Album: Food – The Low Life Compilation
Label: Low Life Records
Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
With each new year comes the predictable glut of new year resolutions, but while heads may stick to their guns when they promise to stop smoking, get more exercise, or quit dissing Def Jux artists, the old favourite of losing weight will be a struggle to follow through when you see the cover of Low Life’s new compilation. With the album simply titled “Food” I suppose it makes sense to give the cover a gastronomical theme, and the nice people over at Low Life will be hoping that the audio dishes they’ve served up will get your mouth watering like a drunken Saturday night kebab.
Things start off incredibly strongly – ‘You Know Who You Are’ is a veritable all-star line up with Rodney P, Farma G, Mystro and Braintax taking turns on the mic, as Shortee Blitz adds vicious cuts and scratches to ‘tax’s fast paced bouncy beat. This is followed by Mystro going for dolo on ‘My Type Of Party’, over a somewhat commercial-esque beat (well, as commercial as a Low Life release could be!). Produced by C-Swing, the track is laden with xylophones and snappy claps that drive their way into your skull – its no surprise to find that C-Swing has worked with R’n’B acts like Jamelia and Beverly Knight in the past – this could easily pass as a ruff r’n’b backing track. That’s not to say that’s its at ALL soft, and the addition of Mystro’s gruff verbals certainly put paid to any lingering thoughts that Low Life might be going for easy coin. This is ruggedly addictive.
If you somehow STILL find ‘My Type Of Party’ a little off from the usual Low Life standard, then you’ll find that normal business is resumed with ‘Showbitchness’. Here you’ll find Harry Love laying down a mellow horn-heavy jazz break over some sharp drums, and Verb T spitting some vicious shit about the nature of the game. What makes this even more interesting is the fact that for some reason its censored – with various dope noises, cuts, scratches, and Michael Jackson samples all over the shop. It actually makes it MORE enjoyable that the original uncensored 12″!
2002 was probably the year of Jehst – the buzz he created with his “High Plains Drifter” and “Return Of The Drifter” EPs has people slavering for a full length. His cut on here, ‘Adventures In New Bohemia’ certainly won’t make the interest die down. In fact, it’ll do the exact opposite – this is just SICK… the best track on this entire joint, and again its one where Jehst shows his skills both as lyricist AND producer. The track is straight up grimey, with a wild west style piano scale limping along in the background as a heavy heavy heavy drum loop sets the pace. Lyrically meanwhile its a comical romp through student life in the UK, with the addtion of an anthemic chorus giving things an almost operatic flavour. I’m getting a little tired of saying that Jehst’s shit is superb… but this is just… superb…
Kripsy’s Mikey D.O.N & Live 1’s ‘Tell Them’ is one of those double time rhyme thingys that I’ve never really been able to get with, so I ain’t really feeling this much. The same goes for Chester P’s ‘Wickerman Theory’ – the slow paced indian flavour didn’t do much for me when I first peeped the 12, and it hasn’t really improved much on second or third listen. I know some peeps are raving over this, but I’ll stay on the fence for the time being. Sandwiched between these is a nice little slab of flavour from Ricochet called ‘Mad Runningz’ which had me thinking of Guy Ritchie movies, as much for the comical tale he eloquently tells as for the Greek gangster vibe that Braintax’s production provides.
Things continue with another hot self produced joint from The Iguana Man called ‘Next Level Response’, which shows shades of classic Premier with its chugging drum pattern, echoing piano rolls, and Primo-on-the-scratched-hook flavour provided by Shortee Blitz, before rolling onto something that doesn’t happen very often – a Rodney P joint that isn’t instantly moving me. Mr Panton’s solo appearance ‘Run That’ is built around sparse electro tinged Braintax boardwork, but this time around the parts just don’t fit properly. Don’t get me wrong – it’ll still shit on a lot of artists’ output, but Rodney has set peoples’ expectations of him so high with the quality of last few joints that even a tiny slip is gonna upset people. And so it has come to pass…
This cut, and the next (Farma G’s bland ‘Between The Lines’) make “Food” take a little stumble, before it picks itself up and sets a determined course for the finish line with Braintax’s ‘Gulliver’ and the posse cut ‘City Sickness’ featuring Jehst, Asaviour and Usmaan both putting in strong appearances.
Rounding things off is the next single, ‘Rockstarz’, a Task Force and Braintax collab that sees a welcome return to form for Chester P and Farma G who individually were somewhat disappointing elsewhere on the album. This time however, its all gravy, with Raw Dog’s Otis bouncy work on the boards bringing out the best in the Task Force duo AND Braintax. Yungun’s ‘What Eye See’ brings proceedings to a close, with Harry Love’s production work again worthy of note.
Low Life are sitting on a gold mine – this album shows it. Heads already knew it because of the presence of Task Force and Braintax on the label, but the addition of Jehst means that 2003 is gonna make them a major player in the UK (and beyond) Hiphop landscape. This is a nice way to start the new year – the only turkey on here in the one on the cover, so go snatch this up. The Jehst cut makes this a must-have anyway.