The man’s a don. He’s one of the best producers around and has been for years, everything he samples is clean as hell, his rhymes are tight and without even trying he embodies underground Hip Hop; the look, the style, the work ethic, the dedication to the craft, it’s all there in buckets. He’s been a part of Champions Of Nature with Jehst, produced for some of the biggest name MC’s in the UK and internationally, and his beats are ubiquitous within the mixtape circuit. Parker’s been releasing classic solo albums since the 90’s and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon, after relocating to New York in 2003, he’s continued smashing it. Releasing singles, EP’s and full lengths on his World Of Dusty Vinyl Label, working with UK Hip Hop store KingUnderground Records to distribute some of his newer releases, and when he’s not recording, getting down live on the SP with his B-Boy style like this.
Seein as I can hardly stop listening to the man for long enough to write a post about anything else; here’s a bunch of his illest songs in one handy chronological bundle, packed with more links than a sausage shop.
1998’s Masquerades & Silhouettes is a classic. Eight tracks of dopeness that sounds well ahead of it’s time, especially now with the current revival of US artists revisiting the boom bap sound. Seven of these tracks would be the lead single on anyone else’s debut, and even though the imprint it was released on is a subsidiary of a major label, it’s packed with rawness. The guys knack for crafting excellent beats that sound full and layered without being unnecessarily cluttered is beyond. Crusades is epic. His rapping his over-pronounced and heavily stylised. Throughout the EP he bounces this style off a more straight-laced delivery to interesting effect, and covers kilometres of subject matter from fantasy and sci fi to his more immediate surroundings. Eyes Of Dreams is flat out one of the best instrumentals going, it was brought back to prominence recently by Hardknock on the 1999 tape Joey Bada$$ put out last year, and as the first part of a Two track attack at the albums zenith that 101 pianos completes, it’s undeniable. You need this album in your life.
In 2002 It’s All Happening Now ramped up the levels once again. Over Twenty Three tracks Parker touched on every aspect of his life, and knocked out countless quintessential examples of his sound. Incognito was an easy choice for the first single, demonstrating how talented this man is at putting together intricate beats that are easy on the ear, then lacing those rhythms with stylish phrases to form well written songs. An instant UK classic that started the album strong.
“All I really know is life ain’t about the money”.
As easily as he makes upbeat dopeness he switches to chilled and downright beautiful on tracks like Sunny Dedications with Profound; then moves on to dusky, nebulous numbers like Communications. Eleven years on Jehst’s “watching the world through microsoft windows” is even more poignant than it was then; with our ever increasing reliance on technology for social interaction. Parker’s verse is brimming with quotables; “Become one with the air instead of one with the computer, but the digital monster inevitably controls our future”, and his instrumental is archetypal of the soulful jazzy rawness he pioneered. The song sounds like the grey skies it was created under, it conjures mental images of black cabs and forlorn men in suits dodging puddles in a downpour; for me it’s a fitting aural representation of Britain. Closing cut No Escape shows Parker, Klashnekoff and Skriblah on high form, the Terra Firma guest features among some of the album’s best.
A year later, the 12″ Mr Parker’s Siesta followed up on the success of It’s All Happening Now. Then for Eight years Parker’s musical siesta saw him taking a small break from his solo stuff; but still find time to release the odd single, albums rammed with indispensable instrumentals, collaborations on albums with Secondson, John Robinson and Jehst, and produce for some of the biggest names in the game like Ghostface, Planet Asia and Smiff n Wessun.
In 2011 he got back on the solo tip and released the first instalment of his new series; The Puzzle Episode One, The Big Game. Still spitting covert spy styles, musically he took a step further towards the cinematic sweeping scores he’d always been touching on with his SP compositions. It’s a dramatic listen, and was followed closely by some of his best work, the EP Dangerous Adventures. A short, saccharine slice of rhyme featuring 5 slamming songs, 5 funky instrumentals to play with, a more street sound than the first part of The Puzzle, and some top notch collabs thrown in fresh from the underground scene he easily ingratiated himself into abroad.
Six Feet Deep In Dirt & Dust ( a.k.a 1 Minute and 49 Seconds of pure Hip Hop joy ) is Lewis Parker’s body of work condensed like earth into diamonds. Even if you’re oblivious to the man’s legacy and you skipped the rest of the post just to come here ‘cuz you like the look of camo jackets; this should stand out as one of the illest things you’re ever likely to see on a Hip Hop blog in the coming two minutes.
In 2012, Shark balanced his orchestral bond movie themes with hard bass and drum loops that found his sound reaching equilibrium. Next he released Walking On A Razor, with even more high profile guest verses on another funky break, beginning the wind up to the release of The Puzzle: Episode 2 – The Glass Ceiling, an album that’s up there with his early work as some of his best. The beats are more varied than the last few releases, the track list packs in 30 examples of his underground golden sound, and it’s still espionage tactics lyrically. Singles like Hard Endeavour serve to further seal the deal.
So now you know! Lewis Parker’s the man! He ‘takes the cakes from the bakery’ like Flipasaurus! and he’s still releasing quality music so keep an ear to the street so you don’t miss gems like TIC TAC TOE & Game Of Charades. If you’re diggin his music as much as I am, buy his stuff digitally here, physically here , share this on FB, and tweet LP so he knows Hip Hop heads from his homeland are still showing him love!