Tag: Rap

Word on the Street: March 2017

Word on the Street: March 2017

Following another month packed full of quality releases, one musician stood head and shoulders above the rest for me. No, it’s not Drake (although we’ll get to him later). The man in question? DJ Q.

Some of you may be familiar with the DJ/producer from his groundbreaking work in the bassline scene about a decade ago. Q became 1Xtra’s youngest DJ, hosting the station’s fortnightly UKG Mix show, and first came to my attention with his 4×4 mix cd series – my best friend and I used to drive around with the mixes pumping out loud, and I still listen to them regularly now. With the bassline scene hitting its peak in 2007/08, he had undoubtedly his biggest success with the release of his huge single “You Wot” featuring MC Bonez.

Fast forward almost 10 years, and Q’s profile has probably never been higher. His 2014 album, Ineffable, on Local Action Records was a well-compiled collection of productions, including two garage tunes of such astounding quality (“Notice Me” and “Be Mine”), that for me made him the king of the UKG vocal chop

It’s the last 12 months, however, that have really seen his output skyrocket. A slew of singles, mostly using well-known samples (such as Rocky, Bell Biv Devoe and Sonic The Hedgehog) have helped build to an outrageous month in March.

Starting in the first week of the month, East London MC Jammz released his latest single “Who’s That Girl?”, produced by our man of the moment. Once again featuring a female vocal chop, Jammz and Aleisha Lee do battle over a girl that’s possibly caught the MC’s eye – it’s incredibly reminiscent of Dizzee Rascal’s “I Luv U”.

Just over a week later, as part of the supergroup TQD (with Royal T and Flava D), one of my favourite albums of the year so far, UKG, saw the light of day. It’s a perfect blend of huge bassline wobblers, crafted 2-step garage, and grime. Check out their video for “A Letter To EZ”, and marvel at the meticulous attention to detail required to put together such an intricate visual.

Not staying quiet for long, it was only another 2 days until Q gave us his next gift. The intro and vocal on “Naked Truth” left me worried the first time I heard them. I thought it sounded too commercial, and not gritty enough, but my fears were allayed as soon as I heard the bassline for the first time. Once again, he hadn’t let me down.

On the last day of the month, the Yorkshireman had another grime production to showcase, this time in the form of YGG’s “Bad”. Comprised of London MCs PK, Lyrical Strally and Saint, the trio are one of the most exciting groups in grime at the moment, and their appearances on NTS and Radar are always must-listens. Q’s production is tropical in nature, and the perfect accompaniment to what the youngsters offer vocally.

Along with this single, there came the release of the Pure Bassline compilation, mixed by the DJ, along with another bassline legend, Jamie Duggan. It features many of our protagonist’s own productions, and really demonstrates the rude health that the scene currently finds itself in – is it due a renaissance, like the current reincarnation of grime? Whatever happens, I hope Q gets everything he deserves, because no-one has worked harder.

While we’re on the subject of legends in the scene producing beats for MCs, Dubstep pioneer N-Type recorded the first single to be released on the new Go Getter Music label, with South London’s Eazyman. “Work Rate” is a pure slice of UK-style trap, as the orator preaches about his work ethic, and how he’s left behind a life of violence and drugs.

Elsewhere in the UK scene, Spyro and Capo Lee finally dropped their Stop Talk EP. I’d previously mentioned how excited I was for this and it certainly wasn’t a let-down. “Tekkers” followed the lead from “Stop Talk” as a single of stunning quality, and the rest of the tunes are just as good.

Another long-awaited EP, this time from Preditah, was also unleashed. Focussing on grime instrumentals, the Birmingham producer enlisted the talents of his brother C4 for the release’s lead track “Touch Road”. It’s visceral and rugged, and is rightly getting a lot of attention on some of the country’s radio stations.

The rise of afro bashment continues at an alarming speed here in the UK, spearheaded by artists like Kojo Funds, LottoBoyzz and Mr Eazi. This Spotify playlist in particular is worth checking on a regular basis to be updated on the latest sounds – it’s only a matter of time before the scene blows up, and it has to be the sound of this Summer.

