Category: Hip-Hop


Around the start of 2019 I started hearing about a new album that was out in February by an artist that I’d never heard of. I was intrigued as the album was being described as UK Hip-Hop and Grime but featured Jazz musicians Nubya Garcia (saxophone) and Mansur Brown (guitar) it was also coming out on Brownswood Recordings a label mainly famous for putting out modern Jazz releases and not Hip-Hop or Grime releases. Then the reviews started coming out and my interest deepened. Finally the release date came and I can honestly say that for the first couple of listens I didn’t know what to make of.

It has gone on to become the album I have listened to the most this year and also the one of favourites but there’s no way I could have predicted that back in February. It’s become clear to me why it took so long for this to happen. This album is a challenge but in a good way at no point did I hate but it took a long time to a) understand it in all it’s complexity and b) to find myself enjoying the great music. This is an album that is bringing together two different worlds the world of electronic music production and the world of live musicians and vocals from multiple genres from Jazz to Grime via Hip-Hop, Reggae and Spoken Word.

This album isn’t just a challenge to listen to (initially) but was also a challenge for Swindle and the cast of guests on the album. It took three years to make this incredible ambitious album and while all enjoyed the experience everyone involved had to work hard to make it work. Many artists have tried to make some kind of fusion music and many end up with unfocused, messy, tuneless and unsatisfying results. While “No More Normal” won’t click with you instantly it will reward those that stick with it. For me it’s the album the most rewarding album that’s came in the first Quarter of 2019. Sometimes it’s worth spending more time with an album and this is one of those times.

Ok, so I guess you’re wondering what “No More Normal” sounds like, so let’s get to talking about that. Well, to quote my follow Blogger Sampleface it’s “a buffet of Transatlantic black music” that takes in the following genres “West Coast Hip-Hop, Grime and Drill, Soul, Midwest funk/house”, Reggae, Spoken Word. Jazz and Southern Hip-Hop e.g. Timbaland and The Neptunes. It’s a thoroughly Modern music but nods to both the recent and more distant past. The majority of these nods come through the live instruments and vocals whether it’s the Jazz saxophone solo from Nubya Garcia on “Run Up”, the souful badass vocals of Eva Lazarus that pop across the album or the cinematic strings that a times recall a Blaxploitation soundtrack and other times like the score to a Bond movie. But even in his production Swindle does seem to reference beats from early 00’s Hip-Hop and R&B in addition to the previous mentioned Timbaland and The Neptunes there is definitely a touch of OutKast on ‘Knowledge’, ‘Take It Back’ and ‘California’. However, these references aren’t reductive and this isn’t a retread of those genres instead Swindle is able to fold them into his own style and reinvigorate those sounds and genres. It’s immense achievement that with all of the vocalists, instrumental collaborators and musical styles involved that “No More Normal” always sounds like Swindle and no one else.

All-in-all this fantastic album is a celebration of the UK music scene and some of it’s key players both in the present and moving into the future. I will continue to follow both Swindle and his collaborators music well into the future.

I have two more albums I want to write about in this series and they will be posted between now and the beginning of July when I start writing about the best releases from the second quarter of 2019.

Check out this mini documentary on the making “No More Normal” below. It features clips from over half the albums tracks and really illustrates what an achievement it is.

Let me know what you think “No More Normal” below in the Comments.

 

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Best new single you've uncovered in the last week?</p>&mdash; Rough Trade (@RoughTrade) <a href=”https://twitter.com/RoughTrade/status/1130156163272728576?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>May 19, 2019</a></blockquote>
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It’s that time of the week again and so here’s the latest Music Question (on a Sunday). This week’s question is (what is the) best new single you’ve uncovered in the last week? This was tough one as there have been a few singles that have got me excited this week so it’s a three way tie between ‘Mm mmm’ by Hackney Colliery Band featuring Anglique Kodjo and Roundhouse Choir and great combination of a fantastic modern Hip-Hop influenced Brass band, powerful Malian singer Kodjo and backing vocals from the choir bonus points for the title. Next it would have to be ‘Zero Fux’ by Kool Keith featuring B-Real (Cypress Hill) a great lead single from the upcoming Kool Keith album “Keith” it doesn’t reinvent the boom bap/90’s underground Hip-Hop wheel but hearing two distinctly voiced MCs on the top of their game is great. Finally I would say ‘Favourites’ by The S.L.P. featuring Little Simz, The S.L..P. is Serge from Kasabian’s side project and this is a great debut single featuring Serge’s signature guitar riffs and the confident flow of Little Simz. 

Let me know your best single of this week below in the Comments.

I wasn’t expecting this album in two senses 1) I literally didn’t know it was coming out until it started popping up in my Twitter feed in the last week or so building up to it’s release 2) I wasn’t expecting it to be impressed by it as I had found her last album “Stillness in Wonderland” underwhelming after enjoying her Tiny Desk Concert performance. But I was pleasantly surprised with what I found and that is a UK Hip-Hop album that has shown me that I’m missing out by not keeping track of what is happening in the scene.

