REVIEW: Westwood UK Hiphop 2002

Westwood UK Hiphop 2002

Artist: Various

Album: Westwood UK Hiphop 2002

Label: Trust The DJ

Rating: 6 / 10

Reviewer: A to the L

I don’t think we really need to go into the boring details concerning Timothy Westwood’s “previous” all over again do we? Well OK, for the latecomers I’ll quickly toss a few facts at you – but this is the LAST time, I’m telling you! Westwood. Tim. Funny accent – UK with bastardized US slang sprinkled all over the shop (nahmsayin’?) Dad’s a vicar (or similar holy position.) Tim rebels, gets into Hiphop. Becomes famous DJ, first in London (on Capital) before taking the whole shebang nationwide with his Radio One Rap Show. Gets tons of exclusives before anyone else because he is best mates with Flex, Clue and all those other NY fuckwits. Can’t mix for toffee, but covers up this most basic DJing skill by leaning heavily on the button marked “Explosion Sound Effect.” Oh, and despite being there at its conception, still gets grief from the punters for not supporting UK Hiphop enough. Yeah… MC Northside from Brixton, thinks Tim is on US dick HARD…

Not sure then if this compilation is an attempt by Westwood to shoot down the criticism, or whether this was part of his long term plan. No matter – the truth is that Tim has linked up with online portal to push this album which features “some of the best UK Hiphop artists in 2002” (end press quote). Basically, Tim and the website launched a joint initiative, asking for budding emcees and deejays to send in their demos, with the best making it on here. Somewhere along the line, things seemed to have blurred slightly with UK heavyweights being tossed into the mix during proceedings – hence the appearances of New Flesh, MK, Jehst and Funky DL. This can be the only explanation since none of these artists are really on the “please listen to my demo” stage anymore.

Things kick off with a horrific track from Fredi Kruga called ‘Thug Date.’ Biting hard on Busta Rhymes’ quickfire delivery method, this former signing to RZA’s Wu-Tang International label provides ample proof as to why that particular project got tossed from RZA’s business portfolio real quick. Unoriginal, and uninspiring… if you’re gonna copy someone’s style, at least pull it off competently. Things don’t really improve with Iceberg Slimm’s ‘Electrified’ either. I defended this guy when others were dissing his catchy ‘Nursery Rhymes’ single – yes it was a little jiggy, but it WAS undeniably catchy and Slimm showed a instantly likable flow. He’s let me down badly here though – this is another poppy track, with a hateful Sesame Street-borrowing hook, and one where Slimm seems intent on jacking Will Smith for his entire steelo. I can almost see him rocking those MIB shades right now. Tim is zero for two right now.

Luckily the reliable 57th Dynasty pull things back up a little. ‘Hooligans’ is hardly vintage, but is welcome relief from the banality that came before. For those who are unaware, this Brixton eight man team are often compared to Wu, but there’s much more to 57th than that (although you may not be convinced after hearing the stunningly Wu-like gun-clapping talk which kicks off this track.) Thankfully though it seems that things are finally moving in the right direction, a thought reinforced by H&M’s ‘Envy’, a dark shot at “jealous niggas who wanna pull others down” – yes its been done before a thousand times, but for a duo that have been together for less than a year, this sounds remarkably polished.

It really needs to be left to the BIG names to step up and take centre stage though. Lowlife’s Psychic Phenomena link up with Ty over some menacing Mobb Deep-like keys to leave wack crews in their impressive ‘Slipstream’, before Nottingham’s finest Outdaville blow the spot apart with the best track on the album. ‘Wishmaster’ is amazing on two counts – for one, both tracks and lyrics are amazing, but its the whole VIBE that this joint gives off – the James Brown sample harks back to classic old school days while the modern flows of Scor-zay-zee and co keep this bang up to date. Superb stuff.

You have to have some sympathies for the artists who have to follow something as hot as that. Here, that unenviable task falls to Birmingham trio Moorish Delta 7. Their electronic track ‘Extreme Speed’ stands out more for its soulful chorus than anything else – unfortunately listening to this means duelling with your urge to jump back to Outdaville’s track. Sorry guys!

Mike GLC’s autobiographical ‘My Life’ shines out, as much for its slow paced piano keys, as for Mike’s flow itself. This is one for the headphones – it would be easy to skip over the heartfelt lyrics and thoughtful backing track in favour of something of a little harder. But trust me, this is worth sticking with…

“Age thirteen, shit got excessive, the beats got agressive
The truth? Boarding school called it abuse
Then they sent me out to live with my dad
All I could think about was the trips and the fun at the weekends that we ha
Throughout the new Transformers and cinema trips I couldn’t se
Really and truly how much my momma stood for me
When she had me – she died, blood, she knew that she could
When she was pregnant? Had me, blood, she knew that she would
But when you’re young you don’t understand what the stress can do
But now that she’s gone, I finally got the message through”

Superbly written and executed – this is a cat who deserves to get some more recognition off this project.

Next up, Funky DL’s Tribe-influenced ‘Tangible’ still maintains the high-octane bounce that you should remember me telling you about when I covered his “Blackcurrent Jazz” album a while back. You DO remember, don’tcha?

Biggest disappointment of this joint? Mud Family & Taskforce’s ‘Fuck A Concept’. For such a skilled crew to come with something like this is disappointing – a simple ascending/descending electro-tinged beat limps along in the background, and although the emcees do their best to rip things up, the lethargic backing track makes this a skipper.

Thank fuck then for DJ MK. His recently released 12 ‘It’s All Live’ on Stonegroove makes it on here, and features Harry Love, Kyza, Jehst and Super T dropping the jewels over MK’s heavy-on-the-strings concoction. My old mixtape supplier was always gonna get high marks anyway despite owing me a few inlay covers, but he’s really made it hard for me to say anything negative about him at all here. Big up Mr. King witcha bad self!

The final third of the album is a little bland to be honest – forgettable efforts from New Flesh (‘Mack Facts’), Blemish (‘Let’s Roll’), and London’s New Delegates of Major Stars (‘Foldinem’) all lack the desired cutting edge, and despite valiant efforts by The Mighty MPD Coup’s ‘The Battle’ and Ca$hino’s ‘Subterranean’ to make an impact, their position in the tracklisting unfortunately seems them swamped in a sea of shit. Things do close strongly however, with The P Brothers crunchy ‘3 Kings’ standing out for its unique production, as well as three ill verse from Scor-zay-zee, Cappo and Mr 45.

With this compilation, Westwood seems to be finally keeping his end of the bargain – as a UK Hiphop DJ, he has to be seen to be promoting UK Hiphop wherever possible. Obviously Hiphop from the States is always going to dominate his program, and I’m not denying that he does attempt to break some UK acts when he can – but its nice to see us getting our OWN compilation backed by a big name on the scene. Unfortunately the combination of several weak tracks sneaking on here and the fact that some of the nicest tunes on here have already been previously released, makes it difficult to wholeheartedly recommend. Let’s just say that this is a step in the right direction, and with Volume 2 in the pipeline, the only way is up.

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