Sunday, 26 August 2007

Hip Hop & The World We Live In

This may sound stupid, but who knew working full time is so damn hard. I must sound like a 16 year old, but having my first proper job at 20 has made me realize how hard it is to earn an honest buck. No wonder your favourite rapper was probably a drug dealer or pimp before he made his name (or maybe not). Anyways, as Donnell Rawlings said...

"I'm rich, biyatch!"
Well, not quite, but you know what I mean. Anyway, there's nothing that I really need at the moment, I might just save up to get the Bose QC3's (and the added paranoia of getting them stolen off me that comes free with the 'phones) or just save up the cash for a later date. Or I might try and get a PS3 / Xbox 360 Elite in time for PES 2008. For all those who don't know, this is the equivalent of crack, or from what I've been reading on WYDU and WTR, the new Madden.
The title of todays post comes from the 2003 album by Aceyalone. Although he doesn't feature in the post, I decided to use this title because hip hop has truly become a global phenom, probably the fastest rising genre of music in the world. And the beautiful thing is that each region of the world is bringing its own flavour to the table, adding something unique to the original blueprints laid out by those pioneering few in New York during the 70's. So while the US's hip hop scene may not be at its strongest at the moment (with the current crop of mainstream artists being the worst I've heard in a long time. Once again, thank God for the underground), heads all over the world can keep their ears open to the music that's coming from beyond the shores. I've decided to highlight some of the best albums that have come out of certain areas of the world, mixing up the old with the new.
So, grab your popcorn, and come take a ride with me as we travel the world...
The UK
Ah, my homeland, the place I call home. First off, I must confess something. I hardly ever listen to UK hip hop, and always thought something didn't sound right when artists from the UK were rapping. This changed when I recently saw HHC's top 100 UK hip hop albums. I took a chance to check out a selection of the albums featured. Prior to reading the article, I had only heard the odd Roots Manuva track, and the commercial grime music that got some airplay on MTV when it was 'the' music to listen to. I didn't particularly like what I heard from the grime scene, and stayed away. My man Adam from Northern Authors (check his site out, it's on the links list) hooked me up with some more Roots Manuva, and now I've been hooked on the UK scene. There are so many albums I could have posted here, including London Posse's 'Gangster Chronicle', Roots Manuva's 'Run Come Save Me' or Blak Twang's 'Dettwork Southeast', but to name a few. However, the album I have chosen is...
Mark B & Blade - The Unheard

I first heard of Blade on the eve of the release of 'Guerrila Tactics', where HHC had a feature piece on the album. I didn't think anything of it, and just thought Blade looked like a right chav, with the cheesy poses for the camera. I speed-read through the article, and didn't even bother to listen to the free CD that came with the magazine. It must be said, normally, I don't judge artists with so much haste, but looking back, the assumptions I made about Blade were some of the worst ever. I had no idea that he, along with producer Mark B, were one of the most influential hip hop acts to grace the UK. Fast forward to this year, and I saw the album 'The Unknown', listed number 10 on the HHC list of best UK hip hop albums. I knew this album was good after the very first listen, no need for 'growing' here. I don't wanna compare Blade to any US MCs, because he brings his own style. The lyrics are hard and heavy, with a good mix of concepts, such as 'Hostile Takeover', which describes a dystopia in which hip hop is suppressed. Mark B's is a self-confessed crate digger, and uses extensive breaks in his production. My favourite track on the album has gotta be 'We Stay Rough', where Mark B uses a loop of a simple but effective beat. Rodney P also features on the track, and the two MCs simply kill it with some classic back-and-forth rhyming.
We continent hop over to Somalia to bring you one of the best rapper / poets...
K'naan - The Dusty Foot Philosopher

I've kinda cheated here. Although K'Naan was born in Somalia, he has spent most of his life in Canada, moving there when he was there 13. However because his skills began while he was still in his homeland, I thought I could get away with it. Plus the fact that while listening to his album, it is clear to see that Somalia has had a much bigger influence on it than Canada (if I'm wrong, and tracks like 'Hoobale' are ancient Canadian chants, please let me know). Released in 2005, the album received praise from all corners, but somehow seemed to evade my attentions. I recently had a chance to listen to it, and was plesantly surprised by K'Naan's mix of optimism and reality. He also has great story-telling skills, as shown in 'I Was Stabbed By Satan', which sounds much lighter than the title suggests. The album has some more upbeat tracks, such as the popular 'Soobax', which has a vibrant and carnival feel.
That's all for now, join me in my next post, where we'll be off to Australia, the land of convicts, and, as we find out, some decent hip hop music.


sk93 said...

You forgot Tony Parker's album!

SniperInTheMist said...

cheers for the shout on the UK section mate. Loving the pick of mark b and blade. I'm 21 years old so I was mid-teens also when that album came out and it was one of the first UK hip-hop albums that really hit me hard. I can still recite all of the words to 'Ya Don't See The Signs' off the top of my head!!!!

I'd say Skitz's 'Countryman' was another massive album that made an impact on me. It was also the album that exposed me to loads of other UK artists like Skinnyman ('I might bust your lip with my knuckle / watch the blood dribble as i chuckle' - awesome line) and Taskforce.

Love this site mate, I feel like you're pretty much on the same wavelength as me in terms of this hip-hop thing. Love your writings. Keep up the good work.

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