This isn’t a subtle album and it gets right to the point on opener “Offence” with it’s punchy drum break, big and bouncy synth bass and Simz confident rhymes and flow asserting their authority over your mind and ears. ‘Boss’ is no less confident or bouncy though the drums are more brittle and electronic and the synth bass is bouncy yet hollow sounding, there is some fantastic blown out distortion applied to Simz vocals in the chorus.  The third track ‘Selfish’ keeps up the quality level but it a gentler track that introduces the soulful vocals of Cleo Sol on the chorus and I’m looking forward to hearing Cleo’s forthcoming debut album. The next highlight is ‘Venom’ on which Simz rips into anyone who would doubt her just because she’s a woman. On ‘Therapy’ she bares her soul over cutting snare, distorted but sleeky guitar and thick stabs of bass guitar.

While I recommend checking out and buying “GREY Area” I still feel that Little Simz is still due to make her best and most complete work but this is a great stepping stone on that journey.

Check out Little Simz below and let me know what you think of “GREY Area” in the Comments.

 

 

With the inclusion of this album in My Favourite Releases of the Year… so far you may see a theme developing… yes I like French music and Spotify has definitely caught on to this and is putting it in front of me on a semi regular basis. I’m not complaining as I’m discovering some great music from the Funk of Cotonete to this French Hip-Hop album by Soulence. I have enjoyed French Hip-Hop over the years whether it’s the appearance of MC Solaar’s music in the film “La Haine”, hearing Saian Supa Crew on UK evening Alternative radio shows back in the early 00’s and more recent mixes on Onra’s mixes both of French Hip-Hop and of Hip-Hop that samples French music. However, never taken the plunge and actually bought any French Hip-Hop or really explored the genre properly. I think this will change with “French Cassette” as it’s just shy of an hour of funny, funky and very French instrumental Hip-Hop.

“French Cassette” is a celebratory album and it’s celebrates both cliches about France and the French and the Boom Bap era of Hip-Hop. This is a album that’s all about breaks, scratches, sampling spotting and plenty of Funk to boot!!! There are also some synth sounds dotted throughout the album that come closer to recalling Dr.Dre’s G-Funk sound. Hip-Hop isn’t the only genre that crops up on this album there is also some track that use a lot of filtering in a way that is similar to the Filter House genre that was invented in France in the 90’s and made proper by the likes of Daft Punk, Cassius and Etienne De Crecy aka Super Discount. An artist who the album often reminds me of is The Go! Team mainly due to the lo-fi sound and the fun and humour that pervades the album, Mr. Scruff would probably be another relevant reference point. However, I think it’s worth pointing out that the humour and fun of this album doesn’t detract or distract from the production talent of this duo there isn’t a duff track on the album and the sound is phat with drums slapping like the best classic Boom Bap. This an album that needs your attention (and cash) now!!!

Listen to Souleance and let me know what you think of “French Cassette” in the Comments.

I first heard of Nubiyan Twist when I went to see Joe Armon-Jones at The Crescent in York last November, as Joe introduced the band he got to bassist Luke Wynter he said he was in Nubiyan Twist from Leeds. My first thought was that’s a great name for a band and that there was another potentially great band coming out of Leeds. It turns out I was right this is another great band coming out of Leeds (though now based in London) and what’s more another great band that met and formed at Leeds College of Music. Leeds College of Music is a respected music education institution in the UK but if it keeps on producing the amount of quality bands it is currently it will become world famous and rank alongside the likes of Berklee in the USA.

But I got off the point for a while there It’s time to get back to talking about the music of Nubiyan Twist and their album “Jungle Run”. On the bands Facebook page under Band Interests it says “To encourage artistic and social unity between different cultures and musical styles.” This is definitely a mission statement the band achieves on this album, they combine the disparate styles of dance music (including House and Drum ‘n’ Bass), Dub, Latin, Afrobeat, Ethio-Jazz, Hip-Hop, Turntablism and Soul into a potent stew of sound. This is quite an achievement considering the band has ten members And also joined in this album by guests Nubiya Brandon (vocals), Tony Allen (drums) the inventor of the rhythms of Afrobeat and Mulatu Astatke (vibraphone) the inventor of Ethio-Jazz. I have to admit that I am very jealous of the fact that the band gets to work with two giants of African music. Another achievement is to not be subsumed by those legends on the track states they contribute to this is a band with a clear identity and incredible musical talent to boot. Bandleader Tom Excell also produced the record in the bands own studio in Oxfordshire in the UK and it’s an impressive feat to say the least to build to get all these competing instruments and talents to play nicely in a mix. This isn’t just an impressive album it’s a lot of fun to the irresistible beats make impossible for you not to dance and the catchy choruses will be in your head in no time.

I know I’m probably repeating myself here but it’s hard to overstate how incredible this album is not only as a musical achievement but something that truly represents what music can be in the 21st-century. This is an album of the Internet age don’t get me wrong there are albums made fused cells are music together before the Internet age but “Jungle Run” is something only truly achievable in a world where you can access any music at any time with the click of a button. This is a real Album of the Year contender and definitely check it out.

Let me know what you think of “Jungle Run” in the Comments.

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