Posts Tagged ‘music’

CASisDeaD-

Drugs Don’t Work

 

There seriously must be something in the water in North London and I’m not talking about the fluoride, because for over a decade now North London has consistently produced some of the country’s top MCs. I mean I where do I start, Mercury Prize Winner Skepta hails from the streets of Tottenham, as does Wretch 32 and most recently Avelino looks set to continue on this path laid out by his predecessors. Although I absolutely love the aforementioned crop of MCs, there has been one MC who has truly stood out to me, but has perhaps flown under the radar of the masses and that’s CASisDEAD.

 

Over the last 12  months or so Cas has significantly raised his profile with Giggs featuring on a remix of his track “What’s My Name”, and then Cas himself being the star feature on Giggs’s debut album Landlord. However Cas is not new to the game by any stretch of the imagination, previously going by the name Castro Saint, he released a slew of Grime tracks in the early Noughties. Although his style and approach were not as polished as they are now, his masterful manipulation of the English language has always been there.

 

Since then Cas has transformed into an international man of mystery. Sporting a mask and going by a different moniker, complete with slower delivery and with content 50 shades darker Castro Saint really is dead. The mysteriousness goes so much deeper than just the identity of Cas, even though most of his fans don’t even know what he looks like. The YouTube comment philosophers have fuelled conspiracy theories that even go on to raise questions about exactly why he calls himself “Cas”. Is it simply a shortening of Castro Saint? Or is it in reference to the CAS numbers list? C.A.S is an acronym for Chemical Abstract Service and these numbers are used to help identify chemical substances, including drugs of course, which is fitting as Cas’s content is riddled with drug references. What does “isDead” signify? Is it a clever way of him displaying his rebirth as a new artist? Or is it the more sinister suggestion that has been encrypted in some of Cas’s lyrics, that he sold his soul to the devil after what should have been a fatal motorcycle crash? Either way, I could write an entire article attempting to uncover the many mysteries surrounding Cas. In a time where information is just a short Google search away, Cas has worked miracles in order to shroud himself in such mystery.

 

“Drugs Don’t Work” is easily one of Cas’s magnum opus’s. MssingNo’s production (yes eagle eyed Pokemon Red and Blue players will recognise his namesake as the Pokemon that would spawn while you did the infinite rare candy or master ball cheat) plays a big part in this tracks success. It’s immediately obvious that the beat is MssingNo’s take on The Verve’s 90s hit of the same name. He’s pitched down the original instrumental, but his own additions are not far away, as hi-hats can be heard ominously in the distance like a marauding band of cavalrymen; and before you know it the hairs on the back of your neck are standing up as MssingNo’s entire arrangement prepares to plunge you into the dark recesses of Cas’s mind.

 

The journey you embark on when you listen to Cas’s “Drugs Dont Work” isn’t a pleasant one (in the conventional sense). His morose lyrical depictions remind us of a grim reality, which we’ve become accustomed to escaping through TV, social media and of course music. You’ll find no such hyper-real escapism when listening to “Drugs Dont Work”, instead Cas forces the listener to face some of these harsh realities. This then begs the question how does Cas manage to make this entertaining? Music is a form of entertainment at the end of the day, even if you’re trying to educate the audience they’ll be much easier to reach if you manage to retain the entertainment factor. Cas’s gritty, and sometimes macabre storytelling lands somewhere in the promised land of entertaining social realism. Most artists that tread down this beaten path fail to find the difficult balance between the two. Their songs end up either sounding like a TED talk or like some hood version of Keeping up with the Kardashians- i.e. full of gross self-glorification and not an ounce of substance.

 

Although Cas traditionally plays the role of drug dealer, on “Drugs Don’t Work” Cas displays duality by encapsulating the difficult of experiences of a chronic drug user. This Bruce Banner/Hulk dichotomy is a central theme in much of Cas’s music, although he can sometimes appear cutthroat and callous, in the next bar you might hear him reflecting on the damages his actions may have caused. This foresight is rarely seen in music like Cas’s, you’ll often just get MCs fraudulently glorifying drug dealing but never the acknowledgement of the societal ills caused by it.

