Music From The Corner 5.

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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 vibesLong 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 barsBlunted 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”. 

Buy it now. 

4/5.

Peace.

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Brotherman : The Tapes Vol.1

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The beautiful thing about Hip Hop is that no matter who you are or where you’re from, it’s the content of your character through your rhymes that defines you for the listener. That’s why despite my lack of knowledge on Brotherman’s career so far, I’m still feelin what he’s putting across on this first mixtape in a new series he’s just begun.

For The Tapes Vol. 1 he’s selected a smooth mix of instrumentals and laid some honest, poetic lyrics that clearly come from the heart. Piece Of The Pavement is a concise intro that speaks on Britain’s youth with clarity and insight, and the unexpected singing he effortlessly breaks into at the end adds another layer to this already impressive start. Unsatisfied to continue at the high level he’s already set on the opener, he brings even more to the table on Memories. The verse begins with a who’s who in UK Hip Hop through his experiences on the scene, and does so with flair; utilizing a writing style that could easily degenerate into the  reading of a list in less capable hands. The second half of the verse is captivating; I had to wheel it back like Rodigan enough times just to catch everything being said. He peppers the lines with emotive phrases and sophisticated turns of phrase, penning tight rhyme schemes that come out so smooth you might miss how complex and well written they are.

 “In a minimal loft, I heard the criminal loss of Rudy Ashcroft, killin the notes like Fyfe from the Guillemots, Lyrics so amazing, they’re wasted as next man are aired on the station. Delegation, it’s a hype for a hot sec, and then fade, generation, I find it insane, yet inanely a dance in the rain, in and amongst the remains of a nation”. 

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The Third song takes the content to a much more serious place; drawing from events at the heart of America’s civil rights movement, citing the events of 1963 in particular; a year when the C.I.A began their domestic surveillance operations which would be used to murder black leaders and discredit pro-black organizations; Alabama’s police force set upon black children with dogs and fire hoses, and Dr. Martin Luther King gave one of the most powerful speeches in history on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It’s with that knowledge in mind that Brotherman paraphrases Dr King’s speech on the inaugural lines of I’m In Love, a song rooted in struggle yet delivered with positivity, and acts as an uplifting dedication to a movement that was finally brought to the forefront of the public’s collective consciousness during that decade. The verses are weighty, taking in the writings of social psychologist Claude Steele, and name-checking the ship that brought some of the first West Indian immigrants to the UK’s shores, although the subject matter is deep, the overall vibe remains mellow, and  the pop sensibilities of the chorus keep the song in step with the rest of the mixtape.

In The House relaxes the content again and continues the chilled vibes; with old school roll calls and metaphorical verses that calmly surf the wavy throwback beat. It’s the most instantly gratifying track on the tape, and would serve as a good introduction to the artist; his lyrics are again imaginative yet down to earth; “Want as I might, try as I may, cry with frustration at chains I can’t break, episode One, mourning the death of the sun, until I wake to the next in the long run.” Stickers gets funky on a bassy piano loop as the words spill thick and fast through the speaker; Brotherman adjusting his flow slightly to showcase a more relentless style that still remains calm through his use of patterns to break up the couplets. It’s a short stab of British Hip Hop done well, with his DJ Chris P Cuts adding some ill scratches over the top to seal the deal.

I’m glad Minute Mile has been given a proper release; the last time I heard the song was on GlobalFaction’s Beats, Rhymes, and Revolution series a while back. It’s had a full overhaul since then, and is excellently put together. Lounging organs and jazzy ride cymbal patterns build throughout the duration and stay open and relaxed like talented musicians jamming in the vein of Things Fall Apart. The lines are again penned with skill; “It’s mad grammar, Jack the lad swagger, focused, cloak that never noticed the dagger, gentrification’s debasing the manor, where hate radiates like gamma, stay para.” The second verse is made doubly enthralling by the vocals he echoes in the background, playing his own hypeman until the rhymes dissipate and lead into him freestyling with his singing voice, which has a lot of feel and by now is a welcome addition to any song, it’ll be interesting to hear him combine his singing and rapping on more songs in the future.

 For anyone with an internet connection and the drive to search, there’s a continuous stream of new free mixtapes to check out, almost in direct opposition to how the music used to be shared among fans; This reason The Tapes Vol, 1 stands out from the crowd is the obvious work that Brotherman has put into his craft and the respectable angle he approaches his music from; anyone making positive, intelligent music from the soul like this deserves massive respect.

Cop it for free at his bandcamp. 

4/5.

Peace.

Dotz: The Country Bumpkin’s Drunk Singing Skunk Binge

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Dotz has been on the rise with speed over the last few years. Even though he’s only 21, he’s toured the country smashing battle leagues, playing some of the biggest festivals, winning JumpOffTV’s Battle Championships, and working with UK legend Si Phili as Phili N Dotz. Sunday October 27th sees his Third release unleashed onto the British public.

On TCBDSSB Dotz brings personal tribulations to the mic with a layer of honest reflection through his cathartic bars. His lyrics seem to represent him fully, rather than using the platform to just project a side of himself people might find favourable, he gives you the whole picture, for better or worse.  March Forth is a classic Hip Hop opener, no hook, no bullshit, just Dotz going off over Passion Hifi’s pumping beat. “A dark horse who’s large jaw discharge thoughts, hardcore, slam ya fuckin head inside a car door, but no Lock, Stock and none of them can stop Dotz, I drop shots and make them jump around like it was hopscotch” .

