Just Woke Up? Christ, there were times when I thought this would never see the light of day. I’ve been hanging out for the first Rup – oops my bad – RupERT album proper since the motley collection of odds and ends that was Rup On Zebra a while back. Well, I say ‘motley’ – easily one of the best releases of 2007, it would have lyrically smoked anything else into a coma. Cryptic blogs on Rup’s myspace meanwhile suggested that he was over the whole music thing and that’s all (s)he wrote. Thankfully, these have turned out to be little more substantial than an investment banker’s competence, not only has Rupert woken up, he smokes his drugs, doubts his own worth and makes you take a long hard look at your own while convincing you that none of it matters anyway – although – oh – actually it might – all in less than forty minutes. Not the longest album in the world then, and there’s also been a stylistic shift in balance between this release and the last. Those familiar with Rup’s work will probably agree that it falls broadly into two groups – the jump-up banger on the one hand and bitter-sweet (and often hilarious) downtempo musing on the other. Where the former was more noticeable on Rup On Zebra, it’s the latter which predominates on Just Woke Up.
Lest that lead you to believe that you weren’t going to get any bangers at all, let’s set the record straight. In terms of large beats, Steve Clear has to take the laurel for Make Moves, a fat robotic bump which finds a re-energised Rupert leave the sole print of his trainers on your ears at the start of the LP. “We don’t play any more, fuck waiting for doors to be opened/ We’re breaking the doors, you can wait for applause,” he kicks off before addressing those who might question his competence, “And I Know that I don’t/ Look like I know what I’m doing/ But there’s a method to the madness in the road that I’m pursuing”, with a line that affirms it.
The Diaclectic-produced Leave me Out follows and, though the break is lively, finds Rup waxing philosophical (in this instance about love, lust and drugs) as do the next two (with Naim and Evil Sun at the controls respectively). Four cuts into the LP and as many producers, there’s a coherence you might not expect. Obviously partly to do with Rup’s choice of producers it’s also quite definitely to do with his force of personality. Where else are you going to find a rapper dropping verse like “I walk in the park but I’m walking in trainers, sewed by youngsters it’s awful I hate it/ But I’m so basic, that if I like something I blatantly take it, but the drugs are probably made by the same kids that made the trainers,” followed by surreally whimsical choruses in the vein of, “Something that you like/ Like sunshine in my mind/ Like ice cream on my shirt/ It tastes good and smells nice/ Like girl on girl,” over spacey Scandinavian electronica?
Posse cut South Of The River sounds like a block party in your favourite local curry house, bigging up all fings dirty saaf (including – er – Croydon “As saaf as it gets”) and then it’s pretty much Rup rapping over moody electronic beats and female vocal hooks til the end. In a good way. Also, I can’t not mention the weird gem that is The Fox where Rupert savages urban life over a double bass and DJ Manipulate does a laudable impersonation of a bushy-tailed canine with nothing more than his own two hands and some vinyl.
While it’s true that this does weigh in at a bantam-weight thirty-four minutes and I could have handled a few more party cuts, brevity of duration is more than made up for in other ways. If Just Woke Up confirms one thing it’s Rup’s gift for understated but razor-sharp social commentary over reflective beats. If you want better delivery or wordsmithery this year you’ll have to go a bit further than just crossing the river. Out now on Hear Today Records
(PRESS RELEASE) Featuring Lil Fame of M.O.P., DJ Premier, Sean Price, Guilty Simpson, Masta Ace, Saukrates, S-Roc & Cuts By DJ Revolution…
Rapper Torae & super-producer Marco Polo have joined forces to release the New York rap album that fans of raw, hardcore Hip-Hop have been waiting for on 2 June 2009.
When it comes to beats and rhymes, Canadian producer Marco Polo and Brooklyn MC Torae don’t play, just check the résumé. On his 2007 critically acclaimed album Port Authority, Polo recruited a who’s who of MC’s like Kool G Rap and Kardinal Offishall to ride over his hard-hitting instrumentals. Torae, on the other hand, has certified his rep as one of the game’s illest lyricists in a similar fashion, with remarkable wordplay on his highly touted 2008 street album Daily Conversation. So, in the spirit of great hip-hop duos, the producer and the MC signed with Duck Down Records to release their collaborative album “Double Barrel,” on June 2nd.
