Rapture & Verse #10

The month in hip hop...
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Extra large happenings in this month’s Rapture & Verse. Have a guess as to whether it’s the prospect of a touring Tupac hologram (we always preferred Arnold J Rimmer ourselves), or hip-hop repeating its Weakest Link potential with a possible Celebrity Squares special (Mac Miller and Ghostface Killah believed to be amongst those jostling for the centre square). Or could it be that there’s something of a Company Flow reunion slash showdown crashing through, with both El-P and Bigg Jus releasing new albums of sonic downfall. El-Producto’s ‘Cancer for Cure’ is a naturally abrasive, scuzz-wrestling, rock and roll B-boy Judgement Day (check the trailer here), pulling a single brick out of the scenery and chronicling the collapse minute by ever loudening minute while still finding room to fire off ‘Airplane!’ quotes.

The one-upmanship in alt-rap has Bigg Jus on an even denser grind. Named ‘Machines That Make Civilization Fun’ and pairing the sort of mind-boggling titles that dissonant, feedback-scarred slug-outs deserve, Juss plants bombs in leftfield and comes up with funk-rotting blooms snapping heads back. He still knows how to drop a nifty one-liner out of the madness, and happily, El-P provides a remix for lead single ‘Black Roses’. Par for the course really from two certified ear-boxers. Naturally that leads us to Co Flow’s third member, Mr Len, and if you’re wondering what he’s up to, follow him on twitter @therealmrlen.

With your listening gear still glowing red, may we suggest I Self Devine’s ‘The Sound of Low Class Amerika’ to prolong the ringing. Issuing a cage-rattling political/street corner address, the Rhymesayers and Micranots crewmember makes strong stands supported by eyewitness reportage, to a backdrop of heavy funk that when not sounding like it’s had enough, is able to take a moment and admire how fly it can be.

From industrial crushes of NYC chaos and fighting the power in LA, to the Kool Keith strand of anarchy; here’s the Spankmaster getting long-winded on ‘New York’, including some sights the tourist board don’t put in their brochure, ahead of umpteenth new album ‘Love and Danger’. No ‘Down Under’ jokes please kids, but Men at Work 2020 are rocking your favourite ultra plump funk-for-hip-hop breaks like mad dogs. Sewn together by Domingo, it’s a formidable posse cut involving Kool G Rap, Necro, Action Bronson, Rugged Intellect, Ras Kass and more. Emcees claiming tunnel vision when inhaling the mic have got nothing on Philly’s Lushlife, whose ‘Plateau Vision’ builds on mixtape buzz and carries on his happy habit of doing indie hip-hop with a knack for subtle variation while staying soulfully poised, smuggling in Styles P for a guest spot along the way.

Onto UK noise-makers now, and if you like your hip-hop, shall we say, synthesized, and have your own low ride ready and waiting to be rocked by top-of-the-world ticker tapers (once upon a time a chunk of this would have been defined as jiggy), ‘This is UK Rap Volume One’ will become your prized asset. Voiced by emcees finding themselves with a foot either side of the hip-hop/grime divide, Kano, Giggs, Skepta, Sneakbo and Faith Sfx’s elastic oesophagus pull up a mic. A more provocatively titled collection than you may think, don’t be surprised if an argument breaks out, via music forum or otherwise, as to what really meets the compilation’s criteria.

We don’t want no trouble round ‘ere though folks, plus you’ve got plenty more to choose from this month from these fair shores – for example, Sway’s ‘Bad Manners’ taking over Plan B’s broken Britain report. Diversion Tactics’ Doctor Zygote plots four spooked boom-bap instrumentals on new label Zoot (zootrecords.blogspot.co.uk) that dares emcees to pick up the mic if they’re convinced a grisly fate won’t befall them (don’t do it chaps!), and Baron Samedi chalks up ‘The Chopping List’ beat tape (black-budget.com), an equally punchy selection aiming for the stars, easygoing but battle-ready with it. Skitz’ jump-around ‘Never’ gets Rodney P and Roots Manuva to command and conquer as only they can, opposed by Haan & Sixth Sense’s finely subdued 12-tracker ‘Bless the Dead’, retiring to its basement for challenging solitude: head-nodders be blessed on both counts.

Fellas...fed up with your woman constantly in your ear? Genesis Elijah can relate, his hook-up with Unseen & Deeflux a summery cracker of domestic disharmony with the hook of the year so far, though maybe play this when the trouble and strife is out of the room, right? More Rewd Adams and The Last Skeptik, this time as an arts and crafts project? Go on then. And don’t think we won’t cover Canadian hip-hop with a peewee hockey theme either; here’s long celebrated Canuk rhymer Saukrates giving an inspirational team talk on the very listenable ‘Say I’m. What with the humble ZX Spectrum being 30 years old this month, there’s retro gaming doing the rounds with SAS’ ‘Super Mario Bros’, that will have you jumping up and down, then left and right, then diagonally and so on, and Billy Woods’ ‘Duck Hunt’ keeps it low and grimy on the fire button and warns that “those high scores only last so long”.

Words by Matt Oliver

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