Verbals by A to the L
Belles In Monica – What D’Ya Need (Urbanlite)
Glasgow trio, Belles In Monica’s third single is a dark broody affair with the Krash Slaughta mix of the title track standing out for with its ominous synths and jaggling keys on the chorus drawing comparisons with Dre’s “Chronic 2001” production style, while the Unsung Heroes mix trades the synths for a more staccato sound that’s heavy on orchestral strings. On both versions, rapper Kruze appears a little lost, rambling non-stop throughout in classic El-P bullshit mode, although his voice is more reminiscent of Paris. Elsewhere, ‘Skitzophonetic’ continues the dark theme, with DJ Dema eeriely cutting up a child’s vocal sample, while Kruze drops an angry verse recorded with the “phone-line” effect button firmly pushed down, and Krash Slaughta reappears on the scratch heavy ‘Resistance Is Futile’ and continues the insanity. Not bad at all, but nothing outstanding.
RATING: 6 / 10

DJ Format – B-Boy Code (Genuine)
Format’s second release is a definite improvement over his debut. In best Double D and Steinski style, Format has compiled a funky slab of classic b-boy breaks over which scratched vocals from far too many rap idols are effortlessly dropped over the top – instantly recognisable lines from KRS, Run DMC, Shan and a host of others are scattered all over the shop with head nodding effect. The flipside sees a remix from Psycho Pab which comes heavy on the horns and Meters-like guitar licks to improve the overall product. With an album due in Spring which promises collabs with Charli 2na & Akil from Jurassic 5, and Canadian emcee Abdominal, DJ Format may well be a name worth checking for in the near future. For the meantime though, consider picking this up.
RATING: 7 / 10

Jehst – The Return Of The Drifter (Low Life)
In addition to the “ROTD” cd reviewed this month, the 12″ is also available from Low Life. You need to pick this up! Jehst’s casual I’m-dope-on-the-mic-but-I-will-fucking-kill-you-if-you-step-to-me style is superbly suited to his own self produced backing track, as strings and sparkling pianos urge him on to dismantle the mic. Harry Love’s cut on the chorus simply add to the total package, making this a must-have. The flipside see Jehst link up with Asaviour for ‘People Under The Weather’ over a beat with a superb jazzy feel. Again Harry Love’s cutting up of James Brown acts as a funky compliment to Jehst and Asaviour’s furious trading of verses. Another dope track, but for me its all about the title track. You NEED this.
RATING: 9.5 / 10

Gamma – Killa Apps (Big Dada)
Leading the way with the spread of the “bouncement” style across the UK, Gamma return with their first release since their “Permanent” album two years ago. The whole Shadowless crew (Tomo, Defisis, Infinite Livez and Jack Tarr) weigh in with quickfire deliveries over a supremely bouncy beat. Rugged and bassy, with a hard-edged Jamaican tinge, its a welcome return to the arena, and one which is reinforced by the B-side ‘Izwha’, a dreamy romp with equal dollops of UK Hiphop and Jamaican dancehall added to the mix. There’s a set of KILLER horns on here that are just crying out to be lifted too.
RATING: 8 / 10

Lewis Parker – Incognito (Virgin)
Champions Of Nature crew member, and successful solo artist returns with dope music shocker. Well, nah, not really a shocker because those in the know already recognise the skills. However if there was ever a way to introduce new fans to your style then THIS is it. ‘Incognito’ is the first single from Parker’s new album “Its All Happening Now”, and is simply superb. Here, strings and chimes collide with heavy drum tracks as Lewis spits non-stop rhymes which are only broken up by a dope Lord Finesse scratched vocal. For your bucks you also get a Dirty Card remix of the title track, which introduces some devastating horns into the mix, totally transforming the track for a hard banger to a funky bounce track. Elsewhere, Parker links up with A-Cyde for the obviously titled ‘At Large With A-Cyde’, a wickedly cold thumper which is no doubt destined for many a UK mixtape. Pick this up right now – Lewis Parker is back.
RATING: 9.5 / 10

VU – Seven Grain EP (Wide Hive Records)
VU (short for Variable Unit) expertly mix elements from Hiphop, jazz, soul, and classical music on the supremely laidback opening cut from this mini EP ‘The Promise’, where the group members’ various skills on not only the mic and turntables, but also the piano, the double bass, the trumpet and the drumkit, link up to provide a solid backdrop to Gregory Howe’s spoken word. Things continue in a similar vein for ‘Eighties Promise’ and ‘101’ with both cuts exhibiting a similarly gritty live instrumentation feel, and ticking along at a much faster pace than the mellow opener. ‘101’ in particular stands out, coming off like a lost-tape JB’s session, with the only thing missing being the vocal urges of the Godfather of Soul himself. As it is though, this is an interesting introduction to the group’s forthcoming album of the same name. Look out for this crew – this kind of shit may be a bit of a niche market, but when its done as expertly as this, its worth a few minutes of your time.
RATING: 8.5 / 10

Dissent – Bleeding Together (Wide Hive Records)
Meanwhile, Dissent is VU vocallist Gregory Howe’s little side project, which captures his collaborations with various artists from widely ranging genres of music and puts them all in one place. ‘Bleeding Together’ takes all the same elements that VU come with, and sprinkles a little bit of electronica, a little world music, and a little bit of downtempo over the top, resulting in a sound very close to that of the legendary Roy Ayers – funky and rootsy, with a little bit of a kick. On the flipside, ‘Sound Painting’ continues the abstract audio experimentation with start-stop drum patterns meshing with strings, flutes, and wooden sounding rattles to create something that is impossible to label. This kind of thing won’t be for everyone, and is in fact more “out there” than the already mentioned VU EP, so approach with care.
RATING: 6 / 10

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