One afro bashment name that has so far had a mention in every Word On The Street column to date is J Hus, and his latest, “Did You See” is probably my favourite offering from the genre so far. From his opening gambit of “did you see what I done, came in a black Benz, left in a white one” the listener is captivated, and I challenge you not to shuffle wherever you are!

Finally, before we cross the pond, a word on Toddla T. The Sheffield-born DJ has long been an integral part of the Caribbean-influenced side of the UK’s music offering. His two albums to date, Skanky Skanky and Watch Me Dance, have both laid the foundations for his footing in the scene, which has led to his weekly 1Xtra show being essential listening. So imagine my surprise this month when I checked out his new video for the first single from his forthcoming release, “Blackjack21”. It’s a total departure from his usual sound, but really is an exciting prospect for what is to come. The visuals are stunning, and the beat and vocal will leave a lasting impression. Imagine “You Got The Love” being channelled through a live funk band, and you’re halfway there.

Now the inevitable. On a Saturday in the middle of March, Drake finally aired his latest project, More Life. Having been touted as a playlist rather than an album, and following several delays to the release date, it was no surprise to see it sending social networks into the usual frenzy. I won’t wax lyrical about how good it is (oh, it is) – instead I’ll let you all make up your own minds. All I’ll say is that I generally prefer the tracks Drizzy is singing on, rather than rapping. My highlights? Black Coffee’s production on “Get It Together”, Skepta’s “Interlude”, “KMT” featuring UK road rap superstar Giggs, and leading the way, “Blem”.

Drake took a lot of flak across all mediums following the release, for his appropriation of UK culture. Some British fans seemed outraged at his use of phrases such as wasteman, and even the fact that he named one of the tracks “Gyalchester”. American fans were horrified at the inclusion of what they considered to be inferior British rappers – they really didn’t like Giggs. As far as I’m concerned it can only be a good thing. No, the UK scene doesn’t necessarily need any help, but when was the last time that a huge worldwide artist championed another country’s talent in this way? Let’s embrace his love for our nation, and appreciate all he’s doing to showcase it.

Kendrick Lamar also made his comeback in March with the release of “The Heart Part 4”, and a video for “HUMBLE.”. Both give a hint as to what we can expect from his next album, which must be imminent.

In club culture, one release really grabbed my attention in the last month. Canadian producer Jacques Greene has been consistently making and releasing music since 2010, so his debut album has felt a long time coming. Mixing up a blend of garage, house and r&b, I’m pretty sure Feel Infinite already has the potential to be one of my favourite albums of the year.

For once, I don’t have any other business to bring to your attention, so I’ll leave you to enjoy the usual Spotify playlist below. As always get in touch and let me know what I got right and wrong – astralpenguinsmusic@gmail.com. See you again next month!

It’s Album Time: Migos – Culture

It’s Album Time: Migos – Culture

If you haven’t yet heard of Migos (pronounced like amigos, without the a), where have you been? Following a decent debut album in 2015, the Atlanta trap trio have taken the last couple of years by storm. Whether it’s with hit single “Bad & Bougee”, an appearance in the excellent Atlanta created by and starring Donald Glover (what do you mean you haven’t seen it yet?), or the fact that they are credited by some with creating the dab, it’s been pretty hard to avoid them. With their sophomore album, “Culture”, they’ve really hit their stride.

Firstly, I feel obliged to point out that clearly the average trap album isn’t likely to include themes that I can relate to. I’m a thirty-something accountant, living on the Essex coast. But fear not, it doesn’t detract from the huge amount of enjoyment I take from listening to this one, and it won’t for you either.

Every album should start with an intro from Snapchat hero, DJ Khaled – I’d actually quite like it if he could just walk into rooms before me and scream my arrival. I’m also a huge fan of what appears to be a xylophone loop playing underneath the vocals, and from the off the tone is set for what proves to be an incredible first five tracks.

