Rapture & Verse #20

The month in hip hop...
Czarface

So much stuff to pack into this month, chucking everything in willy-nilly is the only way to go. Like Kylie signing for the Roc. That random enough for ya? Cassidy has done a safe sex cover of ‘Gangnam Style’. Not random enough? Snoop wants to be Celtic’s new mascot. Roots Manuva has been tapped up by Jamie Cullum for a mischievous Sunday morning adaptation of ‘Witness’ that ain’t half bad. A month in the life of Lupe Fiasco - pulling albums, prepping new ones, getting himself chucked off stage. DJ Muggs is now dubstepping with Freddie Gibbs, Roc Marciano and Chuck D on the ‘Bass for Your Face’ project...and then there’s the announcement that there’s gonna be MORE 2pac material available.

With Mother’s Day incoming, treat her to a Biggie special at East Village on March 8th, or Sean Price headlining Flava of the Month at London’s The Garage on March 3rd. Give her the gift of the new Ghostface reissue of ‘Ironman’, complete with on-trend jigsaw puzzle. Then make her a mixtape she’ll be proud of. Be sure to include Endemic preparing the ‘Quarantine’ mixtape with ‘The Arrival’ featuring Bugsy da God, Ralph Rip Shit’s greasy ‘Floater’, Ghostpoet’s hallucination ‘MSI MUSMID’, Tokimonsta & Kool Keith astro-comber ‘The Force’, anything from J Cole’s nicely done five-tracker ‘Truly Yours’, P.L.O.’s digi-cloud surfer ‘F&ckSpace&Lazers’, and either ‘Die Tonight’ or ‘Lead Season’ from Raekwon’s otherwise meh ‘Lost Jewlry’ EP. Throw in Junkie XL’s re-found remix of LL Cool J’s guiltiest pleasure and you might be good for next Valentine’s Day as well.

Resuming a pre-millennium hook-up, Inspectah Deck and 7L & Esoteric come together as Czarface, a three-in-one superhero gone Boston bushwhacking while keeping sneaky Shaolin swords up its sleeve. Suffice to say it’s an all-out callout to the world’s wack and watered down. Though he colours the boom-bap with snippets of comic book villainy to go with the sleeve screaming fire into your eyeballs, 7L’s loop boosting keeps it frank and naturally rugged, with ‘Poisonous Thoughts’ a fiending brain infector. Reinforced with a guestlist making you say ‘Holy Cow’ – Ghostface, Roc Marciano, Action Bronson, Mr MFN eXquire, DJ Premier – Czarface squeeze the streets and won’t relinquish them until justice prevails. A great, almighty bust-up like hip-hop used to make, although by the same means it’s what you’ve come to expect from the Beantown bosses and Wu-Tang nobility. “Put your hard hats on, we’re going to work.”

Opening up a sophomore safe haven is DJ Day and his ‘Land of 1000 Chances’. Easygoing, ice cube-melting instrumentalism that’s good enough to have you unpacking the hammock, and when the jazz kicks in, your top hat and tails, handed to you by People Under the Stairs’ Thes One as executive producer. Classily delivered B-boy stress relief, with plenty of soul food to go round a mounting fanbase, and if you don’t like it first time around, there’re still 999 more opportunities to make it hog your iPod. Keeping the mic muted in and around the hip-hop remit, Souleance’s ‘La Beat Tape’ goes from orchestral enlargements to hand-clapping jives, funk cut-ups and smoky snakers, always with a thick batch of drums to hand as Fulgeance and DJ Soulist play it cool. The Last Skeptik’s newborn takes a more attacking stance to wordless beats and brainstorms; if you liked the twists he forged on ‘How Not to Make a Living’, there’s plenty here to please, pacify and have fists pounding.

