Brighton-based Loop digger DJ Format and American emcee Phill Most Chill have just put the fun back in fundamentals by dropping an album guaranteed to have you breakin’ out the bucket hat and Wild Style VHS, screaming ‘UH OOOOOOH’ like KRS in the Bboy stance then taggin’ relentlessly ’round wherever you live.
If your first listen is a quiet deconstruction of vocal lines to uncover metaphor and simile, or applying a musician’s ear to the top-notch sample selection you’ll be missing out; turning it up, dancing about giving zero fucks and shaking your moneymaker ’til you collapse is the only proper response when The Foremost blazes through the airwaves. As the biro scrawls on the back cover art depict; the tempo rarely dips below 100bpm as the duo fly through the Ten song tracklist, making the replay value high and never giving your attention time to wander. Stylistically the songs sound like the classic rap albums of the 80’s, with slicker production, and rhymes that are reminiscent of the greats tearing it up over a stripped down beat, but brought up to date by Phill’s strong sense of identity through his flows. It’s an essential release for long-term listeners that love the elements of DJ’ing and MC’ing, or for new heads to learn some Hip Hop history; and acts as the perfect antidote to those over-polished commercial sounds that DPZ warned us weren’t a figure of speech. Every drum break is so clean and crisp you can almost hear Format’s elation at laying it down onto the sampler; and what you can definitely hear clearly is the love for the art that went into each song, and the respect for tradition that led to the LP’s creation.
A veteran of the game, Phill most Chill has been collecting records and rhymin’ since ’83; his wealth of experience as a writer and Hip Hop scholar is evident in his tight flow, as if he’s winding words around his tongue and firing them at the mic. It’s been a while since you’ve heard a guy spit like this. His machine-gun raps stand out immediately on The Feeling‘s introductory breaks, his verbal onslaught barely stopping for breath; “In a minute or more endure more, raw hardcore, so hard it breaks jaws, when you try to B-I-T-E, the words I W-R-I-T-E, my Third eye sees all trickery, no victory, there just ain’t a lotta MC’s that’s sick to me”.
Get Busy Music sticks to the same winning formula, and is so well executed and rugged that if you could sneak it onto some wack DJ’s CDJ’s you could use it to convert whole arenas of Mac Miller fans into die hard G Rap and Kane fans on the spot. On Take A Stand Phill takes his pen and aims it at a more sociological target, speaking on the black experience in America over another of Format’s immensely memorable beats. “E-Q-U-A-L, break it down to the letter, equality means equal, now things are getting better, black president so I guess I’m supposed to be cool with the fact that there ain’t a good school in my neighbourhood, for kids the same colour as me, without a good start how you gonna get a degree? when you really not college material, wake up in the morning with the roaches in the cereal.” As you would expect from his years perfecting the art, his lyricism is on point for the whole album, covering social networking, the daily grind, past loves and more with a cadence and style that is so technically adept it’s relatively unheard of these days.
Overall, Diggin’ For A Livin’ is the album’s apex. Not only has it joined Lootpack’s Crate Diggin’ on my loop hunting mixtape (doubling my tracklist from One to Two ) but it gives the album a slower, more indelible anthem that packs in more feel-good sounds and classic samples than an Isaac Hayes best of. From beginning to end the album is a lively, satisfying trip with Two astronomically talented Hip Hop devotees. It’s that old school you might wana break out the inlay of Hip Hop And Rapping In The House just to find adequate adjectives to describe it. Each song is a short burst of highly entertaining rap that doesn’t reinvent the game, but is so enjoyable it hardly has to; with beats and rhymes like these it’s more than likely you’ll want to hit replay as soon as it ends; that is if you can muster the energy to start gettin’ down with your bad self all over again.