Welcome to the August edition of The Mix. I trust you all have your air conditioning on, or even one of those little fans blowing in your face. I haven’t had a summer like this since I was at school, its roasting out there! Obviously not too hot for some of Britain’s top artists to be writing, producing & releasing some of their best work yet.
This month we have a whole library’s worth of singles and albums to have a look through for your enjoyment, so sit back and twist one up, double drop, knock one out, crack one open…..what ever it is you do, and enjoy.
Dented Records have teamed up with a new label called Beer & Rap Records to bring you something that should have been organised a long time ago, and here it is! The long awaited debut release from Dr. Syntax “Sub-Cultures“.
Dr. Syntax is already well known from collaborations with the Foreign Beggars and Menagerie. He puts in a nice twist to tunes and somehow manages to improve already brilliant songs. Well, he’s back with a strong dose of outstanding solo ability, easily living up to the sky-scraping standards of his past appearances.
This track is upbeat with light hearted but intelligent lyrics, making fun of some of the different cultures and “Sub-cultures” you’re likely to stumble across in and around your local area. I know I’ve met a few of the groups brought up in this track. Ok so they’re stereotypes, but we all know people that hang around in local pubs that don’t like the look of newcomers, people that have mullets, dress in crap clothes and wear sun glasses at night and people that argue about who’s the best hip hop artist (don’t we? all of you in the music from the corner yahoo groups!).
The two other tracks on this cd “Animal Hides” (sounding much more like the good old Menagerie) and “Pack Mentality” (straight from the sound of the Foreign Beggars) are both produced by Ido. Koaste also makes and appearance on this cd. On the info I’ve been sent with this cd it says he’s a newcomer but he’s been around for quite a while that I know of, you can hear some of Dr. Syntax, Koaste’s and loads of other tunes here.
Sub-Cultures is the first 12″ from Dr Syntax’s debut album, “Self-Taught” coming up later this year…I’ll be sure to be reviewing that!
We looked at the single “Don’t Leave Me This Way” last month and this month we are going to take a look at the album “A Hundred Days in One” as a whole. What an album it is! One of Brighton’s finest Black Grass (AKA Mex) has really taken decent music to the next level here. This is a really eclectic album with so many different genres of music crammed into one cd, it left me well impressed. This was not what I was expecting after hearing the 12″ release last month.
It brings us music from the styles of funk, jazz, soul, uplifting party beats and somehow sticks to a hip hop related genre. In some ways it reminded me of the eloquently expressed Herbaliser but with an edgy feel to it. It’s a bit more quirky, a little more tangy and a tiny touch more pop (but in a good way). This is one to play for the people that are not so attuned, to the stuff our readers love to listen to, when they come round to chill.
Rising UK star Micall Parknsun features on the track “Down & Dirty” with fellow UK star Jehst making an astonishing appearance over a military style beat on “Lines of Defence“. Brilliant head nodder! This one is released on 29th August 2006. Keep on looking for this one.
Look out for Mex playing this years’ Bestival in September and also the final set at Fat Tuesday at The Big Chill this Month.
NNEKA – The Uncomfortable Truth
(Four Music/Yo Mamma’s Recordings)
This one’s a little different. It’s for all of you that feel the need to chill out and take time out to listen to the likes of Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu, Lauren Hill etc etc… I really like this one. Nneka has released the single “The Uncomfortable Truth” taken from her debut album “Victim of Truth” on Four Music / Yo Mamma’s Recordings, and it is truly inspiring. This tune has worldwide hit written all over it. It is the sort of tune I would easily expect to hear at the number one slot in the charts. I mean the decent charts, not the shit we’re exposed to on Sunday afternoon radio stations. Released on 21st August, written by Nneka and produced by DJ Farhot, this is a tune that could and should take over the airwaves.
The second track on this CD “Stand Strong” is sung live and if im honest, you would never know that this track had not been tweaked and improved in a studio if it didn’t say “live version” next to it. It is sung with great power and full on emotion, more so than the cover suggests it might. Nneka draws influence and inspiration from artists such as Bob Marley, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Mobb Deep and Lauren Hill and you can tell. It feels like there’s a bit of every artist involved in the making of these couple of tunes, I can’t wait for the full album!