Random fact: popular detergent Cillit Bang is known as Easy-Off Bang outside of the UK. Proven fact: ‘Skillit Bang’ is a debut album that has emcee Skillit hopping from frying pan to fire. Loudmouth Melvin holds down the lion’s share of beats that span ‘Amazing Rhymes’ doing UK trap, mystery boom-bapper ‘Lonely’ and its cautionary tales, spots of breezy grime, bubbly electro R&B, rap ballads and plenty more. The Walthamstow rhymer develops a personality that lets go on ‘Do You Really Want This’ and spits all over the place, and ‘Don’t Block Me’ grabbing at Melle Mel and arcade blip-hop; and though not painting himself as the out and out entertainer because of his continual style hopping, Skillit’s versatility goes a long way.

‘Broken Sunlight’ would be a fairly straightforward indie hip-hop proposition from Jurassic Fiver Nu-Mark. Would be, were it not for the peacock strut that accompanies the likes of disco-baller ‘The Fever’, which helps break in streaks of J5 shine. The crate-dug blues of ‘Our Generation’ and ‘Don’t Play Around’ follow, tinkling ivories and smacking the dust off snares like the classic ‘Break’. With the West Coast underground conclusively represented – plus getting Large Professor for a guest verse along with mic hire J-Live and Aloe Blacc - Nu-Mark keeps an eye on carnival season thanks to the jovial, cocktail-sipping ditty ‘Tropicalifornia’ with Quantic.

Fed up of Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks repping the female vote? A reissue of MC Lyte’s ‘89 sophomore ‘Eyes on This’ is proper fairer sex perspective. Fashions may come and go, but the go-on-girl attitude, girl-meets-playa yarns and funky-assed drum machines are sounding good for their age considering it’s in line for its silver anniversary. After a long-standing period playing white elephant, Frank n Dank’s ‘48 Hours’ is re-upped. Full of J Dilla’s sparse and scuzzy slumps, it’s no revelation for now or its original release date from 10 years ago. But it’s okay in the right light. That light being a cracked bulb swinging from a dim backroom post-midnight. Dilla also has a new 10” EP promoting ‘Music from The Lost Scrolls’, made up of four more funk plucks.

Also on the radar: the Bronze Nazareth-produced ‘Welcome to the Detroit Zoo’ LP finds raspy Motor City representer Phillie full of snapped soul and mic gritting. MoneyMadeMusick’s ‘Project M3’ mixtape does Southern-sieved swag and skitter out of Milwaukee, and The Underachievers land on Brainfeeder with ‘Indigoism’ - NY pair Ak and Issa Dash pushing the ‘Beast Coast’ sound, trappin’ with confidence and driving hometown how-we-do. Keep tabs on these, the next Big Apple border crossers. Talib Kweli, Jay Electronica, Joey Bada$$, The Pharcyde and Pharoahe Monch are all heading to Croatia’s Outlook Festival this summer. Then there’s the small matter of A$AP Rocky’s ‘Long Live A$AP’: all boom and doom, skipped across on the likes of ‘Goldie’ like it ain’t nothing. Somehow chopped and screwed into something very urgent, the lethargic 808 beats and (shall we say) lulls in lyrical technicality are made into a weird brand of dreamy street splendour; although knowing how to play the game, the tracks that’ve been getting airplay are noticeably peppier. Debatable as it is as to whether this is definitive A$AP, you can’t deny it’s a continued climb in the right direction, recognised by two large posse cuts involving Drake, 2 Chains, Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson, Yelawolf, Danny Brown and Big KRIT.

For your peepers: Demigodz show they do have a Scooby Doo, Nottz & Pete Rock advise on volume, Skuff sheds light on situations, Mystro rolls up alongside Dirty Dubsters, Flatpocket go easy on us, Vast Aire takes brains to another dimension, Ty starts on Tru Thoughts with something lovely, and Skyzoo pays homage. Final word though must go to Blue Daisy and Dahlia Black, who put paid to this column’s very existence with sentiment Tim Dog most probably would have been proud of.

Words by Matt Oliver

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