Emerging from the often-overlooked UK hip-hop scene at the turn of the century, Foreign Beggars have achieved a longevity few of their peers have managed. This has been largely due to the group’s willingness to experiment beyond the New York boom-bap inspired sound that stagnated the careers of some of their contemporaries. The eclecticism of the group is almost a perfect reflection of the past 20 years in underground British music, with elements of dubstep, drum & bass and grime all being incorporated into their sound.
On ‘2 2 Karma’ the group continues this tradition, with Foreign Beggars producing a project which is simultaneously varied and coherent. Opening track ‘Flashback’ involves the two MCs recounting stories from their youth over a crashing drum beat, which is reminiscent of NWA-era Dr Dre, and a grumbling and grimey bassline. The grime influence continues with ‘Toast’, featuring the scarily talented Izzie Gibbs, as the Beggars take on an instrumental that juxtaposes icy synths with a dubstep wobble.
Although the majority of the project is an enjoyably chaotic ride, ‘Crash Burn’ is a welcome change of pace midway through the album. However, as the track’s title would imply, there is no let-up in the ferocity of the lyrics in this song. Both MCs put the world to rights over a haunting instrumental, decrying the state of society and the daily grind. Although admirable, some of the lyrics can come off a bit lightweight, with lines like “You’re still a damn slave to the payroll / After tax what do you take home?” hardly being the most interesting observation.
Far more lyrically poignant is closing track ‘Vultures’, which sees the Beggars at their most introspective and profound, tackling more existential issues in an insightful way. With ‘2 2 Karma,’ Foreign Beggars have once again demonstrated their ability to adapt and evolve, without using current trends as a crutch for relevancy. A few overly-ambitious moments aside, this project is a manically enjoyable listen.
Words: Will Rosebury
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