Album: Lionheart : Tussle With The Beast
Label: Riddim Killa
Rating: 6 / 10
“K…K… / Lash ya rasclat neck off / I’ll split you in half like a gun blast from Lennox…”
With those words on 2002’s underground smash €˜Murda, €™ Hackney’s Ricochet Klashnekoff graduated from simmering potential to perhaps the biggest name in UK hip hop. While the reggae influenced €˜Daggo Mentality €™ on Wordplay’s second “Word Lab” compilation, put his name on peoples’ lips, and dope guest spots alongside Jehst and Lewis Parker told you he was someone to watch, it was this instant classic that grabbed you by the back of the neck and smashed your head through a window. High profile exposure followed, touring with his Terra Firma crew alongside Jehst, as well as US heavyweights such as DMX and Mobb Deep, and with €˜Murda €™ as his show stealing ace, Klashnekoff’s rise to stardom within the UK rap scene was meteoric. Since the 2004 release of his debut “The Sagas Of Klashnekoff”, Klash can certainly not be accused of resting on his laurels, putting out an incredible amount of music, both solo and alongside his Terra Firma family, to keep his skills sharp and his name known. However, in the build-up to the release of Lionheart, group member Kyza unexpectedly announced his departure from Terra Firma, leaving the crew €™s future in serious doubt.
While we might never know the true story behind this split, lets not forget about Klashnekoff’s worth as a solo artist even before having his hand forced, and this full length collaboration with Joe Buhdha was well underway before any kind of beef kicked off within Terra Firma. While albums such as The Game’s have proven how a variety of producers can come together to create a uniform sound, there’s always been something to be said for a single producer handling an entire project and recently we’ve seen several excellent applications of this theory, with Mark B (Australian rapper Delta €™s “Lostralian”) and DJ Nappa (Inja €™s “Wideopen”) overseeing the entirety of albums last year with great success. With many impressive collaborations with UK don Rodney P already behind him, Joe Buhdha is on the cusp of UK hip hop fame and with a whole album to prove his worth, surely these two artists are made for each other.
Following a short introduction, the album opens with €˜The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (On Channel U), €™ a funky tune to set the scene for the album, describing the current state of affairs in London through the eyes of Klash. This call for change continues throughout the set, encouraging his audience to realise that revolution can only come if they themselves mobilise and take action : €œI €™m spittin €™ this till my two lungs cave in / Looking for soldiers, warriors and brave men / But brothers are brazen or too busy ravin €™ / To listen to my statement / Even after Steven €™s blood stained the pavement / It still seems like we €™re stuck in the same trench / Bunning herbs and wondering where the day went. €
Next up is the first single released, the introspective ‘My Life,’ which was backed with the more street sounds of ‘Two Guns Blazing,’ as is the trend these days. While ‘My Life’ has daytime crossover appeal, this style doesn’t really do Klashnekoff justice, as the stuttering, underwhelming beat and derivative content make him sound very ordinary. ‘Two Guns Blazing’ however, featuring 45, is more like the heat we expect from the man though, with Klashnekoff riding the heavy beat and spitting fire as the two trade lines. It is this grimy side to Lionheart that shows Klashnekoff at his strongest, but it seems that he has almost gone out of his way to avoid these types of tracks, in order to not just be grouped together with so many other up-and-coming UK rappers under the €˜grime €™ mantle. We find therefore, several tracks that follow €˜My Life, €™ with its insipid hook and slower flow, attempting to show diversity. The result however is a somewhat uneasy mix across the whole album, and while having aspirations for variety outside of the double time aggressive tracks that made the Terra Firma name are admirable, it simply does not suit Klashnekoff, nor Joe Buhdha for that matter. Beats such as the reggae-influenced €˜Refuse to Die €™ and the slow, smoky jazz club vibe of €˜Question €™ for example, feel superficial and half-hearted, with Klashnekoff almost struggling to reel himself in enough to flow over them in time. It goes without saying however, that seventeen tracks of the same fast street aggression of €˜Two Guns Blazing €™ would not have been ideal either, so some of these more introspective slower tunes are required, but only twice do the pair get the difficult formula right.
€˜Rest Of Our Lives €™ is a sequel to “The Sagas of Klashnekoff €™s” €˜Black Rose, €™ continuing the story of Klashnekoff €™s struggling youth with his mother. Here Joe Buhdha nails the slow jam with a soulful loop and hook that Just Blaze or Kanye would be proud of, allowing the obvious charisma and honesty of Klash to exorcise demons of domestic violence :
€œMy back €™s covered in welts / Cos the night before / Mummy switched and lost it with a belt / And I felt fucked / Cos there was no one I could tell / So when I reached twelve / I started turning to myself / And bunning herbs / Cos talking to god didn €™t work / But finally I can put all of this in words / This is my chance to reverse / Back to the pain and the hurt / To let my mums know I don €™t blame her / Cos now I overstand / Seeing life from the perspective of a grown man. €
Album closer €˜Make Ps €™ similarly walks the line between the saccharine and the poignant favourably, leaving an up-lifting message for the album €™s audience. Over a mellow, soulful beat, Klash €™s positive call for a focus on life €™s basic needs as a path to happiness is compelling :
€œI don €™t ask for much / And I €™m a humble youth / Gimme a roof over my head and some food and zoots / Maybe a garden outside / You know something for the youths / So I can raise them on the fruitful truth / Cos that €™s the essence / Teaching them that their self-worth is more precious / Than any Lexus / Or any blinged out necklace / Yeah things get desperate but you must overstand / Any man can hold cash but what €™s good with no plan? €
For those listeners checking for Klashnekoff for those hard hitting street anthems though, there is plenty to enjoy across “Lionheart”. Although the production is basic, €˜Terrorise the City €™ still comes hard, with Kyza and the legendary Kool G. Rap dropping guest verses while Redman is cut to shreds on the hook. The hype €˜Sayonara €™ is even better, featuring both former Terra Firma associates Kyza and Skriblah over a bass heavy banger. €˜Bun Dem, €™ with its innovative, bouncing steel drums, and the ominous €˜Bit By Bit, €™ further show Klashnekoff at his best, with the latter being the album €™s highlight. Buhdha €™s best beat on Lionheart suits Klash €™s flow perfectly and lyrically he delivers substance, occasionally lacking elsewhere on the album :
€œTwenty-four seven I grind / Everyday I work / So when I €™m done with the game they can say I merked / But right now blood / I €™m trapped on this earth €™s surface / Where they pay the footballers more than the nurses / And they expect a health service / But they don €™t help / So with respect I say €˜Fuck yourself €™ / Cos right now blood / Man is stuck in hell / It made me conscious but corrupt as well. €
So, the question on everyone €™s lips since Hip Hop Connection magazine deemed it worthy to earn their rare 5/5 rating, does this much anticipated collaboration live up to the pre-release hype? To be perfectly honest: no, not by quite a distance. Overall, it €™s too uneven as a musical whole and simply uninspired, both on a production and a lyrical tip, to have any lasting great resonance. The soapbox moralising is not particularly engaging and there €™s just far too much unnecessary flab across the seventeen tracks (of which five are skits). There is some fantastic material on “Lionheart”, but somehow it feels generally rushed; many beats sound unfinished and lacking depth, and many verses fail to really register due to unoriginal and simplistic gangster posturing. Klashnekoff is still an enormous talent, as is Joe Buhdha, with much to offer in the future, but if you are a Terra Firma fan, my advice is to cop Kyza €™s incredible debut “The Experience” instead.