Rating: 8 / 10
Well known UK producer Skitz, brings us his much awaited LP. “Countryman” doesn’t just to help reinforce the strength that is UK hip hop, it also shows a heavily dilated US scene exactly how a compilation album should be done. As the intro states, ” :It will be unruly grimy, lowdown and raw, from one rocky shore to highland – lowland and more.”
When was the last time you heard a compilation album open with an all female track? These Brit girls kick it all off nicely – Wildflower, Tempa and Estelle each drop a positive verse over an up tempo tune. A nice opening, although it’s a very average song compared to some of the later efforts on show. One of which comes in next, one of London’s finest, Rodney P, spits pure illness on ‘The Killing’. Supanatchlus builds up the beginning in ragga style, over a borrowed funeral anthem. Rodney keeps the death theme going with threatening lyrics throughout.
” :to applause, you punks go for yours,
I’ll be ballin’ more fire as I burn you frauds,
you’re all fakes, yer styles broke easy to brake
I’m at the back of the wake, fo’real selling my tapes,
this is how you kill it!”
This tag team of Supanatchlus and Tha Riddim Killa works to perfection, ‘The Killing’ would be a standout on any LP. ”If God is love, the Devil is lust :daddy Skitz keep the bassline buff, Rodney P from the old skool, somethin’ to trust.” It’s a hard task to follow this song, fortunately, it’s left to arguably London’s ‘hottest’ MC, Roots Manuva.
On ‘Inner City Folk’, Roots spins thoughts on day to day survival and the effect the ‘heat of the summer’ has on us London living folk. ”We need that Ital food but those types of foods, they don’t come cheap, so right about now it’s just the dividends we seek.” Roots perfectly sums up the good and equally bad sides of Summertime here in the Queen Mother’s country.
” :cause that’s how in Lizzi’s land we don €™t see much,
everybody’s in a spasm at the slightest touch,
of a tiny bit of sunrays we strippin’ off our clothes,
and it seems like there’s much more ladies on the road,
and it’s good in certain aspects but others it’s not,
cause it’s in these times that man be gettin chopped and shot.”
A nice guitar riff from Mad Money Wah runs nicely alongside. After such a talented opening, you wouldn’t be surprised if Skitz falters in the middle but “Countryman’s” production continues to impress on every song; the applause on Riddla’s ‘Vocal Workout’, the grooving bassline and the sound effects thrown in, plus some ill scratching by MK on the Phi Life Cypher song.
“Cordless Mics at 20 Paces ‘you’ll get wasted like a racist,
surrounded by 20 vexed niggas with Black Panther bracelets,
causin’ more pain then a sadist, rhymin’ and scared to play this
my flow’s killer high speed like Lady Di’s mercedes.”
There are so many unexpected gems found here, it’s almost as if each artist was trying to outshine the next MC on the lineup. Roni Size’s sometime MC, Dynamite, almost steals the whole show with his incredible story of ‘Timmy’ trying to rob a Securicor Van. Anyone who has forgotten how storytelling in rap should be, needs to be checking for this. ‘Double Reds’ is original and humorous at the same time and to non-UK heads, you’ll find out what the title refers to and the end of the story. Taskforce bring forth a very grim and graphic look on life in ‘The Junkyard’, a.k.a. Highbury Estate, before Rodney P returns with the amazing ‘Dedication’.
Arguably the best single release of last year. It’s only a ‘braggin & a BigUp’ song to various crews and areas of London, but even this simple subject, P and Skitz make it so damned fresh. Once again Roots Manuva stalks Rodney P as he comes after him in the line up, with ‘Where My Mind Is At’. This thoughtful song deals with how regular life drama can effect your mental state. Skitz drops a luvly quiet piano note to keep the tune flowing over a nicely laid beat.
Towards the end of the LP, the beats become more heavy and dominant. It’s almost as if the ‘messages’ were delivered during the middle and now it’s back to the braggin’ & battlin’. Not a bad thing at all. Skitz ties everything up with two outstanding collaboration tracks. ‘Fingerprints Of The Gods’, heavy with the bass, features Roots Manuva, Life, Si-Phillie and Skeleton. All who hold their own with incredible lyrics. Although, Skeleton is the standout with his very laidback voice. “I’m chilled in the field and the inner city hype, I’m murderin’ thievin’ rapin’ type, I’m the heat and the light the cold and the dark, I’m the silverback gorilla and the great white shark.” Past DMC champ Tony Vegas supplies the cuts as the beats change with every MC’s verse.
Not to be left out, right on their heels are Rodney P, Skinnyman, Wildflower and Riddla, with the last track, ‘Twilight Of The Gods’. DMC runner up Prime Cuts takes over the decks this time. An even harder mixture of beats for this last joint, saving the best till last. Needless to say, above par lyrics are dropped.
There you have it, consistent beats, many different styles on show, top drawer producing and ill lyrics. 14 cuts deep and not one of them can be called weak. This is not a biased review from a Brit talking, just another starved hip hop fan that’s just been well fed…