Rapture & Verse #34: The Hip-Hop Latest

From Action Bronson to Aesop Rock, everything that’s good…

A bad month if you’re Jigga, who apart from having his arse kicked by his sister-in-law, had a bunch of nicked master recordings put up for ransom. Bad luck too for Eminem – politely refused permission to play at Hyde Park by United Kingdom stiff upper lips. Potentially bad times if you’re a fan of The Game, who’s reportedly working on a project with Ed Sheeran. Bad pet practice (though good for headline writers) from Tyga, and his illegal pet tiger. Befuddlement all round if it’s true that Cher is to appear on the Wu-Tang Clan’s one-off art exhibit LP. 

A good month for Mr Switch and DJ Rasp – DMC UK Champion and UK Supremacy Champion respectively, now headed to October’s World Finals. Good for you if you’re a fan of Peanut Butter Wolf, who honours Charizma with a deluxe vinyl bundle of the pair’s golden get-togethers, and if you were a De La Soul fan who stumbled randomly across ‘Smell the D.A.I.S.Y.’, having been slyly snuck into record stores by the band themselves. Good tucker and trash talk from Action Bronson (pictured), whose food/tour webisodes look a hoot.  Check out F*ck, That’s Delicious below…

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Single syllables: “I’ll shake your planet like a condiment”

DJ Premier (pictured) and Lady of Rage boot up this month’s singles mixer; big drums, sweeping strings and she of the ‘Afro Puffs’ flying through rhymes, causing a ‘Chemical Burn’. Guilty Simpson lands on Hus Kingpin’s dust-kicker-upper ‘Time Is Runnin’ Out’ with typically cool dourness. To go with it, fade up Slum Village’s ‘We On The Go’, featuring Frank Nitt and Black Milk, then move to Mr Flash laying on a bumpy soul spread for Action Bronson, Oh No and Cities Aviv aiming for ‘Number One’.

Denzel Himself clambers atop a remix of Pyramid Vritra’s down-low and preoccupied underground scuttle ‘Spool’. ThisisDA is on an ear-locking roll and refuses to ‘Fallback’, riding zingy bumps jacked up by Benji Boko, who has also remixed House Of Pain’s signature shamrocker and opened a can of dancefloor worms with it. Talking of pulling back ring-pulls, Dan le Sac and Scroobius Pip are back with the subtle synth sympathies of ‘Terminal’. If you want warts-and-all UK old skool and don’t mind what the expiry date is, go to The Juice MCs’ ‘Souls Of Yesterday’ EP, and Militant Posture’s bigger neck breaker ‘Dawn Of Terror’.

More homegrown hammer is cocked back by Cappo, bloodying his Notts knuckles to obsessive, funk from the gutter from Zygote and Jazz T. ‘The Boot’ EP hits like a studs-up challenge down the Achilles. When it comes to gently watching the streets slowly crumble, Melanin9 is a key exponent; ‘Colours’, from the ‘High Fidelity’ EP, is another stylish addition to his arsenal, mediating fated jazz and unsheathed truths. Deep funkiness from Benny Diction & Able8, expertise courtesy of Tony Skank and a lush hook from Melody Myla, make ‘RPM’ a vital jam once the sun descends, while DJ Severe’s rousing strings allow Habitat to get you perked and primed; feel the boom-bap in your hair on ‘Valhalla Rhyming.’ That’s if Confucius hasn’t meddled with your dreams, having told you to ‘Ponder On This’ over a darkish yet jaunty head-nodder’s noir.

Confucius MC – ‘Original’

Charles Edison pulls back the sheets to announce ‘My Name Is’ and make summer nights stickier, before going cyber-tantric on ‘Bitstorm’, whereas Skyzoo and Marvelous Mag are force-feeding soul food oysters on DJ Phantom’s ‘Still Alive’. Zion I’s strong ‘Libations’ gives you a lil’ bit of everything across five and a bit tracks in the second of a three-card shuffle, and Congolese-Finnish emcee Gracias builds built to last defence on the brooding, darkly tropical ‘Levels’ that would leg-sweep Avicii at a moment’s notice. Shabazz Palaces prep a new album, ‘Lese Majesty’, with ‘They Come In Gold’ riddled with on-form claustrophobia and nervous electronic tics, with far off galaxies sought and destroyed by The Quantum picking up Vast Aire for critical cosmic mass ‘Sirius Star’. For your big finale, throw on OG Natal and Mellow Man Ace’s party-booster ‘Microphone Spit’, as shaken by Kutmasta Kurt.

