Warm Up : Kista : Pushing Buttons EP

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Scarborough-based beatsmith Kista has been putting together choice cuts of pure Hip Hop for a while now; for his latest release, he’s teamed up with some quality US MCs to drop 12 tracks of that dopeness. January the 7th sees the 12″ released via Soundweight Records and UK vinyl aficionados Dusty Platter. If it’s not a date marked in your calendar, you might want to listen to these album snippets, pre-order the 12″, break out the 1210’s, buy all the Ortofon scratch carts you can afford and wait patiently for the next Six days in the B Boy stance, nodding your head like the dude in the video behind Melle Mel on the child is born with no state of miiind’ verse.

Earlier last year, Soundweight put out Kista’s last LP; The Grand Emporium. It was a bold and break-heavy effort on which the producer locked into a groove influenced by the classic elements of Hip Hop, and dragged the sound into the 21st century with some modern production, and guest bars from the illest rappers on both sides of the Atlantic. This year he’s back at it again; on Pushing Buttons he’s collected some seriously funky beats from various periods throughout his career,thrown in some hard to find vocal tracks, and sealed the deal with instrumentals and bonus tracks to make a complete package for vinyl heads, DJs and fans of no-frills new Hip Hop rooted in tradition and made with respect and love for the culture.

I dont dance, but if I did, and I entered competitions against other breakin’ crews; I’d play Grandmaster Majere loud as I could and two step all up in their grill while doing that side to side head thing Carlton used to bust out on The Fresh Prince. The song’s so damn old school if even has ‘fly’ in the chorus, and Sumkid’s bars take the already knockin’ beat to a whole other level. Stupid Mutha‘s laidback tones update the sound slightly, as the track tumbles along carefree, like stoned birds across a summer sky. Tableek’s skilled verses and cocksure delivery bring the  heat and keep the track exciting and upbeat despite it’s calm demeanour, and the overwhelming feeling of relaxation that pervades makes this one of the best songs on Pushing Buttons. After the verbal lashing on the first two tracks, Off The Beaten Track pr0vides a nice break in more ways than one. The chilled vibes abide as a mellow loop courses over percussive bongo patterns. No doubt if you’re getting Two copies of the EP you’ll have some fun beat juggling with this smooth instrumental.

The transition into Devil’s Shoes is flawless and melodically so close you’d think the songs were made to fit next to each other. Sumkid smashes it again with fluid rhymes that hold many gems; “I’m African diaspora, tribe of genius, sick as boat of Spaniards carrying Portuguese diseases, Raphael’s revenge I know’s defending hells honour, my sword slice through your pastrami or melt armour.” Kista’s production is as excellent as ever, those organ and pipe samples alone are worth all the hours he must spend diggin’. Tableek’s second feature is even better than his first; Talk With God is a ‘how to’ when it comes to laidback cool from a producer and MC, sounding like the pair are creepin’ about in aviators and leather waistcoats like a Hip Hop version of those undercover cop films from the 70’s. Moonwalk finishes things on another effortlessly cool note, as Kista samples some psychedelic rock that reverberates around the mind as the EP’s last call of “Writers, MCs, DJs and Breakers” fades, reminding you who the beats were made for; and leaving you no choice but to either drop the needle back on track One, or flip the record for those instrumentals, and perfect that Flash spin on the fader so the girls can love the way you spin too.

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There’s a limited run of this one, so if you want to get your hands on one of the 250 copies being pressed, Pre Order the 12″ here

Peace.

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Sincerely, Mando : Que Sera, Sera.

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I don’t know much about Rancho Cordova; but I’m guessing there’s some pretty smooth scenery out in that part of California. Especially if those were the vistas Armando Ruiz was taking inspiration from when he assembled his latest beat tape; Que Sera, Sera. The whole tape is top to bottom hip hop easy listening, with smoked out snares, jazzy hits and mellow melodies to lift your mood and make the tape a cleansing listening experience that’s as refreshingly optimistic as it is lazily relaxed.