The Recluse Crew are a group of people bursting out of Helsinki; they are a collaboration project between the production team Recluse Recordings and MC’s from Dirty Smarts and LLC. Dragging in the stateside talents of Synoptic Pressure, who have apparently been displaying some amazing shows in Minneapolis, the end result is a rather impressive display of original talent.
“The Art of Raw Sound” is a 17 track LP that, to me, sounds more like East American hip hop than it does Scandinavian. This isn’t a bad thing, but when I first saw the CD I thought it might take me on a journey through Europe with some different styles, you know, like MC Solaar or Saian Supa Crew. It’s not quite like that but yes, I do like this album. There’s no pretence, no posing and it is decent rap music!
Dr. Octagon is better known as Kool Keith, original member of the New York new school pioneers the Ultramagnetic MC’s. I hope everyone knows who they are. If not, you should, please look them up.
This is the official sequel to Dr. Octagon featuring Kool Keith, One Watt Sun, DJ Dexter and Princess Superstar. The Return of Dr. Octagon is the follow-up to Kool Keith’s 1996 critically acclaimed Dr. Oncagonecoloyst, a psychedelic hip-hop album about a deadly, sexually expressive and doped-up doctor.
Return of Dr. Octagon is deeper, darker and more spaced out than the original album. This time around Keith’s groundbreaking mic skills and schizophrenic imagination compliment the mystifying production and heavy bass lines. Dr. Octagon has reinvented himself covering a broad lyrical range that includes everything from socially conscious lecturing and advising to intergalactic Martian legends.
Great tunes such as the main single “Aliens” as well as other top tracks manage to twist and turn way before each corner. Production trio One Wat Son have the ability to bring out the madness in Keith’s lyrics, and his unhinged nature. Some tracks to listen out for on this wonderful album are “Ants” in which DJ Dexter (formally of the Avalanches) steps in for the Egyptian scratch flavour and “Trees“. The latter being a soon to be classic dance floor filler at any half decent club or bar. It seems that any of those rumours you hear about this album being an unofficial release is absolute turd! So don’t worry about it. Who listens to gossip anyway, you bunch of old women!
Right then, for the end of my section this month I’ve decided to big up a clothes company that I have stumbled across during the past few months. I think I first saw it in Big Smoke magazine and decided to have a look at the website because I liked the photography on the advertisement.
This company is Siino (see no)! I’ve bought a few things from there now and I have a thing about promoting things that are on the up. If you like your clothing to be smart, well designed and so not everyone you walk past is wearing it, you’ve come to the right place. I know it’s difficult to buy things online because of the way things might look, sizes etc but with this company the photos depict the clothing really well and if you are large in size, you buy large. If you are medium in size, guess what….you buy medium.
There are some top notch things on sale from this company so have a look at the website .You can also buy Siino stuff from here too. Here are a couple of pictures of the kinds of things you can buy there. I bought the t-shirt in the top picture but in white (half print and half stitching). It looks pretty damn cool when you’re out and about.
As you can see there’s some cool stitching on these two tops, apparently designed from a collection of other pictures all strategically placed to form another picture, or in some cases a big fat S (for Siino). There’s a lot more to it but to find out you’ll have to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01926 332040.
And there you have it! That’s my rant for this month I hope you enjoy the tracks I’ve pointed out to you. If you can’t get hold of them quite yet, just hold on to your hats and you’ll soon be able to. The best things come to those who wait…apparently!
Now, over to Abjekt with his array of weird and wonderful collection of singles & albums.
Don’t forget to mail me at email@example.com
Big ups to Kris for his reviews, I can definitely vouch for the Dr Octagon album, crazy shit, I love it. So this month was a particularly big one for me and I have a bunch of stuff for you guys to check out. I’m off to the Scribble Jam festival this month, the premier underground hip hop festival with MC/DJ/Beatbox/Breaking battles, live performances and graffiti expos, so whilst I’m gone checking the likes of Pigeon John, Jel, Brother Ali, Murs and Glue, you can track down these badboys and listen to what I recommend to tide you over til next time.
LOW BUDGET & AARON LACRATE – BMore Gutter Music
(Milkcrate Records/All City Music)
We’re kicking off with some party jams people. Milkcrate’s Aaron LaCrate and Hollertronix’s Lowbudget have teamed up to combine some funky-arse B-More House with hip hop and smeared it with a nice big dollop of bass. This is the sort of music you wanna be hearing when you’re getting down in a sweaty nightclub at 3am and it’s just the thing I need to wake me up in the morning.