“He’s bringing the hardest production that he can bring, I’m bringing the hardest rhymes I can bring; together its like a double barrel blast,” says Torae of the album’s persistent theme. The two first hooked up when Marco tapped the MC to guest on his Mick Boogie-helmed mixtape, The New Port Authority, in 2007. In turn, Marco went on to produce “Casualty” on Tor’s Daily Conversation. “I think we just had a connection in the studio,” says Polo, “We wanted to make an album that we wanted to hear with banging beats and aggressive rhymes.”
Sonically Double Barrel pays homage to New York’s mid-‘90’s rap scene, when artists like Gang Starr and Wu-Tang Clan reigned supreme. The album’s lead track “Party Crashers” is a definite standout, harkening back to that era with its chest thumping percussion and rock solid rhymes. So rather then try to fit in with Hip-Hop’s pop set, Torae & Marco chose the unconventional route. “I think the sound of the album is not the most popular or trendy, but we’re going to crash the party,” says Tor, “We’re coming in with this sound and we’re coming in doing what we want to do.”
Songs like the dramatic “But Wait” and the free associative “Word Play” display Tor’s forward-thinking conceptual abilities, while the rock-infused “Danger” stands as one of Marco’s finest productions to date. Overall the album is chock-full of the street-influenced rap that fans have come to expect from the two Hip-Hop upstarts.
Torae sums up the collaboration perfectly when he spits, “He makes violent beats, I’m from the violent streets/That Double Barrel sound, that’s where violence meets.”
Torae & Marco Polo will also be hitting off the vinyl heads with both a 12″ and LP of the album; the 12″ line up will include “Double Barrel,” “Hold Up” f/ Sean Price & Masta Ace and “Combat Drills” (an exclusive cut not found on the Double Barrel CD).
**The Digital Deluxe-Edition of “Double Barrel,'” will include the complete album, an exclusive bonus track and Marco Polo’s instrumentals from the LP; will be available exclusively through iTunes worldwide for only $9.99
Tracklisting and credits for Torae & Marco Polo’s Double Barrel:
1.) Intro f/DJ Premier
2.) Double Barrel featuring cuts by DJ Revolution
3.) Smoke f/Lil Fame of M.O.P.
4.) Party Crashers
5.) But Wait
6.) Lifetime featuring cuts by DJ Revolution
7.) Rah Rah Sh*t
9.) Stomp f/Guilty Simpson
10.) World Play
11.) Hold Up f/Masta Ace & Sean Price
12.) Coney Island
13.) Get It
14.) Crashing Down f/Saukrates & S-Roc (***Bonus Track)
(PRESS RELEASE) Having previously garnered airplay with gorgeously ethereal debut single Candy Dream Dub on Rob Da Banks’ BBC Radio 1 show, Nerm spinning the B-side Puppets on the BBC Asian Network and none other than Steve Lamacq dropping the skankin’ breaks of last single Run Rudeboy, The Hawk (a.ka. Scott Milsom, bassist for critically-acclaimed UK funk heroes Big Boss Man) has finally made good on his promise to drop a full-length album… Listen Outside The Box is a kaleidoscopic trip that whirls the listener through a rainbow of influences drawing from 60s psychedelia, electro and hip-hop. Opener Moon Goes Down is an infectious slice of St Etienne-style pop that showcases the sexy, breathy vocals of Hanayo while Run Rudeboy comes over like a crazy Brixton re-rub of Jay-Z’s Hard Knock Life. New promo single Electric Boogaloo (number one in the monkeyboxing.com April buzz chart and described on the same site as a track that will, “have even the suits donning Pumas and getting out a mat”) is an uptempo, old-school floor-filler with electro synths, vocoder vocals, a killer b-line and a drum break to make even Thom Yorke smile and bust a windmill on the dancefloor. The acid swirls and insectoid drum patterns of It’s Not My Fault give way to a brace of summery downtempo gems Puppets and Travelling Light – again showcasing Hanayo. Wanna Be A DJ steps things back up several notches, riding a massive electro break and throwing up a synth storm as The Hawk pays homage to the old school grandmasters and takes a wry look at the bedroom-dj phenomenon. The mellow hip-hop bounce of Last Ones Standing is a uplifting tribute to perseverance and Love Among The Stars ends the album on a glorious Brazilian drum-n-bossa groove. It’s time to throw back the lid, release the beats and listen outside the box! The Hawk is back.