“T-Shirt” is easily my favourite song on the album. The sample fading in and out on the production works perfectly with the vocal, and I can’t ever remember loving a tune for essentially having two choruses. The swagger and bravado you would expect from a release of this type is evident from the very first verse as Takeoff, in his trademark stacatto style, proclaims:

Lotta niggas copy, name someone can stop me

It’s Offset though, with his auto-tuned singing style, that makes it for me. This one stayed on repeat the first time I heard it, and hasn’t stopped looping in my head since.

The high standard continues with the infectious “Call Casting” – you’ll be hearing that piano for days – before we launch straight into the track Donald Glover described as “the best song ever”. I won’t bore you by describing it, or giving my insight. The best thing you can do is listen to “Bad and Boujee”, right now.

“Get Right Witcha” completes the outstanding opening to the album, with a great asian-style flute sample, and an even better drum track. It’s just a shame the track fades out at the end, because I could listen to that instrumental for weeks.

At this point, the album takes a dip in quality. That’s not to say that it’s bad, or not worthy of your time, more that it’s hard to top what has come so far. It does feel a little like listening to the same song over and over, but there are still some highlights.

“Slippery” sees Gucci Mane guesting, but it’s still Takeoff, Quavo and Offset that shine as they brag about women and cars. On “Big On Big”, I find it hardest to relate to the lyrics. I’ve never owned a Benz – in fact I don’t own a car full stop – and certainly not a mansion with a four car garage. And yet there’s still something pleasing in hearing the trio boast about their well-deserved spoils.

Short but sweet and with a killer hook, “What The Price” opens with a guitar sample that wouldn’t sound out of place on one of Prince’s finest tracks, and “Brown Paper Bag” goes straight in at the deep end as Offset hits a perfect flow. “Deadz” follows with a huge brass arrangement, and a slower tempo.

Before the album reaches its conclusion, there’s time for one more killer hook. “All Ass” is the closest Migos get to a love song, professing their adoration for strippers and booty, and it probably delivers my favourite chorus:

Yeah, beat the pot, beat the pot, beat the pot, oh
Bad bitches walkin’ out with bags at the store (bad)
Stripper girl shakin’, all ass on the pole (all ass ay, all ass ay)

Things get a little weird on “Kelly Price”, with tales of drug-fuelled lovemaking sessions, and making girls “sing” like the aforementioned grammy-nominated r&b singer. Unfortunately, it’s about two minutes too long for me.

“Out Yo Way” completes the release, and one lyric in particular sums up exactly how they should be feeling:

Everybody said that we would fall away
Nobody thought that we would go up
But we blew up, blew up, blew up

Migos really have delivered an outstanding piece of work. As I said, the first five tracks are truly incredible, and set a very high bar that the rest of the album only just fails to reach. It’s a real statement, and deserves all the praise it’s getting. More importantly, it lives up to all the pre-release hype.

HIGHLIGHTS: “T-Shirt”, “Bad and Boujee”, “Get Right Witcha”, “All Ass”.

Word on the Street: January 2017

Word on the Street: January 2017

In the first in a series of monthly posts, our resident DJ, George, gives us a round-up of January’s offerings from the urban side of music culture. Gunfingers and dancing shoes at the ready!

2017 is off to a great start. It’s always pleasing to say that I’m struggling with the amount of music to consume at any given time, and it certainly feels that way right now. Given how little music is usually released in the run up to Christmas, January always feels like a blessing, but this year in particular seems to be setting a high standard already.

Of course, there’s no finer way to set the bar high than with the return to form of a legend. After a few years in the commercial wilderness – I read somewhere that he was trying to make more money to offer a better quality of life to his daughters, so fair play – Eskiboy is well and truly back in the grime fold, with the release of the aptly-titled “Godfather”, his eleventh (eleventh!!!) studio album. Having been pushed back multiple times, with Wiley himself threatening to cancel its release altogether and stating it will be his last, it’s no surprise that it’s an absolute joy to listen to. It’s the perfect length at 17 tracks, and just under an hour, and is littered with features from some of the biggest names in the scene (JME, Newham Generals, Skepta, P Money).

