On October the 23rd Verb T releases his seventh solo album; I Remain. It’s his best yet. If you know UK Hip Hop, you know the man needs no introduction, he’s been doing this underground music thing longer than a lot of us have been listening to it. In 2011 he aligned himself with Fliptrix’s seemingly inexhaustible High Focus records, formed The Four Owls and released Natures Greatest Mystery; one of the hands-down , flat-out illest UK Hip Hop albums of the last Ten years, and subsequently introduced himself to a whole new generation of young Hip Hop heads.
A year later he released his High Focus solo debut Morning Process; an album that at the time stepped everything up another level again for his craft. The rhymes were as tight as ever, the beats were by some of the UK’s biggest names (some of the dopest from Verbs himself) and the album has stood the test of time and set a personal and general precedent for modern UK Hip Hop. On I Remain he’s balanced his talent for catchy, hazy song structure with major chorus hooks, over some heavy self-produced beats and finally achieved the musical equivalent to the nirvana he speaks of seeking lyrically.
All That Exists illustrates everything that makes I Remain so good. The drums cut through the hazy, lean up, ambient samples, like listening to classic boom bap through a wall in a dingy bar. The chorus is injected with highly musical vocal lines, and this from the self proclaimed ‘monotone man’ as he sings with his laidback intonation, crafting memorable melodies that infect your mental until you’re singing along with him after a few listens.
Dawn reiterates the themes found on Morning Process with another call to ‘ get yourself up’. The beat so completely captures the feeling of waking up too early to ‘get on with it’ it makes me knackered just listening; and he’s really nailed it by changing up his delivery to a lazy, morning drawl to match the vibe; knitting intricate lyrical patterns in a dream-like stream of consciousness flow that holds some of my favourite writing he’s produced so far.
“Dust clouds, broken glass, stained photographs, old school vinyl spinning round on the phonograph. Hold the mask, breathe the oxygen, I’m tripping off my head, distorted visions of opulence”.
The title track is amazing. The change in rhythm and flow half way through feels effortless despite its complexity; the video is one of the freshest he’s dropped, and it’s without a doubt one of the biggest tunes of the year. Dopey Eyes is my percy, probably cuz I’m a sucker for piano loops; to be fair though, even if you hate pianos and spew violently every time you see one, there’s something to be enjoyed here. It’s placed perfectly after the upbeat bounce of I Remain, and lyrically the honesty coming through the speakers speaks for itself.
Toast Jazz finds Verbs bringing back some of the more light-hearted comedy aspects of Serious Games, schooling some kids then sounding like Chappelle’s Tupac rhyming about the delights of bread-based snacks; “First we get the toaster, then we put the bread in, when it pops up you get the margarine and spread it” On first listen bars about toast stopped me dead in my tracks, I had to just sit and laugh; the presence of his sense of humour was a little light on Morning Process so it’s awesome to have it back and on fine form. Those lines are so catchy that if anyone asked me to recite anything from I Remain right now i’d be biting Verb’s toast-flow, chortling to myself like an idiot.
Honesty is why Verb T is still entertaining fifteen years into his career. Maybe we didn’t need to know about the illness in his guts that was disgusting on the last album, but we did need to be reminded that internet dependency is a threat to real life. A year later on Old and Grumpy he plays teacher again by decrying the pitfalls of following fashion trends, making the listener think twice about how he or she spends their free time and highlighting the the detrimental element that TV plays in a lot of people’s day to day. Despite his strong opinions, his self awareness is still not lost, calling himself a ‘grumpy prick’ backed by a chorus of people shouting at him demonstrates his awareness that the youth won’t listen to his words until they figure this shit out for themselves, and keeps his highly public ageing process a cheerful one.
“It’s the paper that enslaved the people, blatant it’s evil you’re fake an deceitful, vacant and see through, wait for the sequel”
The hazy, jazz numbers and catchy chorus’s continue with the chilled, bassy plod of Dear Life. Kashmere’s feature on Mummified Remains only serves to make the song even stronger, as both verses are fire and the beat is one of Verb T’s best. Control Madness benefits from headphones to fully appreciate the swirling, panning reverberations. Lyrically the verses are some of the album’s best and as he applies his acute sense of social awareness to society as a whole through his personal ups and downs. The chorus is up there with the intro and outro tracks as one of the album’s best. Lost pays tribute to the deceased Gang Starr MC formerly known as MC Keithy-E without getting too teary-eyed; and holds some gems of knowledge and clever wordplay that Sammy B-Side compliments with some freshly cut Guru samples.
Look Now is another slammer. To take no bass boosts, no heavy drum loops, and no klaxons or bomb-drops, and make something this heavy with only clean samples is real skill; the melody itself is pretty placid, it’s downright pleasant, but as soon as those drums kicked in my neck knew it was in for a busy Three minutes. Fliptrix’ bars kill; and once again his guest verses on other HF artists’ stuff are experimental, challenging and interesting. Definitely a song that’s guna go down well live all over the country throughout the next year or more without a doubt, and another reason you need this album in your life.
The Power Within plods at a pace that forces you to paying full attention to the words; which is a bonus as there’s a lot being said. Using self belief and harnessing positive forces within your thoughts to actualize them into your reality are some of the most important words of advice you can give anyone. “You got no heart, then you got no chance, laying with the devil getting ready for the slow dance. Do for yourself, don’t wait, you’ll be done for, one false move, now you gotta backtrack.” The second comedy interlude Backstage features the same annoying, clueless kids from Toast Jazz, as they rap dire shit at Verbs after a show. Once again it’s a nice break in the album, but I imagine is probably slightly too close to the truth to be totally comical for the man making them. Everybody Needs rounds the album off with another catchy classic as if to prove one last time that this is Verb T 100% smashing it on every line, and with every perfectly positioned kick and snare.
This far into a career in anything a lot of people would lose interest, rest on their laurels, lie down, or give in; Verb T still gives any MC/producer in the UK a run for their money and brings the heat while sounding cool. Everything about the album is top notch, and shows extensive attention to detail; even the colours in the Lost video match the palette on the album’s cover. Every beat is different from the last but fits as an integral part of the whole, and the decision to self-produce from start to finish adds a complete cohesiveness to the albums sound. The strong return of his sense of humour on tracks and skits is welcome, making it a much more interesting experience, and the positive state his mind seems to be in is reflected in his upbeat delivery, with forward-thinking lyricism. Verb T has clearly put everything into I Remain, and it shows.