If you have the good/bad fortune to live in the U.K., you will in all likelihood have a fairly limited view of hip-hop. For many years it kind of bypassed us, only really hitting the charts in the mid-to-late 1990s with the gangsta boom (a term which I am hoping will catch on). As a result, most U.K. hip-hop is made by idiot teenagers with a very low budget, posing and gurning on semi-obscure cable channels and telling us just how many people they will gun down once they've finished their homework.
Only kidding. They're far too cool to do their homework.
All of which means that this album is like a breath of fresh air for people who can appreciate decent hip-hop but don't take the time to seek it out amidst the mire of generic crap. People like me, really. Time for introductions. Dan le Sac is a man with formidable sideburns and even more formidable electro beats, fusing traditional hip-hop stylings with more off-kilter samples and squelches to produce something that would probably find itself club-worthy even without vocal content. Scroobius Pip is a man with a fearsome beard and even more fearsome MC skills, whose incisive and witty observations on topics both light-hearted and intense make for amusing and thought-provoking listening.
The product of their versusing (again, should catch on) is even greater than the sum of its parts. It's the versatility that provides the ride here. There's the more old school arrangements and rhymes on the like of "Development" and "Fixed" blended in with the pseudo-pop cool of "Look for the Woman" and "The Beat That My Heart Skipped." There's even time for hefty Radiohead sampling in the affecting "Letter from God to Man." But it's not just the song construction. MC-work rarely covers the depths plumbed here - ranging from rhyming the periodic table through to darker-than-dark musings on the damage done by self-harm and suicide. And how many hip-hop albums can you name with a song dedicated to Tommy Cooper?
So far, so good. But what makes this album a great one is how emotive it is. I challenge anyone reading this to listen to the title track and not sit there stunned by the slow, tragic reveal of the narrative. Go on. I'll be waiting here.
Back? Yeah. See what I mean?
This album isn't perfect. Notwithstanding that no album is, some of the production leaves a little bit to be desired. The vocals are a little heavy and grainy soundwise. Some of the tracks present have been released as singles previously, and I must confess those recordings are smoother and better, particularly Mr. Pip's contributions. These are niggles rather than genuine flaws. You could do a lot worse things with a spare hour of your life than to buy this album, set yourself up on a comfortable surface with a set of headphones and listen to this with care. Because even if it isn't to your tastes, you will have heard something genuinely, honestly refreshing.
Dan Le Sac, Scroobius Pip, The Beastie Boys, The Streets
9.5 / 10
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