But it’s solo track “Back With A Banger” on which the King of Grime really shines. I can’t think of anything better than Wiley going hard for 3 minutes over a flawless Preditah beat, and no lyrics are more fitting for heralding his return than when he announces “anybody wanna know what I’m doing right now, go tell ‘em that I’m back with a banger”. Elsewhere, there are highlights in “On This”, featuring his long-time prodigies Ice Kid, Chip and Little D, and a killer link-up with Devlin on “Bring Them All/Holy Grime”, which you can watch below. Following that, I strongly recommend you take an hour out of your day to immerse yourself in grime perfection.

Speaking of Devlin, the Dagenham native’s comeback continued with the release of his latest single, “Blow Your Mind”, complete with a chorus from Maverick Sabre. I’m slightly biased, hailing from nearby Essex myself, but, like Wiley, he’s been gone too long, and I for one am excited for him to unleash his new album, “The Devil In”, later this year.

Elsewhere in grime, President T snuck in at the end of 2016 with the release of “T On The Wing”. As with “Godfather” there are numerous collaborations with other contemporaries from the scene, but again it’s a solo track that provides the highlight, and closes the album – “Ending Careers”. The Meridian Crew member, and Boy Better Know affiliate, lets loose over Danny Weed’s classic 2004 instrumental “Salt Beef”.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a Lethal Bizzle track that I actually enjoyed, so imagine my delight when I heard him accompanied by Giggs and Flowdan over a classical/choral influenced rhythm produced by Heavytrackerz. Hopefully “Round Here” sparks another return to form in 2017.

Also produced by Heavytrackerz this month is “Rain Drop”, the latest single from French grime trio Perfect Hand Crew. In the interest of honesty, I feel obliged to divulge that I personally know PHC, but that takes nothing away from their ability, especially given that they’re making music in something other than their native tongue. In fact, the memory of having watched Tasty Took freestyle in English at an early hours afterparty in Montpellier after many drinks still blows my mind to this day. Check out the track and it’s amazing video below.

Having already confessed to one personal conflict of interest, I should perhaps start this recommendation with another disclaimer: I’m a Birmingham City season ticket holder, and am therefore a fan of this video having been shot in the car park at St. Andrew’s. Don’t let that put you off though. Give Jaykae’s “No” a go – it’s been co-signed by Logan Sama no less!

Finally, while listening to Sian Anderson on 1Xtra this month, I was introduced to 17 year old South Londoner, Dis, by way of her take on Beyoncé and Sean Paul’s “Baby Boy”. I’m not completely convinced by her lyrics and flow, preferring the production (possibly influenced by Lolingo’s grime re-imagining of Amerie’s “One Thing”?), but at such a young age she should be considered one to watch.

Moving away from grime (but only just), Coyote Records this month released the second album from American producer Letta. His take on R&G (rhythm and grime to the uninitiated – check out this excellent 25 track introduction to the fascinating sub-genre here), influenced by his own battles with homelessness and addiction, continues on the excellent “Redemption”. The album has an ethereal, futuristic feel – I like to think that Rick Deckard would pour himself a dry smokey (worms included), and listen to this at home, after a long day of tracking replicants.

In a similar vein, comes the debut EP from Klasey Jones, one of the most promising producers in the UK’s wave scene. Unsurprisingly, given that he is pushing the scene more than anyone else, “Foreign Buyers Club” is released on Plastician’s Terrorhythm label. I’m intrigued to see where this sound will go, particularly as it seems to have emerged almost solely from Soundcloud producers.

On the dancier side of the scene, South London producer Jynx (who was on the buttons for one of my favourite remixes of 2016) put out four tracks of stunning quality on the “Saffron City” EP. There are so many influences I can hear that it would be almost impossible to list them all, but in general you could take the best of R&B, UK funky/garage, Burial-style dubstep, and even 90s house, and you might get close. “Saffron City” and “Calm Mind” are particularly good.