 

The juxtaposition is immediately apparent as the track begins with Cas reflecting on the negative effects of his over indulgence, but he quickly snaps out of the self-pity as he derides himself for showing vulnerability:

 

I’m wire thin/ I dunno why I aint dieting/ maybe it’s the Vicodin that strung me out like a violin/ fiend Simon dialled he’s tryin to buy a ting/ its mad I used to look down at him for piping up and firing/ talking to myself not recognizing who’s replying/ I’m becoming so much like the clients that I’ve been supplying/ BUT FUCK THE SENTIMENTAL SHITE/ IM MENTAL AND I GET MORTAL LIKE/ POP A PILL AND SPIKE THIS BITCH AND FUCK HER TILL SHE AINT WALKING RIGHT”

 

This internal conflict is played out throughout the track as Cas invites the audience to take a glimpse into the troubled minds of the various characters plagued by addiction. Long-time fans of Cas will recognize the character Simon, who has previously faced Cas’s wroth, but this time we see him coming to his aid, once again Cas has brilliantly encapsulated the way ones fortunes can change in an instant when dabbling with drugs.

 

Cas doesn’t do things in half measures, the same applies for his storytelling. Rather than just be content with his explorations of a fraught and unconventional relationship between the drug dealer and the user, Cas is keen to delve into the myriad of reasons why people turn to substance abuse. In modern society this has become a rather taboo subject, as addicts are often just dismissed and cast aside, Cas however refuses to shy away and brings some of these harrowing realities home to roost.

 

 But my life’s shit/drugs seem like the quickest fix/temporary escape from the estates and all the fucking bricks/that’s why I’m in such a rush to take the first hit or first sip/ E&J burnt up my throat fucking roach burnt up my lip/then it wears off/and I feel like I’m worse off/looking out on London bridge thinking about throwing myself off/NAH THAT’S SOFT THERE’S BETTER WAYS I COULD FEEL HIS WROTH/I GOT LOADS OF GEAR IN MY LOFT/ I GOT LOADS OF PILLS I COULD SCOFF

 

In just a few lines Cas has shed light on the dark underbelly of addiction that few care to acknowledge, while simultaneously fleshing out the mental strife that has been caused by the prevalence of stoicism and hyper-masculinity. Considering the fact that male depression has only received widespread attention in the last 12 months or so, and this track was released almost five years ago; it goes to show that good music stands the test of time. One might argue that Cas isn’t unique in speaking on these topics, but what is unique is not the topics per se, but the way in which he delivers it. You’d be hard pressed to find another artist who manages to blend a convincingly gritty persona with deep, insightful and most importantly entertaining social commentary.

 

“Drugs Don’t Work” is a track with more twists and turns than Nuremberg, and from start to finish Cas has the listener captivated and hanging on his every word, as he unpredictably veers the Tarantino esque multi strand narrative from one harrowing tale to the next. Cas even manages to weave in the tragic story of his friend who passed away after Chemo therapy failed stave off Cancer. Which is simply audacious, who would have thought that a track that begins with Cas reeling from the aftereffects of a drug fuelled night, would culminate in a reflection on the crippling effects of medical grade pharmaceuticals?

 

This is just the sought of artist that Cas is, he can turn his hand to anything, one need only explore his criminally small discography to see his diverse range of beat selection and his ever present lyrical wizardry. The only problem with the elusive CASisDeaD, is that there is simply not enough product, his intermittent releases can be frustrating for fans but art as they say, cannot be rushed.

MicMic Righteous-Try My Best

When it comes to spitting with passion and hunger few come close to Mic Righteous. Most MCs tend to lose some of this once they achieve some degree of recognition, however all of Mic’s tracks right up to his latest offering ’Ronnie Pickering’ are awash with his trademark ferocity. His fiery delivery is reflective of how personal and emotive his lyrical content can be, which is certainly something unique in a scene that has become inundated with far too many MCs who claim to possess some sort of gangland superiority in an attempt to appeal to a form of pseudo-masculinity. Mic has snubbed this well travelled route and paved his own way with his passionate introspective storytelling. Mic began writing lyrics from a young age and as a result of this he now has an impressive back catalogue of mixtapes, singles and EPs. However I only stumbled across Mic after his now infamous first appearance on Charlie Sloth’s Fire in the Booth, in which the BBC (so much for impartiality) censored the words “Free Palestine”. This moment catapulted Mic into the spotlight beyond that of the UK music scene and was the catalyst that led me to exploring his aforementioned superb body of work.

