I’ve read a few reviews of Wu-Block (released at the end of November 2012) which have frankly irritated me. XXL said that “the formula isn’t new, and in some ways the project sounds unavoidably dated […] while the tides of hip-hop may be in flux, and the release might not break any new ground, the collaborative LP is a genuine and welcomed addition to the modern hip-hop landscape”. The album was given the album an “L” rating, which this translates as ‘average’ on the site. The same site also gave Wiz Khalifa’s new album the SAME rating. To put this into perspective, XXL are denoting that Wu-Block is on the same level of the album released by an overrated hip-popper recoiling on an office chair wearing skin tight red and white leggings and an unzipped fluffy leopard print jacket baring his heavily tatted torso.

Most reviews of Wu-Block have tried to make a big deal out of the fact that it isn’t ‘ground-breaking’ or ‘original’ enough for an album, but people are refusing to realise that Ghostface Killah and Sheek Louch – two of the most legendary rappers alive – don’t NEED to be ground-breaking or original – they’ve already done that. That is why they have gotten to where they are today. That is why they are permitted to release an album which may not break the boundaries of hip-hop. That is why they can release an album which simply celebrates rap music.

Reverting back to the XXL review, the journalist writes that “the project sounds unavoidably dated”. Firstly, calling this album a ‘project’ denotes some kind of trial or experimental mixtape type release; Wu-Block is not. Ghost and Sheek knew exactly what they were doing when they dropped this record and it is a pure triumph; nothing less. As for sounding ‘unavoidably dated’, this is a statement coming from someone who is clearly oblivious to thepurpose of this album, which was to celebrate classic, concrete, authentic hip-hop. Using the term ‘unavoidable’ suggests that the listener was expecting the album to sound dated anyway – and approaching any album with such an attitude is just setting up for failure on a first-time listen. It unfortunately emphasises how hip-hop critics are becoming more and more obsessed with the commercial capability of any release.

Stand out tracks are Crack Spot Stories, the album opener, which sets the standard sky-high, production wise. Pour Tha Martini, featuring the ever animated Cappadonna, is almost certainly the ‘party track’, although it is by no means lower in standard than the rest. In fact, it’s one of my top three favourites from the album. Guns For Life features some attention-grabbing metaphors from Ghostface resonant of 2Pac’s Me And My Girlfriend, combined with a hypnotic hook which provides an attractive and attention-grabbing contrast with the content of the track. Drivin’ Round offers a conscious, insightful view into the world Ghostface and Sheek grew up in, with a genius verse from GZA and an equal level of intellect from Masta Killa. Stick Up Kids is high-energy and perfectly wired, leading onto the lyrically destructive All In Together. Penultimate track Been Robbed is 70s-retro and offers one of the best examples of Sheek and Ghost’s astute dry wit.

The production is outstanding throughout the record, which is only made better by the fact that the majority of the producers are actually relatively unknown. The content itself is pretty much typical for any collaboration of this level; Wu Tang and D Block don’t need to try and change their subject matters and substance of the tracks. Anyone who knows hip-hop knows that these guysdo talk about shotting, girls, violence and clubbing. I don’t think there is one hip-hop artist who hasn’t mentioned one of these things in a track before. However, they do it better than most. The technicalities behind the content (i.e. the lyricism, the flow, the wordplay, the storytelling techniques, the use of humour, etc) are at an exceptionally high level; higher than most rappers will reach in their whole career, and this is why Wu-Block has obviously flown over the heads of most listeners and, unfortunately, critics.

SwayI haven’t been to a UK hip hop gig in ages but I’m soooo happy that I ventured out of my safety stone (k, some might argue that Stockwell is not this kind of zone…) and journeyed up to the Lovedough night at the Camden Proud. Sick venue by the way.

My all time favourite UK rapper eveeerrrr was performing – the beautiful human that is Sway. He wasn’t on til gone 1am and I’d been on the wine since err..lets say ‘early evening’. But nonetheless I remember, and loved, his set.