With guest appearances from Big Dada’s MC Spank Rock and his running buddy Amanda Blank, you know that the rapping’s going to be top rate when it’s played out over the beats. And when you have a woman promising you a “pussy made of Gold”, you know you aren’t gonna go far wrong with this record. Baltimore’s clubs are banging and this CD proves it.
DARC MIND – Symptomatic Of A Greater Ill
First things’s first – Darc Mind’s album doesn’t sound like an Anticon release. It’s not experimental, it’s not inane noise that has nothing to do with hip hop and you don’t have an MC trying to fit a whole verse into one sentence. This is a record which would fit on any typical hip hop label’s roster and is the sort of release that a lot of heads would happily slip onto their system.
The album, written between 1995 and 1997, could be argued to be ahead of its time. But to me its more of a mix between early 90s rap and the emergence of underground shit from the late 90s and early 2000s. Its dark and broody in some places [especially in Rhyme Zone] and stripped down in others [Covert Op] and even reminds me of Public Enemy on BMoc. If you liked the early rap stuff and want a little twist on it, this may well be the record for you.
JURASSIC 5 – Feedback
I’ll admit I’ve never been a huge fan of J5, but at least you know that Cut Chemist is always going to deliver some good head-nod beats. At least, you did know that you could count on that with J5 records, but now he has left, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Unfortunately what came out of my speakers wasn’t anything worth listening to.
There is an argument, which I agree with, that J5’s output has gotten progressively weaker with each release and Feedback seems to support that point of view. Brown Girl for example, sounds like something the Pussycat Dolls would release into the charts, Work It Out, which inexplicably features Dave Matthews, just doesn’t hit the spot in any way and Turn It Out has some weak distorted beat which just sounds like they’ve not really bothered.
The only saving grace for the album is Canto De Ossanha, an instrumental which saves us from the poor rapping experienced throughout the album before it as Cuban and latino vibes fill the air over strumming guitars. But overall, this is one I’d steer well clear of.
WHATEVER THE WEATHER PRESENTS… – Fog Horn Vol. 1
(Whatever The Weather)
This is a mixtape which features a host of randomly collected artists and when I read the tracklist and saw the likes of Sage Francis and DJ Vadim sitting alongside the likes of Carpetface and Eat More Cake, I wondered how it would stick together, if at all. But as soon as the CD had finished I was happy to hear that it was seamlessly put together and provided a great mix of styles.
From the instrumental opening Which Way The Wind Blows by Natureboy which features soft horns and some nice percussion through the strings of Prolyphic and Suspect‘s Highs And Lows to the incredibly bassy fast paced action of Zej‘s Bob In Dob, you know that every track will provide and new twist and turn, and that’s what’s so refreshing about this compilation. From big names to small names, they all give something different and yet it doesn’t feel forced. Definitely one to check out.
RISHI RICH – The Project
(Two Point Nine)
Again, I’ll start with an admission – I’m not too hot on the Indian style vibes that started breaking into mainstream rap and allowed the likes of Jay Sean and Juggy D to get more exposure. It’s just not my thing, and I find it really taxing to have to sit listening to wailing voices in the background in most of the tracks. So whilst I’m sure that those who do feel that kind of vibe will love this new Rishi Rich album, it just doesn’t click for me.
The one track I don’t mind so much is Let’s Start Talking which has a nice grimey bassline on the beat and features the talents of one of the Grime world’s top MCs J2K and the awesome female rapper Baby Blue. But once again the vocal samples in the background just take the edge of what would be a good grime track and let it down a little. If you do like the Indian style beats then this is the CD for you, if not, then it’s best to leave it to those who do.
PLAID & BOB JAROC – Greedy Baby
Plaid aka Ed Handley and Andy Turner have returned to the fore with this new release on the legendary Warp label, Greedy Baby. The album was written directly for surround sound systems and perhaps would have sounded even more mighty and impressive had it been playing on one, rather than my PC speakers, but nevertheless it’s certainly an impressive build up of eclectic beats and tuneful melodies. Some parts provide the soundtrack to lazy Sunday afternoons whilst other tracks set off an eerie and mysterious vibe that keeps you guessing.