 

During my explorations of Mic’s discography, I unearthed a gem entitled Try My Best on Mic’s critically acclaimed second mixtape Kam-Pain. The mixtape as a whole is a great piece of work, every track has Mic’s trademark delivery and is coupled with brilliant production from Preston Play throughout; the mixtape even features two guest spots from the incredible spoken word artist George The Poet. However I feel that Try My Best is just a cut above the rest in all departments. The track is a huge risk; it’s a Mic Righteous take on the legendary Eminem song Stan. Although not exactly a straight cover of Stan, upon hearing Try My Best it becomes clear that they are conceptually very similar, and herein lies the risk. It is no mean feat for an artist of any kind to attempt to take a concept made famous by someone else and try to do something different with it. The pitfalls are plenty, but Mic navigates past them with aplomb and provides us with a brilliant insight into the sometimes difficult relationship that an introspective lyricist shares with his audience; although seemingly very similar to what Eminem does on Stan, thanks to Mic’s unique experiences we actually get a completely different angle.

 

Without the presence of the subtle, yet no less exceptional production from Preston Play, Try My Best may well of fallen foul to some of the lazy accusations of unoriginality that have been levelled at the track. The beat begins with a slow sombre piano score which is shortly accompanied by the equally melancholy bass drums; which maintain this as a theme throughout the song. The understated brilliance of Preston Play continues, as the sound of fingers frantically dancing over a keyboard punctuate the track, in the same way that the sound of a pencil scribbling once did on Stan.

 

As we have come to expect from Mic, lyrically, he doesn’t disappoint. The format of the track again bares similarities to Stan, however to truly appreciate how good the track really is, we must focus on the nuances. In each verse Mic plays a different character, and then ties them all together adeptly with his response on the final verse. Adding different characters rather than focusing on just one like Stan, adds a level of complexity and depth not found on Stan. The first two verses are representative of the type of outpouring Mic has had to become accustomed to because his reputation has been built upon his emotionally charged content; which has resulted in his fans sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings with him.

“All I ever do is listen to you/Something inside me tells me this is the truth/I know you feel the pain that I do/Sometimes I even wish I was You”.

However the third verse is by far the most interesting. The third verse focuses on how some of his fans have come to expect a certain type of music from him, and feel so passionately that they are willing to chastise Mic for veering off this perceived course:

“You sold yourself Mic, thats why they call you a celeb/never knew you would pretend/ you aint spreading the truth/you used to represent now you forgetting your roots/you aint fire fam you’re a liar in the booth….I thought you said you couldn’t deal with fakes/after that shit with Cher Lloyd who could still relate?”

 

The particular track that the angry fan references is called Dub On A Track which also featured two other UK heavyweights Ghetts and Dot Rotten. The trio reportedly received a whopping £8,000 each for their contributions. Some fans felt that this was a departure by Mic from what they had come to know and expect from him. At the end of the day, what some of these self proclaimed “fans” forget that making a living from music is tough, tougher still for the underground artists. Without major label backing they rely solely on the support of their fans for their revenue. Underground fans are often the staunchest critics and will jump at the opportunity to tell their favourite artist that they’ve “sold out” or that they aren’t “real” anymore. However it’s important to remember that all of Mic’s previous projects up until Open Mic were all available for free. So as fans, we ought to be sensitive to the fact that he has to make money somehow. It was one verse, I would hardly describe it as selling out, and I think if any of us were offered 8Gs for a verse we would do it! The irony is that these same fans that are quick to call Mic a sell out, will be the very same ones that don’t buy the “real” music that he puts out; thus making it an unsustainable venture. Thankfully in Mic’s case, these “fans” seem to be a minority as Open Mic went to number one in the iTunes chart 45 minutes after release, it’s evident that most of his supporters are willing to put their money where their mouth is. The moral of the story is if you don’t support the music that you love by purchasing the music or going to shows etc, then don’t be surprised when the artist stops making it.

 

The fourth and final verse ties this beautifully crafted multi-strand narrative together perfectly, as Mic responds to the questions and criticisms of the previous three verses, with the honesty and ferociousness that has won him hordes of supporters. With the fourth verse Mic gives us an insight into the problems he has faced precisely because of his real and honest lyricism, thereby showing the listener just what a double edged sword it can be.