Using Reason, Ableton and Akai’s iconic MPC2000xl to assemble his aural landscapes, the man known as Sincerely, Mando has created a beat tape that encompasses his own sound creatively, but leaves room for experimentation. Twenty Seven tracks float by in no time and will quickly have you reaching for that replay button and another puff on the devils lettuce. He retains focus by reigning in the repetition of phrases within the short song structure, and works simply and effectively to give each track it’s own identity within the larger soundscape; leaving space for the listener to drift off into, and keeping his sounds calm enough so you can either zone out, or pay full attention, and still feel fulfilled. Horns and vocal lines echo over punchy drums providing a soothing mood, nearly every rap line sampled is instantly recognisable if you’ve been following the culture for a while, and the vocals are incorporated subtly enough to compliment the track without drawing focus from the melody.

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Be There begins the tape strongly with an upbeat break, from the off the tape exudes a warmth as if the melodies come freshly soaked in the coast’s sun rays. Unorganized roughens up the serene scene somewhat with some Large Pro-style horns rockin over Nas & Meth quotes. Summthin Luvly is just that; Loose drums, echoing brass and string loops unwind slowly over the minute or so the track lasts, slowly dissolving into the more dissonant pan-pipe-funk of Summernights-Alchydays, before the vibe sombrely slides back into a golden era, jazz-laced bump on Overcast Loops; another highlight that will have older heads reminiscing back to the days when simple hittin’ beats had MCs clamouring for the mic. The disjointed melodies on No Thrills balance a minor bassline with major horn accompaniments to create a dizzying, ambient groove that settles in and then abruptly morphs into a dope summertime jingle on Neva Evas boom bap break. Despite it’s depressingly narcissistic moniker, Selfloathing is one of the tape’s most optimistic songs; and the repetition of the vocal line over the gentle ambient sounds, simple drum programming and warm textures create one of Mando’s best beats. 

Mornings Noons Sambas captures the producers sound perfectly; cleverly placed samples, simple melody and effortless cool, unrestricted by his imagination, and allowed to reach whichever musical conclusion the song ends up at without contrivance. Early Merlot strips down some chopped and screwed vocals to bare bones that knock hard along with the strong rhythm section. On songs like Gota Go Away he straight-up slams out rap beats that leave you grasping for a pen and pad; then displays his diversity on more lackadaisical bong-baiting numbers like What Can It Be, as the song’s ill Raekwon loops and chilled trumpet arrangements make it my favourite beat on the album. He closes the album as strongly as he opens it; Starch is dope and could as easily be used by any MC in the 90’s hip hop scene as it could by any of the current crop. Nspiteofmyself penultimately ends the tape on an upbeat with some cool drum programming that sounds like it’s straining to cling to the track to stop itself falling out of time, before finally the outro carries the tape home on Ice Cube’s easily distinguishable dulcet tones.

There’s always a barrage of new music coming over the internet to anyone willing to seek it; and with that constant flow comes producer after producer trying to get their beats heard; Sincerely, Mando is one of the many that deserve attention. His audible  journey through his sampler is a carefree and calm vibe inspired by his surroundings; and as long as he continues to make music from the heart and provide a laid back soundtrack for heads to chill to; every new batch of beats he cooks up is guna be as enjoyable as the last.

Buy the tape at his bandcamp and stay updated his new projects @sincerely_mando.

3/5.

Peace.

Ramson Badbonez : A Year In The Life Of Oscar The Slouch

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I first heard about Charlie Mac’s dope production skills when Chester P posted about his Instrumentals Vol 3 tape earlier this year. The Task Force MC would also be responsible for much of the country hearing about Ramson Badbonez for the first time back when he was only 14, as he was given the opportunity to spit on Louiz Slipperz £10 Bag series. After the backing from Task Force the young MC really went to work, spitting furiously for years on mixtape after quality mixtape, featuring on every youtube channel that was reppin British Hip Hop at the time, destroying mics at radio shows, and finally releasing his debut album Bad Influence last year.

This year he’s still grindin’ hard; linking with High Focus Records to finally find the business backing his talent deserves, and opening his rhymes up to a much wider audience internationally through HF’s ever-expanding fanbase. Fliptrix has been shoutin’ him out and playing shows with him for time now, and even though heads know his flow is unstoppable; he’s been under a lot of people’s radar for too long. A Year In The Life Of Oscar The Slouch is about to change that. For the first time his music has become more accessible; largely due to Charlie Mac, who’s diverse production style allows Badbonez to extend his range, and spray his bars with more structure than before. This is the closest the UK has gotten to a fully catchy, hook-heavy, street banger in years. British rappers have been making niche music for underground listeners for so long, albums that sound this big and easily translatable weren’t something I expected to come along so soon, especially not from one of the most aggy, unapologetically underground MCs the country has produced in recent times. Despite the album’s memorable appeal, Badbonez still verbally decapitates any competition within radius, and brings that raw poetry straight from the pavement, speaking on his experience through the eyes of his colourful caricature of a protagonist.

