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Ah yes, Libra – the sign of balance – could this have implications for the new LP from lyrical tornado Whirlwind D, also entitled Libra? It certainly could! The symbolism of cover art featuring a bifurcated brain plants dualistic notions firmly in punters’ minds before they’ve heard a single beat but even on a first listen, everything is clear – first half fast, funky and fun, second half, slower, darker and more gritty. Little surprise then that the two halves are are named Grey and Dark Matter respectively. Libra is the fourth studio LP from our man and in a career fifteen years deep, finds him dwelling on achieving a balance in life. Whatever his successes on that score (and his bars would suggest he’s managing), he’s certainly achieved a finely balanced album. Production comes from a swathe of talent – namely Specifik, Djar One, Smoove, Farma G, Franky Roar, Lewis Parker, Mr Fantastic and Simon S while Jazz T, Miracle, Specifik, Mr Fantastic and Djar One sorted out the scratches and the whole thing was mixed and mastered by Djar One. No half-stepping going on here.

Opener When It’s Fast is a celebration of uptempo dancefloor hip-hop and the very definition of the word ‘blistering.’ Sambuca, up next, might be named after the possibly the most disgusting shot known to man but this too is a celebration – in this case of pre-gig hijinks, while Everyday Hustle is a humorous look at just how many things can be crammed into a rapper’s life. The beat of Ocean’s Breeze is based around Latin samples and finds D musing on the delights of summertime partying. At the centre of the LP, in well-deserved pride of place is a former single – Smoove’s Extended remix of Labels – so good it made it into Craig Charles’ Top 30 Funk and Soul tracks of the year – and he almost never champions hip-hop. After this point there’s a marked tonal change as we enter the ‘Dark Matter’ half with the slower synth-drenched beat of Flames (featuring Pharma G) and its consideration of the rise of public oppression globally. False Prophet ups the tempo again, but ominous synth-y atmospherics betoken something profoundly un-party-friendly as D skewers populist snake oil and those who peddle it. Like the track preceding it, the lyrics name no individual or organisation specifically and thus retain the evergreen universalism of all the best music with a political message. The remaining tracks with guest vocalists also all appear in ‘Dark Matter’ with Junior Disprol and Chrome both featured on the darkness of The Deep and Lewis Parker popping up on Lucky Number. That just leaves the frantic intensity of the pavement-pounding Sweat and closer The Music (Dirty Mix) which though tonally similar to the five or so cuts that precede it – arguably has more lyrically in common with the first half – focussing as it does on the creation and performance of D’s craft. And have no doubt that craft it very much is. The fact that the vinyl has already sold out on D’s bandcamp should leave you in no doubt about the quality on offer here.
(Out now on B-Line Recordings)

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