I can’t rightfully claim to write a Hip Hop blog that covers UK music without taking some time to show respect to the legends. Highbury’s finest have been the pinnacle of real Hip Hop for over a decade; Chester P paints vivid imagery that echoes the barren lands he sees daily, with slang styles as British as builder’s tea and Jammie Dodgers. Farma G flows unpredictable and complex with a sharp wit and sense of humour that takes inspiration from all of life’s nooks and crannies; and his production has given the MFTC series a distinctive sound that is completed by the pairs accomplished, obscure wordplay. Both MCs have had successful solo releases, been an integral part of Mud Fam with Skinnyman and Mongo, and created their own lane musically, setting the benchmark for underground UK Hip Hop over the last decade. Few groups can identify a sound as being strictly their own and claim to have influenced a generation of British rappers; Task Force can, but wouldn’t. Instead they use their talents to stay humble and work hard at their craft without any of the bragging or bullshit infiltrating their circle. This last release in the Music From The Corner series continues their trademark sound by moving forward with it, expanding their scope sonically, but still bringing those gully vibes. Long time TF collaborator; DJ, and classic mixtape mastermind Louis Slipperz is contributing once again, and even though there’s no Remus this time around; One glance at the cover art should tell you the album adequately packs in all the elements that made the previous instalments the classics they were.
After an epic intro, Indie Anna begins the LP as it means to go on; strong. The beat immediately takes things to that dark mental space TF inhabit through their music; with a surprisingly catchy chorus, and both verses are as dope as expected. The momentum keeps rolling forward onto another masterclass in the Task Force sound God’s Fire On A Summer Night. Farma’s production has gotten clearer and cleaner, but still finds those gritty samples that sound like empty pipes clacking together in tower block hallways; his open hi hat placement alone helps to create the tracks frantic feel, and the rhymes fire fast and sharp off the tongues of the Two talented MCs.
Things slow down and take a turn towards the more esoteric on ESP. It’s one of their best songs both conceptually and musically; and stands as a testament to their ability to carve deep, vivid images through words that resonate with as much sustain as the guitar that echoes throughout. They take the elevated state of consciousness that would gift a person Extra Sensory Perception and explore it’s dual nature as a curse; twisting tales of mental anguish over the eerie beat with skillful storytelling that would make Rick The Ruler proud. Chester’s verse is backed by the whispering voices inside the mind of his protagonist, as he relays the story of Jim and his telepathic commune with the dead. His lyrics lead you through the character surviving stints in mental institutions, failing to connect with people and failing to hold down a job, only to be continually haunted by the souls of those who haven’t passed. Even though that sounds bleak as fuck (and it is) Chester’s darkly comic sense of humour keeps it entertaining. Farma’s verse is even darker than his brother’s; his “It’s hard to look them in the eye without a tear to shed, cuz everytime I hold their little hands I have to see them dead” line gave me shivers. It’s safe to say no one else in rap could pull off these bars; and all the little kids with contacts in their eyes biting Kool Keith and the Gravediggaz could do with learning a thing or ten from Task Force at their darkest.
Overall the sounds on MFTC5 cover previous musical ground then tread further onto paths the brothers McBane haven’t walked before. Shark Fin Soup has that crazed circus-sideshow feel that Farmz channels through at least a few beats on every Music From The Corner release; and it provides a brief lift from the looming darkness the series creates. The memorable chorus is guaranteed to stick in your skull as it helps to anchor the song’s quirky production style. Farma’s lucid lines cover an albums-worth of topics in a sixteen, and Chester’s esoteric horror & 2000AD references are what a beat like this was made for. Money, Gold, Jewelry & More treads some of that new ground I was talking about; firstly, it’s a banger that needs to be played on 11 every time; secondly it takes a much-imitated production style and warps it into the Task Force framework; shitting on 98% of songs like it out there in the process, and proving that even though they’re making some barren beats down there in the capital; they can apply themselves to any rap style and smash it with ease. The schism between reality and what’s projected on record by a lot of mainstream rappers is neatly condensed on the songs hook; ” Street life rappers, thugged out rappers, sittin’ on a mansion & yacht with chains drippin’, sold out rappers, washed out rappers, sellin’ us the science of life they’re not livin’.” Big up Louis Slipperz for those tasty scratches at the end too.