Hey – they don’t make them like this anymore do they? Erm, except obviously they do because here’s this, the official 12” for upcoming, long-awaited LP Gryme Tyme due in June – and I’ve had that straight from the horse’s mouth. Well, Branesparker’s at least. Anyway, DITC affiliates and underground legends Freestyle Professors are back with their super-heavy, crate diggin’, self-styled Bronx-grimey sound to bring you five all-new tracks, two of which you also get as instrumentals. I’m confused. Isn’t this an EP? Whatever, Branesparker himself produces four of the five, two of which drop a bit of social commentary and get their dark on putting me in mind of Non-Phixion or something: the Lord Finesse produced (and featuring), title track and Jump On It on which original FP member Don Q and Akbar stop by. Personally, I was more excited by the funkier cuts and crazy battle rhymes with which the other three are packed – what with Stanley Grimes tearing it up on, We Won’t Stop “Thought you had testicles, turned out to be some ovaries/ Get out of here, go back to school, be what you supposed to be” and the epic church organ on Dat Grit Grime. The track I’ve really been waiting for though, since they dropped the video last year, is the ridiculously mighty breaks and rhymes of Luv U – another Stanley Grimes hook-up. And because they’re such jokers, Freestyle Professors have hidden this away at the end of side two of the vinyl. How to sum this record up? A rhyme from Dat Grit Grime will suffice – “We don’t give a fuck if you call it old school/ See that’s soulful…” Out now on Freestyle US. Don’t snooze!
On paper this sounded excellent – it was full of western promise. Del, the man with ‘funky’ in his name, the man who dropped Mistadobalina back in the day, the man whose discography includes two of the dopest old school LPs ever, was going to drop an LP called Funkman! News of this was swiftly followed by the ‘stimulus package address’ video shot in grainy black and white with funky president Sir DZL speaking to the hip-hop nation over a Hendrix-style guitar re-working of Hail To The Chief boldly claiming,”…for all of you who have been waiting, listening to hip hop and being so frustrated because of lack of funk – I’m here to bring your funk back to you.”
Ah yes, things were sounding good – and yet, somehow, during the making of Funkman one crucial thought apparently failed to occur to brave Sir DZL, for with this release, Del is the artist/producer equivalent of the man approaching the airport who has yet to realise that his passport’s still on the bed. I know it takes him an age to get an album out but surely one of his mates could have pointed out that this doesn’t have a single decent hook on it.
Noticeably the videogame sounds that characterised No Need For Alarm and last LP Eleventh Hour have been almost totally replaced and the cuts certainly draw from the funk but – correct me if I’m wrong – funk’s all about the dancefloor isn’t it? And the dancefloor likes hooks and beats that make asses move. So first track (and recent promo single) Get It Right Now takes two wrong turns immediately. Singularly bad because of its annoying, atonal, lyrics-drowning car-alarm loop it highlights an issue with the whole LP – the fact that the production is so busy and layered that it detracts from the raps. And They Thought It Was Hell gets a better uptempo beat, (though maybe it just seems better because a lot of the others fail to light any fires) but no hook. Go Against The Grain has an intrusive high-hat that ruins a good clavinet riff, King Of Fighters (the one obvious nod to videogames) is plain boring and so on and so forth until almost the end of the album. Normally an arena for filler or the experimental this is where the determined listener will find Straight From The Big Bad West Coast rolling over a monstrous synth bass and Del considering California’s place in hip-hop’s history – “You thought niggers were surfers/ You never got close enough to see where the dirt was”. Last up is Young Adrenaline which has the least cluttered production on Funkman and, trust me, it feels like a relief.