“These fans get attached to my lyrics/I just don’t get it/is it a gift or a curse? It’s like there’s no winning/ I’ve always spat the same go listen to my old lyrics/ it’s got me thinking have I led them on? Like I call myself Righteous cause I’m never wrong”

The overarching aim of the fourth verse for Mic is to humanise himself, and remind listeners that he cannot solve all their problems he has his own problems he must deal with. Only these problems have been amplified because now he feels a sense of responsibility to these fans that write to him pouring their hearts out expecting him to help them with their problems when he can’t even handle his own:

“Im gonna take this chance and make sure you know the truth/ you might be going through hell/ but understand this I aint coping as well”

But ironically, this will only further endear him to his fans as rather than appearing on some sort of pedestal like the majority of celebrities; allowing himself to appear this vulnerable will only make fans love him even more. All in all this is an incredible track from start to finish. The structure, the beat and of course the lyrical content are all nigh on perfection, therefore it leaves no doubt in my mind that this track Shoulda Gone Platinum! But don’t take my word for it, go check it out and make sure you listen to Mic Righteous’s entire discography in anticipation to the release of his long awaited debut album later this year!

The name King Mez might be a familiar one, considering the incredible 2015 he had. Pretty much coming from obscurity to not only featuring on three, but receiving writing credits for a whopping 13 out of the 16 tracks on what has possibly been the most anticipated hip hop album in over a decade. The album we’re talking about is of course Dr. Dre’s first release in 16 years, Compton. The North Carolina native, born Morris. W Ricks is an exceptional musician outside of his work with the good Doctor. King Mez has been releasing music since 2009 and as you can imagine now has an impressive discography consisting of The Kings Khrysis, The Paraplegics, My Everlasting Zeal and most recently his 2014 mixtape Long Live the King. Before working with the legendary Dr. Dre, King Mez had already began cutting his teeth working with reputable producers like 9th Wonder, Khrysis and fellow North Carolinian J. Cole. King Mez is certainly a welcome break from the braggadocio filled lyrical content we’re used to, with his latest tape being awash with deep introspective lyricism, which is a pleasure to listen to thanks to his effortless flow being soaked in a southern twang that’s more reminiscent of blues than hip hop. There are certainly big things in store for the 25 year old; with Dr. Dre already saying that he sees King Mez the same way he saw Kendrick Lemar, and we all know what Kendrick went on to do.

 

You can get a glimpse into the future by listening to his Soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/kingmez

 

Check Him Out on Twitter: @KingMez

king_mez

There are two distinct worlds that co-exist within the hip hop universe: the underground and the mainstream. I say hip hop cause I mean not only the music, the graffiti, the DJ and even the B-Boy all have mainstream/underground counterparts. In the last decade or so mainstream hip hop has arguably departed from its very essence which made it what it was during its formative years. In part I believe this is due to the fact that hip hop as a culture has become increasingly profitable and has therefore been subject to a lot of negative influence from multinational corporations. However I also believe the audience and the way we consume things has changed dramatically in the last ten years. Now everything is designed for quick, short lived and shallow consumption. Kids nowadays are growing up with Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram which all encourage and perpetuate this idea of bite-size consumption. This has become so pervasive that it can be found in all areas of our lives today. Think about it when was the last time you read a book or even just a long article? Everything is now geared towards instant gratification; apparently good things don’t come to those who wait. In terms of hip hop music we have seen an incremental rise in Bubblegum Rap. This phenomenon has blurred the lines between pop and hip hop so much so that it has in fact created a hybrid genre “Hip-Pop”. This pseudo genre has the traditional “cool factor” associated with MCs and hip hop culture in general combined with the catchy hooks, flashy beats and the ephemerality of pop music. However this aforementioned essence has now found a home in the MPCs and rhyme books of the plethora of underground MCs and producers who continue to take hip hop to new heights while remaining true to its roots.