Shabazz Palaces – 'They Come In Gold'

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Interval: RIP DJ EZ Rock, 1968- 2014

Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock – ‘It Takes Two’

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ReaLPolitiks: Sun beams, storms brewing, and magic numbers

His usual variables of mosh pit despot, highlands warrior and provocative torchlight intellectual, all contradicted by vulnerability, are piled high on what’s another overworked day at the office for the indefatigable Sage Francis on ‘Copper Gone’. “If life is a cakewalk, I’ll serve you in the bake-off,” says he who still seems to take little satisfaction in saying ‘told you so’ and proving non-believers wrong.

Related: Their Library: Sage Francis

Verb T collects remixes and vault dwellers on ‘Reverb’; one of the UK’s straightest shooters stays on-point to booms and blossoms from Jehst, Leaf Dog, Urban Click, BMRN, Ghosttown and Konchis. ‘Raking Dead Leaves in Autumn’, strictly beats and rhymes bread and butter from Pierce Artists, is Elliot Fresh and Deeq in dogged pursuit of hip-hop riches on the roads in and out of Oxford. Exemplary UK behaviour, which isn’t a full scale polishing of the reaper’s scythe, though there are plenty of chills to put spines on ice. If you’re after more of a hatchet job, Black Pope preaches parasitic parables as ‘The Sinister Minister’, where doom-mongering meets swashbuckling beside producer Ganjak.

Strictly jazz vibes from BadBadNotGood (pictured) is the slick clique to the stars stirring instrumental stories on ‘III’ (Clash review) out of Toronto. All nine tracks could find a willing emcee in a bass pluck, though they should respect the architects and let this roll out when candles start flickering. ‘Can’t Leave the Night’ and ‘CS60’ are insanely dextrous pieces of live trap, within smoky made-for-stage style ranging from lavish to lower key.

Vaunted punch-liner Open Mike Eagle, a witty-unpredictable who can riff and make sense of anything from chocolate sponsorship to being “envious of anyone with full-grown facial hair”, makes ‘Dark Comedy’ (Clash review) a clued-up book of quotable, reeling off slickness without making a great song and dance about it. For his range of off-the-wall to acute observations, his introspective episodes give him a leading edge.

Open Mike Eagle – ‘Qualifiers’

J-Live’s decorated keep-it-realism and ambassadorial attention to core values remain in fine fettle for ‘Around the Sun’, staying amazingly consistent with head-nodders that hit home again and again. ‘Worlds Apart’ is a class lecture that should have him auditioning for the Paxman hotseat, yet is second nature to someone never found flying too close to you-know-what. The unexpected bonus of Mr Lif giving generously and rounding up his most premium collaborations on ‘Sleepyhead II: Classic Combos’ give us all a chance to recall breaking of bread with Edan, DJ Krush, Jedi Mind Tricks and El-P

Has Akira The Don left the building? If ‘ATDRIP’ is his final outing, he’s going out in a blaze of dubstep and dance-rock with Big Narstie, towering synth pop bids, and his everyday geezer singsongs outside a ‘regular’ hip-hop setting, including ‘Don’t Feed the Trolls’ telling you to stay hard-headed. On similarly outsider tramlines, Kate Tempest’s ‘Everybody Down’ (Clash review) is Estuary-baptised brat-hop over Mr Dan’s mixed electronics – a bit like a female Jamie T giving obvious props to Big Dada’s Speech Debelle. If you‘re not familiar with her Sound Of Rum days, her T-dropping flow is easy to find exasperating. Nonetheless she shoots engaging fly-on-the-walls, live from front rooms and high streets.

Kate Tempest – ‘The Beigeness’

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Tape measures

Aesop Rock (pictured) – officially hip-hop’s most verbose rhyme catalyst according to scientific research – blasts ‘The Blob’ through half an hour of stockpiled, rocked out electrics and TNT boom-bap. A tasty selection made to mess with your head, prior to lopping it clean from your shoulders. DITC’s ‘The Remix Project’ ups the ruggedness for free, an open goal of DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, Marco Polo and Alchemist talking up the past prospects of Big L, Fat Joe and co alongside the crew’s in-house elite on the boards.

Getting eyes wide this month: Atmosphere raise up (1), HashFinger takes you away (2), everything adds up for Edward Scissortongue (3), Cool Hand Lukey ain’t bluffin’ (4), and Amir Driver aims to get his kicks (5)...

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Words: Matt Oliver

Related: more Rapture & Verse columns

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