HE launched into a few of his more recent tracks such as Still Speedin’ and Level Up with phenomenal energy. The ever classic F UR X got the crowd hyped and brought rising star Tigger on stage for new single Still Sway & Kane, which is so far my favourite track of 2013😉

A mammoth night finished off with an insightful chat with the man himself left me a very happy girl indeed. Can’t wait for The Deliverance. If you read this Sway, please note that I do expect the costume next time round.

scope

Posted: January 31, 2013 in Articles, Reviews, Videos
Tags: , , , , , , ,

There’s this kid called Reps Reppatwa. He’s seventeen and lives in Bristol. He told me to watch his new video earlier today and I was like okay  :) I know he’s lyrical so I was just expecting another cool shot… I got this little bundle of creepy, psychedelic hypnosis material. All shot, directed and edited by Reps himself:

Weird.

But in all seriousness this guy is gonna do some damage this year… Already endorsed by personal favourite Sway and with some Joey Bada$$ about him, Reps is going to soar into the UK hip hop scene and bring it back to what it should have always been: classic, musical, lyrical, deep, thoughtful, stimulating and honest.

I love Reps Reppatwa… I do indeed.

Oh my flipping eck I ain’t heard a track as good as this from the UK scene in sooooooooo long. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m as much a Dre fan as the next person, and hearing two UK veterans on such a sweet remix has me jiggin around from the comfort of my own bed. On a school night. Mental.

Sway has reminded me why he was the first UK rapper I ever listened to back in the early noughties. His flow is just as sick as it’s always been…although probably better coz artists improve with age😉 and yes. Finally. He’s remembered how to attack a track with wordplay that will fly over most heads. Don’t be fooled by the specs. He’s Peter Parker pay respect.

Wonder if he’ll come rescue me in true spidey style some day.

Interviewed November 2012. 

An absolute legend on the UK underground scene, not to mention having worked with some of the best rappers in the game – Killah Priest and Wu Tang jus to name a few – Melanin 9 is soon to release his new album Magna Carta, which he has called his best work so far.

I was fortunate enough to have an in depth chat with the legend himself, where all things were discussed from the lack of a real UK hip-hop scene in the UK, why grime has taken over, and why he prefers US artists…

Georgina: You released Organised Democracy a short while ago. What was the reception to that?

Melanin 9: Reception was all right. People were posting it around and sharing it, commenting, mostly positive.

G: Most of it?

M9: I saw one dude say something about how the track was preaching.

G: Aren’t you about preaching though?

M9: I wouldn’t say I’m a preacher. A preacher is someone who likes to make themselves look better than others like they know this, they know that and “I told you this so I’m better than you” kinda thing. That’s how I see preachers. They preach to try to make themselves seem better than others and I‘m not about that, I’m just trying to show people what I see. That’s all man. I’m not trying to make myself look like I know more than anyone else. I’m just doing my thing you know?

G: What do you think of the current hip-hop scene in the UK?

M9: Umm. It’s expanded more than ever I guess. What do you think?

G: I think we had a good scene five to seven years ago but right now the wrong people are expanding. The underground is good but the big dogs are all about making money and that’s just executed itself in a presentation of bullshit really. The real hip-hop in this country is dead. There are people who had potential to really shake up the scene but they downgraded themselves and it’s shit. Anyway I don’t know why I’m talking so much coz it’s your interview!

M9: That’s your opinion. To me, what I feel is real hip-hop here are people like Skinnyman, Jehst, Task Force… what’s happened is the formula that those guys brought to the game back in the day just isn’t relevant now. People have got bored of it. They wanna hear something new, not something that was golden back then. Plus, grime came in and a lot of hip-hop artists crossed over and the scene got confused. It messed up the hip-hop scene.

G: Yeah there is a weird fusion of grime and hip-hop these days.

M9: Yeah. People started to class grime as “UK hip-hop” and forgot about us. You have American hip-hop like Nas and DOOM, and they own that. This country wanted to feel like we had our own thing and that was the grime and dubstep, so they started calling it UK hip-hop and it isn’t. People here wanted something they could call their own.