On Sleep Talk, he cleverly changes up his flow from the opener’s storming approach to a more chilled delivery. He layers lines over rising piano melodies that capture that smoky, night time vibe. The haunting hooks on the chorus further prove his skill at crafting songs with structure and honesty with well written lyrical patterns; For me it’s the best song on the EP; “Manic depressive, impressive, expressive loner type, with a restless head, that’s as dead, as a fuckin poltergeist, roll the dice, you’ll catch me outside smoking Thai, or see me holding mine, wankered at an open mic”. With more tracks like this he could definitely become one to watch over the next year.

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You’re Wrong uplifts the mood further with Soul samples and upbeat boom bap breaks that set the backdrop for Dotz to document the ups and downs of his relationship. He accurately puts across the mixed emotions felt, and shares some sound  advice; “learn to swallow your pride and move past it ‘cuz being wrong is easy, admitting it’s the hard bit”. Flo Kirton’s voice adds another impressive element to the song, her voice suits Hip Hop well, but I’m not even guna pretend to have enough knowledge of the female music scene to even compare her to someone for you to put in context; I was feeling it though, and that speaks volumes.

The beat on the I Ask remix is more upbeat and memorable than the first time around, and that line about dead fish still makes me feel ill every time  I hear it! Life Of A Fool is another stand out moment, the beat’s nice and the scratches and sung sample that lift the chorus are both executed eloquently, as with Still The Same the words take a more honest turn again and are less aggressive.  For me, positive elevation through lyricism is a priority, so I find it hard to fully get behind the second half of the EP. No doubt there’s a large portion of UK Hip Hop that’s focused on the struggles of the daily grind and embrace the frustrations that come with it; but personally I feel the overtly negative tone on Braggin’ Rights & Puke dampened the bright start he came out with.

When Dotz isn’t being purposely antagonistic or offensive with his words he’s got some decent insight that can only grow and become more effective as he matures. He goes hard throughout the Eight tracks, and if he and his music find the direction they’re searching for he’ll shine.  The Country Bumpkin’s Drunk Singing Skunk Binge is definitely a sign of good things to come from the Bedford-based MC.

Cop it digitally or on Digipak CD  here.

3/5.

Peace.

Leaf Dog: Electric Soul Tape.

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Leaf Dog dropped a new beat tape on his bandcamp, and obviously it’s funky as fuck, and smooth as hell. I’m not really too into blind consumerism but in this case I’m sayin take your money, and throw it at this man so he can keep blessing our ears with beats and rhymes.

Electric Soul Tape is one Fourth of the Four Owls putting together some seriously ill rhythms that sound as effortlessly cool as ever. Despite the laidback sound, Leaf’s capabilities have come about with effort and determination. it’s no accident that he’s become one of the best producers in Britain or abroad and has been on a constant rise since forming RLD with BVA and Naive. He’s Spent years making multiple beats a day to master his craft, and contributed hugely to UK Hip Hop over the last few years with the moves he’s been making; linking the UK and US on his tracks, supplying some of the best UK MC’s with crazy beats to destroy, judging competitions and open mics, performing with Brothers Of The Stone, as a solo artist and with Four Owls, and reppin real Hip Hop every fuckin day. Leaf Dog  deserves massive respect and all the rewards he can reap for his hard work  and tireless love of the culture.

Electric Soul Tape is the first instrumental collection he’s put out since last years A Day At The Qwinky Markethis beats are omnipresent throughout not only UK hip hop but internationally, he’s produced for Kool G Rap, Rass Kass, U God, Styles P, Diamond D and more. His loose fitting production style is instantly recognizable on songs like Is It Me?  and Summer Days; sounding like the beat equivalent of his peerless rapping style. The new tape keeps it varied and changes it’s flavour with each song; his kicks swing hazily back and forth with the warm melodies he chooses, he builds songs with instrumentation, and imprints his own indelible mark upon the samples he selects. At least once or twice on every Leaf Dog release the music  forces me to close my eyes and nod along with neck-breaking force, the teasingly short interlude Suddenly was the first, and The Wizdom was the second zoned-out moment for me on his new tape. The hook’s infectious, and his placement of the vocals is so perfectly catchy it’s crazy, if you haven’t heard his music before, take a sec to go listen to this track, and in it’s Two minute running time you’ll see why instrumental Hip Hop’s the shit and so is Leaf. Soul-Side was another crest in this wavy mix of beats, on which he samples a different sound from the usual vocals he favours, and makes a banging loop that glides over drums that are effective in their simplicity.

As with his previous production this new tape shows his skills at both ends of the beat making spectrum; he’s adept at arranging complex samples with various vocal lines into one hook on tracks like That Feeling, but when it suits he can take a loop, then add or subtract parts from it to form the melody, and still keep things interesting with the drum patterns. He does the latter deftly on Snow Drops and Work Rate, another interlude that could be elongated into a full song and sound just as full with no variation in the pattern or addition of instruments.

Once again his workrate and quality of music is unmatched in the beatmaking game right now. His kick placement alone on Electric Soul Tape was enough to keep me fully engrossed for the duration. If you want to chill to some uplifting vibrations it’s perfect, or if you’re an MC and want to go off over some of the best beats in the country, Leafy’s got your back once again.

Buy it for just Seven quid here.

10/5!

Peace.