Constant Deviants are one such group that are still flying the flag for real hip hop. Comprised of M.I and DJ Cutt they have been making waves since the mid nineties. M.I has previously worked with famed Bad Boy records manager Mark Pitts when he was signed to major label Artista and DJ Cutt has previously worked for Roc-A-Fella Records on a range of different projects. Not to mention that Constant Deviants opened up a show in ’98 for none other than the legendary Big Pun.
So after more than a decade in the game one must ask what can we expect from their latest offering Avant Garde? In the years prior to this release they have established a distinctly golden era sound with DJ Cutt delivering expertly crafted boom bap coupled with M.I’s intermittent braggadocio which he skilfully offsets with a healthy dose of deep thought provoking rhymes. The title track Avant Garde displays all the elements that make them worth listening to. DJ Cutt provides M.I with some archetypal golden era boom bap which he uses as a backdrop to paint some vivid social imagery; “Obama leaving don’t forget to get the change from him”. Considering that M.I is an MC who’s been mastering his craft for more than a decade it should come as no surprise that this type of wordplay is commonplace throughout the album. However no track showcases his lyrical acrobatics more than M’s 4 Millennium. It’s the Constant Deviant’s answer to Papoose’s infamous Alphabetical Slaughter; rather than running down the alphabet, M.I adeptly connects his rhymes by using words beginning with the letter M: “Maniacal masked man/mess with his mind like mescaline”.
DJ Cutt’s production on the album is the very antithesis to the new pseudo genre that has been masquerading as hip hop. The vast soundscape that he creates really shows his expertise and that he remains true to the old gods Pete Rock and DJ Premier. He takes us back to a time when diggin in the crates was the primary method for obtaining great samples and sounds, rather than attempting to breathe new life into tired soundpacks downloaded using Google. The standout tracks for me are Im Still Up where he artfully juxtaposes the peaceful sound of a strumming harp with a monstrously hard hitting base drum or maybe even the guitar riff loop weaved into the head bop inducing U Know What. On the track The Right Moment Cutt gives us a master-class as he manages to seamlessly merge a Japanese Koto riff with that definitive Constant Deviants boom bap.

Once again staying true to the Golden Era, features on this album (and previous ones in fact) are kept to a minimum. M.I is certainly capable of holding down an album himself and this does deserve merit. However I think a break from his monotone would certainly be welcome. This does eventually arrive in the shape of Aye Wun (certainly someone to look out for) the sole feature on the album; who sounds like a less angry, younger Immortal Technique. His effortless flow and delivery help towards a much needed change of pace from the monotone and sometimes even lazy flow of M.I. This would probably be my main criticism of the album as a whole; I feel that M.I’s flow and delivery on this album can at times become monotonous as he pretty much maintains the same approach throughout the album. Whereas on previous albums I felt he was very reminiscent of early Noreaga and would display a wider array of his abilities, which certainly made him more enjoyable to listen to.

All in all I enjoyed the album despite the fact that I felt that M.I was weaker on this album in comparison to previous ones. If you’re a fan of Golden Era Boom Bap then I would highly recommend you listen to not only this album but the Constant Deviants discography, as this album is simply an attempt to refine the formula they have been using over the last decade.

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Warlock: Friend of Mine Foe of the Music

 

This is a grime album (I refer to it as an album as mixtape seems derogatory for something of this calibre) that was released in 2008 by Warlock, an MC hailing out of West London. Despite Warlock getting airplay on kiss 100 and receiving praise and critical acclaim by DJ Logan Sama, the album surprisingly failed to achieve much else. The album was of course released independently by Warlock; I even bought my copy directly from the man himself! Why do I think it failed to reach its potential? Apart from the obvious difficulties that he faced doing it independently, I think the music that Warlock put out was too niche, I mean only a handful of the tracks on the album could actually be categorized as grime in the traditional sense. The conceptual grime that makes up the bulk of the album undoubtedly had trouble finding an audience at the time of release. This is because the majority of the successful tracks of 08 lyrically consisted of generic braggadocio and rarely anything thought provoking. On Warlock’s offering you will find more of the latter and less of the former. By dissecting the album track by track I hope to show you exactly why this album shoulda gone platinum.

 

Friend of Mine:

In terms of production this track is rather lacklustre in comparison to the rest of the album. It begins with the bass drum kicking hard, coupled with the typical hip hop claps, high hats and looped strings which give a sense of impending doom; you will be hard pressed not to bop your head to it. Lyrically, Warlock kicks off the album with a flurry of aggressive rhymes in defence of grime, his chosen genre. This becomes a recurring theme throughout the album as Warlock grapples with and confronts naysayers “Whoever said me and grime can’t be together/fuck that me and grime are eloping”. A decent opening track in that it gives the listener an idea of Warlock’s style and hints at some of the themes present in the rest of the album.