G: Do you feel like our underground hip-hop scene is better than the underground American hip-hop scene?

M9: No! No way! Course not. We’ve never been able to step to the level of what they do. Never in time, never in history. People will get mad hearing something like that but the truth is we’re shit. This country is shit at making music init. Americans have soul man, they make great music.

G: Does your music represent your everyday philosophy?

M9: Yeah probably.

G: Is it inaccessible for most people?

M9: If you live a basic life…quite material and fabricated…then you won’t relate to what I’m doing so for that reason, yeah. To some people my music isn’t accessible. They want cars and money but I don’t do that. That’s not what I’m doing out here.

G: Do you feel unique?

M9: I’m rapping man. I’m doing what I’m doing. I’m not trying to put myself in any other category and I’m not trying to distance myself from any other MC. I’ve learnt from some great MCs in my life. There are a few MCs like me so I wouldn’t say I’m the only guy.

G: Who would you collaborate with outside of your normal crowd?

M9: Loads of MCs man, countless countless MCs. People like Nas, DOOM, Killah Priest, so many MCs man. In the UK, I’m not too sure. Besides my crew I don’t really feel like I can collaborate with them. I’m more into MCs from overseas. I like what they do more.

G: What can we expect from Magna Carta out next month?

M9: Boy! All I’ll say is that all the other stuff I did before that – this is my REAL album. This is the longest I’ve ever taken to do something. It’s taken about two years. So many songs. I kinda see it as my best work lyrically. Some people might prefer my old stuff because of the mood I was in back then, but to me, this is lyrically my best work.

G: If you could give any advice for an up and coming MC or lyricist, what would it be?

M9: Just always be a student on true hip-hop. Don’t ever feel like you’re too great to listen to other MCs. Listen to albums, listen to classics. Go back to the era, back to the 90s and listen to certain albums man. Keep an open mind. Listen to just one genre. Be a student first of all, study the art and then put in your own style from what you’ve learnt. If you live a gangsta life, a life of poverty, spiritual attainment, you know, you live a life of that. Stay true to yourself.

Follow Melanin 9 on Twitter: @Melanin_9

Author: @g_chappers

Yep, that’s right, I’m going to see Ghostface Killah and Sheek Louch on Nov 29th (two days after the release of their collaborative album Wu-Block) at The Garage in Highbury, N5. Don’t watch the spelling error on the ticket……

Can’t. Flippin. Wait.

Ghostface and Sheek’s single, Union Square, was released earlier this year, summer time if I remember correctly, and I was kinda confused at first..the beat wasn’t what I was expecting..but it’s got this nice old skool vibe that I’m feeling. For the people sayin it’s a radio/club track – do you really envisage hearing this on mainstream stations (e.g 1Xtra) or in some fancy Mayfair venue?! Come on. Rap is back.

So it’s all good.

Lucky me – my third interview with the amazing Razor in just a year! It’s no doubt that this boy has been a busy one; he’s released his third official mixtape (read my review of it here) and he’s been more active on the live show scene than ever, having recently opened for Krept and Konan and travelling out of the country (well, to Wales) just to perform live.

I caught up with Razor today and found out what’s been new with him, and what it feels like to have groupies😉

Georgina: How was Progression an improvement on Reinventing?

Razor: I felt like Progression was me cementing myself on the UK rap scene. As I’ve pushed myself more as an artist I’ve become more confident. Certain life situations have made me have tunnel vision. Even though I’ve gone through certain things in my life, I’m still progressing as a person, still trying to be productive and not let anything get to me.

G: Would you say that the tracks on Progression are a reflection of the last year or so?

R: All the songs I put on there are for a good reason. They show what I’ve gone through. Reinventing was a bit too spiritual, kinda depressing. I talked about haters too much, in a depressing way too. It was getting to me. With Progression, the way I talk about haters or people trying to bring me down is in a way to show that it’s a part of me now. I just suck it up. With Reinventing, I was trying to find myself as an artist and as a person and to take the next step, and with Progression I feel like I’ve found myself and that I have taken that next step.

