Welcome to the South Easy
I sometimes wonder if I’m doomed to write an epic tome about how much I hate Dr Syntax and exactly why. Cos I still haven’t figured it out, still collecting evidence and thinking about it everytime something new from him pops up in my inbox. It doesn’t help that he’s more than a reasonable track record in choosing collaborators, beat-makers, guest emcees, whatever. New single ‘Do What We Wanna Do‘ features Del The Funky Homosapien and Jehst. Jehst’s portion is a typically old-school trustafarian-friendly call to smoke weed and, probably, play bongos…but I don’t find that sort of stuff as offensive as I used to these days when the drive to conform is so strong and such infantile expressions of free thought seem sort of radical, even. Del’s verse is okay, I’m not his biggest fan but he’s definitely someone I can take seriously when the subject turns to integrity. He boasts about following his own path, I believe him. Pete Cannon on the beat? Yes, please.
But to get to all of this you need to cringe through Syntax, and still I can’t figure out why I react like that. I need to work this out. I’ve got ideas but I don’t want to put any of them out until I’m certain, don’t want to be unfair to this guy, the one that I’ve been told, in all earnesty, is ‘the greatest emcee ever‘ with no real qualifier. Yes, he’s technically capable. No, I don’t every want to hear him again in my life. But still I keep on getting drawn back in! He keeps on working with people I enjoy! Foreign Beggars! Stig Of The Dump! Skrein! I guess I’ll have another chance to figure out my response when the album this is drawn from, Syntax and Pete Cannon’s collaboration Killer Combo arrives in March. I can’t wait. In the meantime if anyone wants to suggest any possible reason for my hate in the comments I’d welcome the help.
Edit: I was going to embed the tune here, but then I realised it’s a private stream so I can’t do that. Given how I really can’t be faffed with a total re-jog on the column this morning you’ll have to forgive the virtual of descriptive decoration here. Why bother with all that when the reader’s probably clicked ‘play’ already? Seeing as you can’t click ‘play’ this time I should just restate it’s Pete Cannon. Creative risks aren’t really on the agenda, casual brilliance is the order of the day.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the rap multiverse this week…
Dot Rotten made more of an impression on me in three minutes with ‘You Wasted My Time‘ than he’s done over the course of the five previous mixtapes I’ve heard by him. It’s a great performance, as ignorant and passionate as the song it’s responding to, Krept & Konan’s awesome capitalist anthem ‘Don’t Waste My Time‘. Good enough that I’m going to take a risk on the EP it’s pulled from, the eleven track freebie ‘Minfection‘.
Starting to think a dotage being an old-school grime purist might not be such a bad thing to look forward to, if I make it that far. New single ‘Who’s Ready‘ by Prince Rapid and Fuda Guy (aka Fudz) would be b-listed. No peerless masterpiece but the energy is present and correct. It’s good to hear Prince Rapid facing up to his seniority with defiant fire, ‘I will never be an O.G. in the hood chilling in the ends telling all the youngers that I had it‘. It’s good to see Fuda Guy throwing a wooden chair across a car park.
It’s also good to see Genesis Elijah puling back from the brink of retirement with a renewed energy and focus on rapping in 2014. For a while back there I thought he was going to move into film-making full time, now he’s aiming for a couple of albums and three EPs before the end of the year. His final release of 2013, a video ‘Other Side‘ that was uploaded on new year’s eve, offers some hope there may be a reasonable level of quality to go with the deluge of product. Passion, at least. It’s shame the beat’s a bit dreary, but I’m sure his choices will improve as the new year develops.
Traplin & Proton‘s ‘I Swear‘ provides yet another example of shifting definitions in music confusing the fuck out of me. I’m filing it under ‘grime’, but then that’s a pretty broad term for me. I still think of Tinie Tempah as a grime artist, ferfuckssake. But yeah, I did find it at grime blog OnceUponAGrime so I’m not the only one wired that way. These things get more confusing the further you look into them, though. Cos OnceUponAGrime link to Soundcloud who identify the track as being promoted by Trap Door Records via trapmusic.net and edm.com. Actually follow those links and you’re way down the rabbit hole, with TrapMusic describing the track as ‘UK Trap’. Right. I’m not sure how useful that is as a label. I can sort of see how it fits, but to me Trap Music is first and foremost about the subject matter in hand. Potentially that can mean general tales of being stuck in a cycle of poverty, violence or other social ills but more usually it’s specific tales of being trapped by drug culture, living in a trap house. Whatever this is it isn’t that. It’s aspirational party rap. The vocal sounds a bit like Sneakbo. Musically I suppose there are similarities, but they’re kind of superficial. Tempo, simplistic melody, fast percussive build for easy climax at apposite moments. But It’s nowhere near as menacing as Trap. Scroll down the bio on TrapMusic and they’re qualifying it as a new hybrid of Trap and Grime, which is fair enough, but doesn’t it deserve a catchier name than that? Can’t help think a new name would be overkill, though. There must be one already that covers it. Maybe Wiley was right all along. Maybe it’s time for a revival of the term ‘eskibeat’. If this has anything in common with old school grime it’s that sense of frozen ebullience. Cold.
Not usually the type for glitch-hop but recently it’s started to sound ever more enticing. Which is my way of saying I kind of enjoyed Anik‘s ‘Angel Shit‘ and I’m worried it may be a surer sign of immanent decrepitude than my graying sideburns. ‘Angel Shit’ is from Anik’s debut solo album Cryptochrome but he has form as part of Dark Circle, an outfit that last hit my radar with their album Civilians in 2003. Having said that they were on the very periphery. Why would I want to listen to polite vocalists mumbling over semi-irregular beats in the same year Jay-Z released The Black Album? That’s my defence now, though to be fair I can’t remember much about their music, it could have been polka for all I knew, I’m just owning up to my prejudices. Certainly this tracks’ formula of hipsters dredging out their drug experiences from the depths of their exhausted mind doesn’t do anything to challenge that. So why do I like it? Maybe I’m not so angry about hipsters anymore. Maybe the jealousy’s faded, finally.
Yet another issue it’s really difficult to come to terms with as an old fart whose hip-hop value system was fully formed over a decade ago: rappers who don’t feel the need to use a stage name. Mick Jenkins? Sounds dull. Pokemon on cover art? Awwshitt. ‘Leonidas‘ challenges expectations enough to get a mention cos Mick sounds so damn serious. Not just the deep voice, the way he builds through the first verse mentioning the black panthers and how his whole country’s bankrupt as the beat falls back to the bare break for a second. Not sure about the rest of the track but then I’m really picky about hooks, and I still reckon there’s enough here to make this guy worth keeping an eye out for.