 

 

Stick to ma gunz:

The second track picks up where the first one left off, albeit with much less aggression. This is due in part to Warlock’s more calm and collected approach and the track being punctuated by the jubilant sound of trumpets. The track is a soliloquy in which Warlock tussles with the opposing forces present in his head and in society which make him question the musical path he has chosen to take. There is one particular line which perfectly sums up the track; “Should I appeal to the grime majority/ talk about shanks, straps, money in the bank and hating the authorities?”

 

Drunk Dance:

As the name suggests Warlock is paying homage to his fellow males who find themselves in similar situations. The earth shattering baseline combined with a melee of different instruments creates the perfect back drop for the subject matter; a recount of Warlock’s drunken antics. This is the first track in which Warlock shares the mic with another MC. Dre a young MC, joins Warlock in describing the inner workings of a night on the tiles. A disappointing feature in the end, as he adds little to the track and his voice sounds annoyingly squeaky at times. A fun track, yet not pushing any boundaries.

 

Grime Train:

Lyrically and in terms of production this is one of my personal favourites. The beat begins with the melancholic strumming of an electric guitar, the subsequent introduction of the hi hats and the quintessential bass drums brings the beat up to a tempo which Warlock can comfortably take us on a journey through his mind’s eye. This track sees the album return to its overarching theme; Warlock’s struggle to get acceptance in the scene which he has professed his love to. The music scene is analogous to a moving train which doesn’t seem to stop for Warlock despite him being more than a worthy passenger, he proclaims “they won’t let me on the grime train they wanna stifle my speech like little Maggie/even though I wallow in so much grime I’m expecting a visit from Kim and Aggie” The lyricism and the stellar production make this one of the best this album has to offer.

 

Kurt Cobain:

Now four songs deep in the album, after two rather mellower offerings Warlock really begins to up the ante, in this track he abandons the concepts, themes and anything of the sort in exchange for a candid display of his lyrical prowess. Once again the production is outstanding; the baseline hits you harder than a shot of Jamaican rum, as does the ferocity in which Warlock comes at you. You can really hear the hunger in his voice as he attempts to sate his appetite by ravaging the beat. The punch lines packed with double entendres, metaphors and similes come at you in quick succession but the delivery remains as lucid as ever. As he boasts in one of his lines “If you see Warlock and you don’t see I got bars then you’re missing an eye like Leela/cause I am so far ahead with the bars that I posses I can see the Jetsons through my visor”. This is genuinely one of those tracks where it’s difficult to pick a particular line to quote; you are just completely spoilt for choice. This I what would refer to as a “hype” track with a healthy dose of intelligent lyricism to keep you listening attentively.

 

London’s Burning:

The fifth track is another shining example of the exceptional production which is showcased throughout the album. This one kicks off with a rock n roll esque guitar riff which is then skilfully fused with the archetypal hip hop hi hats and bass drums, which creates perfect a synergy between the two genres. Warlock then bursts on to the track and raucously delivers the hook:

“London’s burning cause I got a lyrical perversion/and I can’t cope with the burning/so I let off disturbing wording/bound to get all the vermin squirming/I’m unnerving him/real piff I’m serving him/hound him out/drown him out/if he aint amphibian then he aint resurfacing”

In the chorus it’s almost like he’s addressing the Grime scene which makes this song feel like a sequel to Grime Train. After the scene seems to have rejected his advances thus far, Warlock now seeks to wreak lyrical havoc on the scene which refuses to recognize him. Warlock even hints that he himself realizes that his content may be too niche for the grime scene proudly claiming that his lyrics are “earning me my own category N****s are turning green”. Arguably one of the best beats on the album and nothing but quality it terms of lyrics from the man behind the mic.

 

Old Dog and Old Tricks:

Warlock takes the rather exhausted topic of male promiscuity and gives us a fresh take on it. Often songs of this nature are filled with far too much self-glorification and not enough honesty, as MCs and rappers try convince you that their exploits would put Mr. Hefner to shame. Warlock on the other hand, offers us a much more honest approach as he addresses his admirer(s). After the previous three tracks the bar has been set dizzyingly high in terms of production, this one unfortunately sounds rather mediocre in comparison. The beat opens with a looped piano score which is then injected with a guitar riff as Warlock begins the first verse. As you may have guessed Warlock is the “old dog” mentioned in the song title as he tells the story of an unsuspecting lady that has fallen foul to his charms. In hip-hop we have regrettably become accustomed to the objectification of women, especially when it comes to the protagonist describing how he seduces women before mercilessly kicking them to the curb. Warlock contrary to many of his hip hop compatriots tells the story of the man that is honest about his intentions yet still manages to keep things respectful. The song is filled with witty humour and the intelligent lyricism that has become synonymous with Warlock’s content, I’ll leave you with an example “If it weren’t for that extra G&T that fateful night/our relationship would still be platonic.”