G: What’s your favourite track off Progression?

R: Oh my days! Um hang on I’ve got the tracklisting here [laughs] let me see. Maybe Into The Light.

G: That’s one of my favourites definitely!

R: Yeah that’s one of the best ones. Every time I work with Foz Tee, the chemistry is just so strong. He’ll lay down the beat and it kinda feels like he can give me the beat with the hook already on it and it’s like the song just writes itself. It’s already made. All I’ve gotta do is write some verses and the song will be a banger!

G: You talk about your ex-girlfriend’s miscarriages a lot throughout the mixtape. Was that a way of riding out the storm or venting it?

R: Before Foz Tee sent me the beat for Into The Light I had actually written the lyrics already, where I speak on my ex’s miscarriages. I had the lyrics written for a few weeks but I didn’t know what to do with them. When he sent me that tune it automatically clicked. It was just a way of writing about the situation really. I just tried to take care of her and support her really.

G: Did your relationship with her influence the mixtape? As I can tell you included songs from before, during and after the relationship on Progression.

R: The majority of the tracks were written while I was with her. Only two songs were written after we broke up – Bang Bang and Look What You’ve Done. It might sound bad but when we broke up I went through a bad time. I was dysfunctional. I couldn’t write and I didn’t want to write. I just felt down and depressed. With Look What You’ve Done I just needed to write that, to get it out there, if you know what I mean.

G: You have said before that you get stage fright. Have you improved in terms of confidence now?

R: I have definitely. I still get nervous – if I don’t get nervous then something’s wrong! But whilst I’m performing I’m wary of what people might think but I just kinda don’t care. I just do what I’ve set out to do. It’s natural for me to be nervous now but it’s not half as bad as it used to be.

G: What’s been your best reaction from a crowd so far?

R: I went to Cardiff a couple of weeks ago to open up for Krept and Konan, which was an under eighteens event, and after just one song everybody was just right in front of me in front of the stage really enjoying it. Then after the performance people kept coming up to me and were taking mixtapes, they wanted pictures taken with me and stuff, they started all following me on Twitter. Some of them said they’d pay money to come and see me again and that made me feel really special. I performed with Dretonio a couple of weeks ago and there were these girls asking to take pictures with us!

G: [laughs] you’ve got groupies now then!

R: [laughs] yeah, I suppose in Wales it’s kinda different coz they’re not used to rap as much as in London.

G: The next release is Free Soul, which you’re filming the video for on Sunday 18th November in Stratford. What was the inspiration behind that track?

R: I met Saffire [who features on the track] in Willesden Green and I was surprised at how sick she was when I checked out her stuff. We really liked each other’s mixtapes – she listened to Reinventing and I checked out all her stuff – I think she absolutely kills every track she sings on. I sent her about five beats and she put her chorus on Free Soul straight away. She came up with the concept and everything, and I knew that I wanted to work with Big Cakes [who also features on the track] so I sent him the track and I was actually surprised at how quickly he came back to me with his part. It all kinda fell together – not an accident, but it worked out well!

G: She has a really great voice, I love that track.

R: Yeah man she does. It was funny how I met Big Cakes too. There’s a rap competition by Kix Magazine called In It To Win It and I knew I was going to take part in that, and I also knew that Big Cakes was performing at that event. I saw him walking past and I got his mixtape. There’s this one song on his mixtape called I Wanna Shout and I think I must have listened to that for about two hours straight [laughs]. You know when you just keep reloading a track. That’s what happened. So I texted him asking if he wanted to work with me and he asked me to send him my stuff. I was surprised at how humble and laid back he was, I mean he’s been around for time and he’s been on Kiss FM and that. So yeah man we’re shooting that vid on Sunday! Stay tuned…

Download Progression for free, here.

Follow Razor on Twitter: @RazorArtist

Author: @g_chappers