For those feeling they missed the St George’s Day boat, Rapture & Verse declares a national holiday by setting a Best of British ball rolling. Beginning with Juice Aleem’s Tron-tripping ‘MoorKaBa LightBikes’, a beast of bass curved by Roots Manuva and lyrics leaning like a hairpin bend is approaching, witness the ejector seat hip-hop movement. Flanked by the cosmic trap of the savagely wise ‘AnuMal’, and with remixes from the atmosphere-thinning Ebu Blackitude and code red lasers of Kashmere, the sire of Shadowless leaves speakers stunned.
Jazz T & Zygote lay their mitts on Cappo & Sam Zircon’s recent ‘Iron Flyer’ and bare knuckle boom bap their way to the front of your crate, and Amplify Dot’s sharp ‘Kurt Cobain’ unzips casual caustics to voodoo riffs and drums burning midnight oil. Squid Ninja Skamma’s ‘I’m Not Eminem’ orders a vat full of marmite for you to try, Blak Twang runs through Congo Natty’s dub drum & bass bullet ‘Rebel MC’, and while we’re on the skank, London Posse’s seminal ‘Money Mad’ reappears for its 25th birthday. Rodney P and Bionic still sound great and totally ahead of the game, now with decoded dub add-ons from Drumagick and Wrongtom, and a revived bonus track, ‘Future No 1’, which sounds like a phat DITC exchange program. Fans of the Big Smoke’s original likely lads can look forward to the ‘Gangster Chronicle’ LP getting a reissue with more extras than a sweetshop full of chewing gum.
Aspects’ amble down a ‘Left Hand Path’ is the Bristol lot still giving it plenty of mouth (‘Scumerset’ putting its ends on the map, ‘Layman’s Terms’ epitomising how they mask cheek as sneering contempt), their quick wit, storytelling and showmanship transferring across styles, but loving the crash bang wallop of B-boy bread and butter. Don’t forget to cop your Aspects giveaway here as well. Being touted as “the best hip-hop album to come out of Oxford ever”, ‘Anthropocene’ is the work of Death of HiFi, a space-researching stingray yo-yoing between synth schlock, prog rock DNA and earthier hip-hop tones. Counting down the ignition sequence are Copywrite, Ugly Duckling’s Dizzy Dustin and a spit-happy clutch of UK upstarts. Not always as stellar as its synopsis, tuck it away into your playlist if you want something that doesn’t quite fit the bill.
Some laidback, stoop-ready vibes from New York’s L.I.F.E.T.I.M.E. has ‘Boom Bap’ swaying sweetly and encouraging the sun not to be a stranger, jostling for position on the steps with ‘Kapish’ that has Ralph Rip Shit and 12 Original Players giving in to summer madness. The perpetually persuasive J-Live basks as he kicks claptrap to the kerb with the drum-twanged drive of ‘The Fun Razor’, as Kidz in the Hall’s ‘Wishful Drinking’ raises a glass to trap and gilt-edged beats wearing ballgowns and sliding down spiral staircases. Bahamadia’s ‘Dialed Up’ is an impressive micro-showcase showing the power of the modern day dog and bone – all done down the blower y’see – and the return of Cannibal Ox on the ‘Gotham’ EP is like they’ve never been away, especially with Vast Aire doing his usual shamble on through, proclaiming he’s a “sorcerer trapped in a spelling bee”.
Getting funky and loose is Aceyalone’s ‘Leanin’ on Slick’, big on jives, high fives and good vibes declaring party season open as the Freestyle Fellowship founder uses the mic stand as a maypole with the potential to be a significant hit, particularly with the assistance of Cee-Lo and Daniel Merriweather. The complete opposite is the Dutch dredger running aground from Dope DoD, gunning through the grimiest of hip-hop glades with ‘Da Roach’. With Kool Keith, Onyx, Redman and Sean Price pulling on their wellies to splash through the blood, guts and digital slime hoping for dubstep reincarnation once its met its maker (if the powers that be don’t send it straight to hell), it’s for those that like to wash themselves down with wire wool after a long-assed spree of sledgehammer sharpening.
Thoughts from the streets with pleas in the rain come from Canadian crew Notes to Self, a glum but level-headedly considerate unit, when they’re not coming out swinging and using horns as brass knuckles. Showing a grimy side on ‘All of the Above’, with an itchy riff and some great, withering observations, ‘Target Market’ won’t be pushed into the margins. Stadium rock chopper ‘Oh My God’ defines their loudness, whatever noise they’re bringing, and tight chemistry makes you buy into their bargaining. Anyone who admits “ain’t got a Blackberry, I fucks with Tamagotchi” is alright with us. Also in the basket this month - Illogic & Blockhead’s ‘Capture the Sun’, a rock solid indie one-two on the burgeoning Man Bites Dog imprint; measured mixtape flair from Bishop Nehru (‘Nehruvia’) breezing over beats from DJ Premier, Madlib and DOOM to show he’s more than a street dreams teen and that ‘real’ NY is still out there; and Eddie B & Harry Fraud’s ‘Horsepower’ going to work with some loungin’, money countin’ vibes coming holstered – ‘Dope Spoons’ an epic granter of Godfather-sized favours – and swilling made man funk like it’s fine cognac. Called ‘Beautiful Raw’ for good reason, Chicago’s Qwel & Maker show how to handle the toweringly proud, the scuzzily thrown down, and those pushing your Flexfit back while filling your backpack. Spits stay devout with cross-armed defiance and some emotional attuning. And then are the small matters of Tyler’s world of phonetic freedom hungry like the ‘Wolf’ and Ghostface’s game of hip-hop Cluedo ‘Twelve Reasons to Die’, equipped with alternative motives from Apollo Brown.
For when your evening’s candles are beginning their final waxy descent, Tall Black Guy’s creamy dessert of soul and funk will feather you down duvet-wards, with that essential Detroit dusting on top. ‘8 Miles to Moenart’ is not for those with an intolerance of instrumental richness and one rhymed shot of espresso, but it’s a serving sized so you can dip you finger in and get your fill. Unassuming name, undoubted game. Talking of the self-effacing, you can’t get more non-descript than the monikers of Nametag and Nameless; good job their ‘For Namesake’ LP is wearing a Welcome to Detroit sign spattered in unmistakable crackle and clap, soul whisked fast and poured slow. Black Milk and Guilty Simpson get involved with a moreish nugget of next wave Motor City goodness. Nine:Fifteen’s latest burst of indie chameleonism, ‘Shooting in the Dark’, does a hipster melange dreamed and drugged up by Virginia-LA connect Blake9 and Bisquite Powerpoppin. Copywrite’s free LP ‘Carbon Copy’s Phony Art Pub Scam’ is not a Grey Album as such, but claims Fab Four membership with rhymes over Merseybeat reconstructions – not always a perfect fit given Copy’s spite, but you can tell the effort has been put in to create something new.
A quick news bulletin before the vids, and Killer Mike and El-P have reconvened and are promising big things under the name of Run the Jewels. Tony Touch is promising a ‘Piece Maker’ volume three, and Madlib is set to go heavy on the helium with a re-introduction of Quasimoto to the mic booth. Seek reassurances from Constant Deviants, Papoose flipping his Pocket Oxford, Percy Filth & Mylo Stone treating a case of ‘Brukfoot’; then get on board with Machine Gun Kelly, RA The Rugged Man boxing clever, and Lewis Parker putting the hours in.
Words by Matt Oliver