 

Music is my Legacy:

This beat is perhaps somewhat minimalist in comparison to some of the others; however this is what makes it deceptively clever. It begins with a vocalist eerily harmonising for the first ten seconds before the ensemble of hip hop instruments is introduced. I compliment the minimalist production because what it does is it showcases Warlock’s ability as a true lyricist, not a fraud who hides behind the beat and catchy hooks; the latter is something which permeates much of mainstream hip hop today. As the name might have suggested this track revisits the album’s central theme, Warlock’s passion for music. Warlock’s passion exudes out of each word he says as he entrances listeners with his effortless delivery. The hypnotism continues as the vocalist sporadically Ad Libs Warlock with her eerie wailing and Warlock chants the chorus to the mesmerising backdrop of a sitar. In terms of lyrics, it’s nothing short of top notch from the self proclaimed “microphone mogul” as he demonstrates his love and dedication to music: “So I regulate a flow that resonates, elevates, levitates settles down and decimates/ then I decorate and devastate every beat that I penetrate/ let’s set the record straight/ you can’t emulate unless you amputated my tongue.” That is probably one of my favourite quotes from the entire album. If we can have songs about frivolous things like “German Whips” in the charts why can’t we have something with substance representing grime?

 

Please, Cautious:

After a trio of conceptual tracks, Warlock gives the listeners a break from the concepts with this high octane offering. The track is produced by Rifle who also produced Warlock’s other “hype” track Kurt Cobain, so if that was anything to go by, you know what to expect in terms of the production. The beat begins quietly it actually sounds like its coming from a phone. At first all that is audible is the bass line which gradually gets louder and is eventually joined by the strings, claps and hi hats which transform the beat into an absolute monstrosity. For only the second time thus far, Warlock is joined by two other MCs K.P and Direman. The title of the track sums up the subject matter dealt with, which is a warning to other MCs who think that they can compete with these three lyrical heavyweights. Direman & K.P are actually fairly decent features they both have a fair share of quotables between them. However what they lack is the intelligence which is present throughout Warlock’s content even on a so called “hype” track. K.P & Direman are more traditional grime whereas Warlock offers something a little different and this is apparent when you compare their verses. Nevertheless this is a decent track, but definitely one of the weaker ones thus far.

 

Mrs Lewis:

This track is probably the closest to Warlock’s heart. The track was written at a time when his mother was taken ill and he feared the worst. Warlock once again proves that he recognises that his potential target audience may not want to listen to something of this nature as he says “if you don’t wanna to listen to this type of thing then skip the track”. This is because deeply introspective tracks are not commonplace in grime. Suitably the beat is a sombre piano score which helps Warlock get his trepidations across to listeners that little bit easier. Throughout the track Warlock wears his heart on his sleeve as he takes us on a harrowing journey. Introspective tracks like this are good because what it does is it allows listeners to relate to the artist. This is certainly a commodity at a time where rappers are increasingly creating hyper-real worlds of over indulgence in money, women and a plethora of other things that the majority of their target audience cannot relate to, yet oddly enough we still find ourselves listening to it. For the umpteenth time now Warlock produces a fine lyrical performance on a track that would certainly touch even the coldest of hearts.

 

On trial:

This track sees the resurgence of one of the albums central themes, Warlock staving off criticism of his decision to become a grime artist. Warlock is accompanied by childhood friend Yello Boy as they both lay down verses in defence of grime. The beat is another elegant piano score which is joined by flutes and other woodwind instruments during the chorus. The title refers to the design of the track which puts the MCs on the stand and their verses are their defence testimonies. Both artists defend grime from different standpoints. Warlock in particular argues against the fact that the media correlates violence and other aspects of criminal activity with grime music, “He spent 15 years in crime but they blame it on the little time he spent in grime”. Yello boy follows a more linear route, he defends grime on the grounds that the people criticising grime do not understand its roots and the group of people it represents, thereby making these criticisms irrelevant. Like Warlock, Yello Boy sounds natural as he effortlessly glides over the melody, something that his other features thus far have lacked. This is another showcase of Warlock’s intelligence as well as another excellent beat; two things you should come to expect from the album if you listened this far.