Having mentioned UK funky, that brings me on nicely to two serious contenders for my favourite tune of 2017 (yes, I know it’s only January!). The astounding thing about these tunes is that they are both released on the same label. Roska seems to be consistently finding the best new talent to showcase on his Roska Kicks And Snares imprint, and with Murder He Wrote he is continuing this trend. For most of 2016, and to anyone who would listen, I waxed lyrical about how Murder He Wrote was destined for greatness. His output has improved exponentially with each release, and it’s with “Watch The Tempo” that he seems to have outdone himself again – a serious, bass-heavy, funky roller complete with hip-hop breakdown.

The second fine release on RKS in January comes from Roska himself, this time collaborating with bassline guru Champion. “Flame Grilled” combines the best elements of UK funky/garage and late 2000s bassline. Should you have the (mis-)fortune to catch me DJing somewhere this year, you’ll be sure to hear both of these.

Dave doesn’t sound like the most inspiring name for an up-and-coming English rapper to have chosen, but don’t let this fool you when it comes to the potential for being the biggest name in UK rap and R&B. Having already had his single “Wanna Know” remixed by Drake last year, he continues his quest to become the UK’s equivalent to Toronto’s finest with new track “Samantha”, alongside fellow rising star J Hus. Get ready for these two to take over in 2017.

You may have noticed that there is a glaring lack of anything from the other side of the pond in this round up (mainly because all the big releases only went live yesterday – see below). To tide you over until next month, when hopefully there’ll be more Stateside sounds for me to cover, here’s Missy Elliott’s latest, bonkers-as-always video for “I’m Better”.

Before signing off, we should cover any other business. There are always too many incredible club nights to be able to attend them all, but two in particular that I’m hoping to make it to in the coming weeks are Boxed’s 4th birthday at Phonox in Brixton on 3rd March, and Kode9 doing a one time only history of Hyperdub set at Archspace on 24th February. If you’re attending either, maybe just shout George really loud, and you can tell me how awful and long-winded this post was.

Club culture in general is one of my passions, so I’m always keeping an eye out for any documentaries on this topic. At only 26 minutes long, Annie Mac’s Who Killed The Night? isn’t given enough time to really establish what is going on with nightclub closures across the UK, but is worth watching nonetheless before it disappears from the iPlayer.

Since the Viceland TV channel launched in the UK, I’ve hardly watched anything else – you should check out Abandoned in particular, which satisfied my strange fascination with derelict buildings and ghost towns. It’s Big Night Out that I want to draw your attention to though. Clive Martin, journalist and Head of Brand Development at ASOS, converts his excellent Big Night Out column for Vice into a documentary series, exploring the weird and wonderful in nightlife experiences across the continent. If I were you I’d watch it just to see how awkward he seems in certain situations, and for his attempt to not puke in front of Carl Cox.

Finally, in they-only-came-out-yesterday-so-I-haven’t-had-time-to-listen-to-them-properly-yet news, there were releases for Drake collaborator Gabriel Garzón-Montano, America’s Got Talent finalist turned legit R&B talent Kehlani, and, most significantly, Atlanta trap trio Migos (this one is already on constant rotation, so check out “T-Shirt”, and the huge hit “Bad And Boujee”). “New Gen” also looks like a very promising compilation showcasing the next wave of grime, R&B and spoken word talent. You can expect all of these to either be reviewed in the next week or so, or feature in next month’s round up.

If you’ve read this far, thank you for putting up with my waffling. I know this was a long read, but there’s genuinely so much to cover in one month, across multiple genres. We’ll see if I can trim it a bit next time!

If you discover something you love, or want to tell me what I’ve missed (or that I’m wrong!), then get in touch via astralpenguinsmusic@gmail.com. Most of the tracks mentioned above can be found in the Spotify playlist below. See you all in a month!