You don’t just get a CD with this release, you get a DVD to accompany it and it completes what was already such an interest album. Each track on the CD is featured on the DVD with the brilliant work of Bob Jaroc. He provides the visual backdrop to the sonic soundscapes put down by Plaid and gives each track its own life with characters as well as just music. This isn’t just an album, this is an experience in sound and art and you’ll do well to check it out.
PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS – Stepfather
Thes One and Double K are back again and this album is as good as any they’ve put out there in the past. You know with PUTS you’re going to get some nice chilled rapping over a selection of quality beats and as always, they don’t disappoint. Kicking off with Step In you’re thrown straight into a summer’s day and then immediately they switch the styles into a stripped down track Pass The 40 with some ill scratching up on the chorus.
Whether they throw in a full pumping beat or the jazzy styles like in Flex Off, whether they sample a vocal into the fabric of the track [More Than You Know] or bang in with some great percussion [Tuxedo Rap], they do it with style and a flow that seems as though they feel more natural rapping than talking. Musically and lyrically PUTS have come up with a sure fire smile-inducing album and if you were a fan before you’ll love it, if you weren’t a fan before, you will be after hearing this. And with the album coming complete with a DVD, you can’t really go wrong. Quality stuff.
HIP HOP IS MUSIC PRESENTS… – Heavy Rotation
(Hip Hop IS Music)
Braille‘s new label Hip Hop IS Music has already promised big things, you only have to look at their roster, and yet as if this wasn’t enough, the label has put out a mix CD to showcase the talents of some of the roster to show just how great this label will be. The CD kicks off with the strumming title track, featuring Braille himself with Kaboose and Sivion, horns and vocal samples backing the rapping with ease.
Theory Hazit‘s track, My Favorite Hip Hop Joint, throws down a nice jazzy sung chorus over stunted melodies and is followed by Surreal bringing in Moment In Time, which is an ode to how he makes hip hop for the fans, putting his soul on the canvas for anyone listening. Fresh Nostaliga by Sojourn pumps out the funky guitars straight outta Shaft and Big Rec‘s Unleashed shows the more heavy hitting side of the label’s potential.
With beats by the likes of Ohmega Watts, Tony Stone and Muneshine, plus a few of Braille’s mates getting in on the action like Mars Ill, this is as good a compilation CD as you’re going to find. Hip Hop definitely IS music and this CD will prove that to you.
SIVION – Spring Of The Songbird
(Hip Hop IS Music)
Sivion, member of the DeepSpace5 collective which houses Mars Ill and Listener, comes with his solo outing on Braille’s aforementioned Hip Hop IS Music label and Spring Of The Songbird is a nice summery vibed album. With a healthy dose of singing going through the album, its not your average boom bap affair but Sivion brings it off well with solid rapping and a nice knack for storytellings.
Production from DeepSpace5’s Beat Rabbi, Ohmega Watts, Tony Stone and DJ Idull gives him a varied palette with which to rap over and he mixes it up from chilled out beats to more powerful and heavier tracks. Who Am I sounds like a DeepSpace5 track with fellow members Freddie Bruno and Playdough guesting and Going Through It features the new boss Braille on guest vocals.
But it’s the Tony Stone produced Walk With Me that kills the entire record. The beat has some amazing drums and the sung chorus and introduction of the live Saxophone in the background just give it the depth that allows it to stand above the rest of the album, which is no mean feat. Hip Hop IS Music looks good on paper but sounds even better on the stereo.
This month’s art comes from the ever talented Jon Burgerman. Miss Sixty commissioned him to use his brilliant style on their hotel in East Italy. Jon started drawing on one side of the room and then just carried on til he was all the way over the other side. Imagine staying at a hotel with this all around you. I wouldn’t leave the room if this was mine, I’d be too busy looking at every little character on there. It’s awesome, as is all of his work, so make sure you visit his site and check out everything on there. Click here for a view of the entire room.
Ok people, that’s your lot from me this time around. I’m off to Minneapolis and Ohio and will hopefully be grabbing some new hip hop whilst I’m over there. Make sure you enjoy the rest of the sun if it sticks around and I’ll be back soon with more recommendations. Whilst you’re at it, don’t forget to check out my beautiful voice over at the Hip Hop Radio Show. And, as ever, I would love to be sent CDs to review, so hit me up at the address below.