 

Nah like Me:

After a handful of the previous tracks featured a piano score in some shape or form, it does become a little repetitive that this track also features one (this is me nitpicking I myself am a sucker for piano scores). Warlock once again is addressing his critics and people who refuse to take notice of his gift because of the genre he finds himself in. Despite this Warlock is adamant that once you eventually hear his poetry you will no longer be able to deny him what he is due:

“Relax as I let my mind talk/ and splatter my thoughts all over the track/ this is the blank canvass to which the musical part of my brain reacts/ the hard hitting bars are landing/your attention spans expanding/bars get dispatched/ ears get catched/ now realise War aint ramping”

At the same time Warlock wants to make it clear that the hate he is receiving serves as motivation to prove naysayers wrong. Lyrically another great performance from Warlock, however I think if I am being honest I would like some diversification of content. We know the man can write with the best of them just think I would love to hear him broach some different topics. However we must remember this is his debut album and he’s only going to improve.

 

Pump It:

The maestro Rifle is behind the boards once more, so you know the beat is going to be absolute bananas. Of course Rifle delivers the goods, the beat begins rather slowly but you know it’s the calm before the storm. The bass drum begins to hit intermittently, trumpets begin to blare and a myriad of other sounds enter the fray to create beautifully orchestrated chaos. For this joint Warlock comes complete with his entire crew the Gritty Committee. Each MC brings their own breed of typical grime braggadocio which fits perfectly with the mosh pit inducing beat. As with every track Warlock has been on so far his verse is the one that stands out because his wordplay is just streaks ahead of not just his features, but a lot of so called “big” rappers and MCs. If this track got played in a club it would be absolute pandemonium, the lyrics and the beat make this the perfect grime club banger.

 

Old School:

The piano score which has become a staple in Warlock’s diet returns one last time on the penultimate track of the album. The piano score is solemn and slow paced to match Warlock’s reminiscent rhymes about the good old days. I think much of the magic of this track would be lost on an American audience or perhaps anyone not in their mid twenties. This is because the iconography (Ice poles, Wink murder, live and kicking and push pops) that Warlock uses wouldn’t be that familiar to anyone but British 80s babies. In this retrospective track Warlock speaks of the many truths that we all have to face when we grow up and also reminds us what we miss about being kids. One of my favourite lines on the track which metaphorically depicts the change we have all gone through:

“…high school skipping/at home on the games console switching/duck hunt, paper boy, streets of rage/now the streets have aged and the duck hunt turned into the paper chase/ cause the paper boys gotta get gotta get gotta get paid”.

The fact that I’m encompassed in the era Warlock raps about means I thoroughly enjoyed the journey down memory lane, however I know this will not be the case for everyone. Despite this, this is one of the best tracks on the album the beats and bars are of high quality as usual.

 

Souls Crying:

The final track of the album begins with a rather ominous feeling as the base line menacingly begins to kick; then a demonic sounding voice begins to echo the words “soul will be crying” in the background while the eerie sounds of the violin drift in and out of audibility. To those that are familiar with the Immortal Technique song Dance with the devil this track is somewhat reminiscent of Tech’s offering. This is a story of a young individual who through lack of guidance from parents, and due to misguidance from peers has ended up on a path of self destruction. Warlock’s fictional character has convinced himself that he must “climb the street ladder” no doubt because he didn’t receive the love and attention from home. This song is like no other on the album, he really tries his hand at telling a fictional story which reflects reality. In my opinion doing this is, and making it credible is harder than simply writing a track straight off the back of firsthand experience. The angelic voice of the singer alongside the demonic recitation of “soul will be crying” is a great dichotomy of opposing forces inside the characters head. Warlock has done it again. Awesome beat and possibly the best lyrical showcase of the entire album saved till last, I don’t know about you but he kept me hooked till the last.

 

 

 

I hope I have made it clear why Warlock shoulda gone platinum. At the very least I hope you have gone and listened to his stuff to see for yourself. Really hope you enjoyed my rather unorthodox approach at reviewing this album, I just feel that I should try and put as much work into reviewing it as artists do in recording it. Until next time…..