Save Me! condenses why I love Task Force into Two minutes; the content, the beat, everything about the song is what you’ve been waiting for if you’re a fan, or what you’re missing if you don’t get it. The posh boy voices from ‘Radio Babble On’ return on Stanley Doppelganger, as their take on the hype assigned to people in the public eye adds fresh focus to an old formula. It also sends a clear message to the biters cleverly enveloped in each verse’s storyline. Farma’s line about the tag on Google is visionary, and so close to reality he should remake the Nastradamus album with his other predictions and save it from the bad-production purgatory it’s currently languishing in. Sunless Lullably is one of the grimest things they’ve done, even for an MFTC the production is uncomfortably dingy; and the bars are enough to give Clive Barker nightmares. They both have a skill for contorting their voices to fit whichever beat they’re on, and keep the use of effects to a minimum by playing with intonation as they rhyme. Although the raucous beat on Soft Giants is as pulpy as film noir, and sounds like Frank Miller on an MPC; the song itself doesn’t quite match the overall tone of the album; but still deserves respect for it’s experimentation.
On every TF album there’s an undercurrent of sadness that often surfaces and provides moments of deep human connection; In the past, tracks like ‘Tomorrow’, ‘A World Without Love’ and ‘Better Off Dead’ have displayed that element of their sound. On this new LP it returns most overtly on A Grey Mist. The song continues Chester and Farma’s reminiscence on MFTC3’s ‘Yesterday’s Hellhole’ with a perspective that shows the growth in their outlook and a clear example of their updated production techniques. The lyrics are especially poetic; with both rappers writing at their most reflective. Chester’s chorus bars stand out for their honesty; “How can I refuse the invitation, to find a way to make it in the streets of desperation? I guess I’m really nothing but an outcast, a ghost in the machine that found it’s voice within a soundcard”.
The return journey to the idyllic natural setting of the Butterfly Ball that began on 2000’s Voice Of The Great Outdoors EP concludes on Butterfly Effect, and both verses are even more eloquently phrased than before as they pay homage to the countryside’s micro-verse. The picturesque surroundings quickly fade to grey again though, as the album dips back into that deep well of sadness they draw from on Found A Way. It’s another definitive classically-influenced MFTC tune that’s definitely set to become a stand out part of their back catalogue. As anyone who’s been checking out his youtube channel can attest; lately Chester P’s prose has gotten even more captivating and poetic; and it’s this free-form writing style creates some of his best bars on the album.
After Stallone’s motivating speech on the Rocky Skit, they alchemically convert his words to rap inspiration on Keep Moving, and relay the message through another banging beat and some uplifting bars. Blunted Razors is a harsh listen on the metal-style chorus, but is saved by Farma’s mad scientist melodies that carry the verses and the listener on the last of the album’s strange lyrical journeys. Chester’s classic DJ Gone bars on the bridge match the track well and sound as fresh as they were a few years ago. As the album draws to a close with Another Day; it’s swansong is a fitting appendix to the MFTC series. The pair pen some emotive, socially conscious bars; speaking on the divisions the military industrial complex creates and the families it affects through the psychological manipulation of war. It’s another archetype of that inimitable Task Force sound that can take a common thread like heartbreak and use it to unite people globally; even if it’s only in song. The chorus as a parting message is universally relate-able and important, and ends the album as strongly as it began.
“We live, we die, that’s life I guess, there’s war, famine, pain, and death. There’s them, there’s us, there’s you, there’s me, we live, we die, we’re rarely free, but love exists, and strength in mind, and all good things will come with time. So raise your fist and sing with me, I’m God, I’m strong, I’m proud, I’m free”.