the second point, I really couldn't give a damn. I'm hardly from the street myself, merely a fascinated observer, and I can only react to the music on my own terms. And my reaction to "Cha Ching" is "wow, fucking ace!!". That combination of brutal, synthetic minimalism with her highly appealing vocal style is frankly irresistible in my view. It's almost pop music...close enough for me to imagine her performing it on CD:UK or TOTP, which would be brilliant, I reckon. This is exactly the sort of thing I'd love to see storming the charts and freaking-out the kidz of middle-england. I could imagine it having the same sort of effect that Lena Lovich's "Lucky Number" had on my 10-year-old psyche back in '79 - really catchy yet also quite bizarre and a little bit scary. We need someone like Lady Sovereign in the public eye right now, fucking shit up and causing excited debates in the school playgrounds. Bring it on!
I love female MC's anyway, always have. Dominic suggested that "perhaps female mc's reduce the testosterone factor of the music while preserving the rhythmic dynamism, the street edge, etc" which is certainly a distinct possibility. Whatever, ever since I saw Salt 'n' Peppa performing "My Mic Sounds Nice" on The Tube many years ago, I've been a fan of the lady MCs. On "Run The Road", both No Lay and Shystie give great performances that suggests that there's plenty of room in the Grime scene for female talent to flourish.
I may have some reservations, but if there's one album you need to have an opinion about right now, it's this one. Check it!!
While I'm an the subject of Grime, about a month ago I received a cd-r of the second 'draft' of Virus Syndicate's forthcoming album, now entitled "The Work Related Illness". It adds a couple of new tunes but also sees the removal of one that was on the first draft. Apparently this track, "Watchin' You", was originally going to be on the Mark One album "One Way" but was dropped from that one too. It would've made sense for it to be released back then because it's theme is very much post-US election paranoia and I guess part of the reason why it has once again been ousted is simply because it's lyric is no longer 'current' enough. This is a shame, because frankly there's plenty here that remains very much relevant to our fragile little world right now. A lyrical extract for you;
"Kerry's just lost the election, Bush has got an erection,
Tony Blair's polishing his dick, about to get fucked in another four-year session (suck it, Tony!)
Micheal Moore tries to tell 'em, fuck this - watch Fahrenheit 911,
If it helps sit back and ask yourself where the hell will we be in 2007?"
As an example of 'conscious Grime' it really should be heard, I think. I asked Mike P if I could share it here but he never actually signed the track so wasn't in a position to give permission, suggesting I e-mail Mark One and ask him about it. This I did, but after nearly four weeks still no response. Oh well, at least I tried. I'll do a full review of the album nearer the release date (30th May).
I may as well give a mention for the third CD I bought in the megastore: "Bingo Beats Vol.3", a joint release from Bingo and Dump Valve, featuring exclusive dubs and VIP remixes mixed by DJ Slimzee. This is actually about six months old now, but it wasn't until I saw the thing staring at me from the racks in Virgin that the impulse to buy came over me. I wasn't actually looking for it, to be honest. It's not the sort of thing I'd expect to see in a major retail outlet. I mentioned Slimzee a few months ago in relation to his time with Wiley in the Pay As You Go Cartel, though he seems to have moved away from that scene quite a bit. There's an interesting little interview with him over at RWD, where he talks about his disillusionment with Grime and explains the motivation behind the Bingo Beats mix. Although you'll still see this listed in the Dubstep section at Dubplate, I wouldn't say that this was particularly in that style. It's quite techy, sophisticated and in places seems to blur the lines between Grime and Breaks, so I'm not really sure how to pigeonhole it to be honest. Jammin's "Go DJ Remix" even features a bit of Amen. It is predominantly instrumental, apart from three brief vocal interjections from Dizzie, Crazy D and D Double E, though in some parts it does seem a little too polished and smooth for my tastes. Part of the reason I don't get excited by a lot of the Breaks stuff I hear is because it seems to work on the same principle as Trance - endless, sparkley velocity that doesn't really say anything or go anywhere (unless you're off your tits, I s'pose). Still, when it gets on a darker, sparse riffy edge the results are suitably intoxicating. I guess it's a bit old news now, but still worth a tenner if you see a copy floating around (and can get past the awful, tacky sleeve design!)
Among the host of production stars featured on "Bingo Beats 3" are Search & Destroy, who's "Foodchain VIP" is one of the edgier tunes on offer. I've developed a particular fondness for the tracks these guys are putting out. As well as the breaky sound of "Foodchain/Brain Teaser" on Texture, I've also got the more rigid, alienated "Desperate Measures/Wavescape" on Storming Productions, the mellower "Candyfloss" (almost like a grimey Peshay) coupled with "Anger" on Hot Flush Recordings and, favourite of all, a three tracker on Fragile Beats that features some wonderfully inventive square-riff action. Seriously recommended, although I haven't spotted anywhere that's selling this release online at the moment. I discovered it at Rooted Records here in Bristol early last month, so maybe Tom can still supply a copy.