I don’t want to hate on Del, but even the better parts of this feel like the bits of No Need For Alarm or Both Sides Of The Brain that you’re tempted to skip.
The tinny treble frequencies of those with ‘too-loud’ walkman headphones that used to bother the respectable train traveller have long been superseded by spotty hooded youths who eschew headphones completely and rape the ears of all and sundry with the tinny treble frequencies of their mobile phones. Older commuters must look with misty-eyed fondness on the days when the ghetto blaster was king and their breakfast-filled bowels were loosened by thunderous bass. Coincidentally, it is to this era that new Hawk track Electric Boogaloo harks back. Centred around the massive bongo-break from Sea Groove by UK mod-funkers Big Boss Man, it builds, drops out, chops back to the break and has plenty of time for insane fills and electro-style vocal cuts in a way that will have even the ‘suits’ donning Pumas and getting out a mat. Check the video directed by George Bowler and the download links…Out now on Greystone Records. Download The Hawk – Electric Boogaloo (192 kbps) HERE Download The Hawk – Electric Boogaloo (320 kbps) HERE The Hawk – Myspace Read Listen Outside The Box LP Press release
Northern filth merchant Chopps Derby pulls a handbrake u-turn in terms of genre (if not in lyrical focus – which remains firmly in a condom-choked gutter) screeching from the chilled breaks of the You Don’t Know What Broccoli Is EP to lairy grime with Back To Yer Yard. It’s difficult for one to speculate at the grim horror of life in a northern ghetto whilst sat here brandy in hand, looking out of a window (one that has no need of a perforated steel cover) onto sunlit southern avenues but this is a marvellous aid. No need to imagine hooded youth planning to shank ‘rivals’, or discussing ‘gash’ it’s all here in glorious technicolour. One particularly enjoys the sight of our guide to all this piss-stained chaos, Derby himself, stood inside a wheelie bin raving like a derelict jack-in-a-box…quite superb. Chopps Derby – Myspace gullstrunkrecords.com
Listening to the various efforts at rebooting northern soul over the last couple of years has been a bit like being on the sidelines of the ‘open’ egg and spoon race at a school sports day. Ever an event that inspires a variety of approaches, it has both heroes and villains. Mark Ronson is the devious competitive parent who achieved an early lead by sticking chewing gum to the bottom of his egg but gave the game away because of his too clinical style. Bratty Winehouse has dropped her egg so many times it’s in more fragments than her career. Respectable staff members The Bamboos and Kylie Auldist forge ahead with a graceful ease though currently in front are flamboyant Sixth Formers Gnarls Barkley. Snapping at their heels are this pair from (appropriately enough) northern England. Slick-but-not-too-slick You Don’t Know almost rehabilitates the saxophone and reveals that Smoove has clearly got the groove while Turrell’s got the classic smoky vocals. The finishing line awaits… Out 13 April on Jalapeno Records.
This month you’re getting some fresh French flavour in the form of Audel. This man is straight outta Valence and kicks it live with the DFS and ONE crews. He’s got six years painting time under his belt and is such an integrated European that he cites writers of several nationalities as inspirations for his new school style: Otis from the Fatherland, fellow Frenchman Mire and the UK’s very own Aroe. Audel likes nothing better than getting together with a few mates and enhancing brickwork with spraycans while listening to hip-hop – he says old school’s always cool but likes a bit of Guilty Simpson – or anything else on Stones Throw. If pressed he will modestly admit to having taken part in an exhibition in Strasbourg and doing live graff at Bristol’s Motion Skate Park for the Jump Up Bristol event. He is intent on spreading pan-European wellbeing by setting up a graffiti workshop in Bath – if anyone’s interested in collaborating with him – hit him up via this address: email@example.com. Oh -and he wanted to give shout-outs to Stil, Super, Senk, Wise, 5 Hop, Gomer, DFS crew, Cheba and Lokey and mad props to DownTown. And who are we to deny him that?