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The album begins as dark as the winter months that inspire it; Badbonez fills Oscar’s shoes and relates tales of tough living through a wide sociological scope on a dreary beat that hits hard. In Da Blitz Time comes out aggressive “Straight from the back alleys & trash cans of no hope”; The verses are gutter, the scratches are fierce and the beat’s rough with a throwback swagger that grooves hard. Whateva Da Weatha has it all. I’m talkin Dre levels of beat making on display with neatly cut piano samples and epic string accents to match; Ramson employs a lyrical manoeuvre seldom heard and perfectly starts and ends his words to the stops and starts Charlie’s sample’s make. Beats like this are what the tongue-in-cheek confidence of Mystro’s flow was made for, he drops a standardly accomplished verse with as much effortless style as you’d expect. Gadget’s hook is huge, and the additional strings give the chorus a vintage soul feel despite the G’d up nature of the content. I duno where Gadget has been hiding but he and Rag N Bone Man need to make an album over Leafy beats immediately.

On any other album Scruffy,Bummy,Hungry would be stand out; on an album this packed with first-rate tunes it’s falls kinda flat. Baxter & JokerStarr’s bars fit the style but are limited by their inability to really convey message, or form a lasting impression with their content. April Fool’s Day is another modern stormer that owes much of it’s strength to Charlie Mac; the beat’s perfect for Badbonez to bring out his belligerent best, giving you an insight into shottin’ as Oscar continues his 365 day span struggling through Britain’s underbelly with some memorable bars; “I’m sayin, fuck a job vacancy, I’m up early in the morning slot, blazin’ trees on the block making P’s”. M.A.B from Three Headed Beast provides a solid, heartfelt verse and the chorus hook that Balance carries well sits nicely but is too convoluted and minor to possess any real staying power; as far as good new Hip Hop goes though; if you’re not swinging your arms about like Meth in Rhyme & Reason by the time both MCs trade lines on the third verse you might just be in the wrong corner of the internet.

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As the summer months brighten up and we find Oscar in the month of May as he still receives no respite from the hardships of modern living. Dealing with his day to day by selecting his poison from a buffet of intoxicants, and zoning to 90’s Hip Hop on Just Da Way It Is. His bars are littered with allusions to Hip Hop’s greatest albums and Mac’s great use of atmospheric elements and some lyric cuts straight from the classics vault make it another banger. Foul Moods is up there with the albums best; not even Ramson lyrically throwing pints of piss at racists, hookers and street violence can dampen the mellow vibe the carefree beat brings; it could have benefited from a switch-up in content, but Badbonez is stickin to the script he wrote for Oscar, and is obviously aware that straying conceptually would detract from the album’s cohesion.

Chains & Whips adds some much needed variety in theme and some dope verses with it; Ramson spits nothin but truth; after his uplifting verse on Twizzy collab ‘The Essence’ earlier this year, this return to a more insightful flow is welcome; “Ancestors hang helpless from their 24 carat gold or platinum chain, all to keep the masses wealthy, ghosts and hopelessness, ford focus’s, most the shit you own is that length of rope to choke you with.” Genesis Elijah goes in just as hard; he’s been on fire this year, and his scorching course continues as he references the revolutionary actions of Nat Turner and Malcolm Little. His wise words carry historical weight, and find correlation between the modern banking system and the Middle Passage’s lucrative human trade; “The Bank Of England was built on the slave trade, for six straight centuries, not a penny they paid back, for the free labour or the profits they made, now the names have changed but it’s basically the same game.” 

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As Oscar’s 365 day epoch nears it’s twilight, the autumn months bring  some last rays of optimism before the album sinks back into the cold sting of winter. The addition of Rag N Bone Man’s distinctive voice on the title track adds a depth that otherwise might be missing from the bare bones of the simple beat. Ramson’s verse is much of the same conceptually but also once again provides top class lyricism from the seasoned writer. As usual Fliptrix’s verse shines brightly amongst the otherwise dark vibrations on the track. His accounts of the rough side of life are lifted by his ever-present sense of optimism, and his parting message is a testament to his spiritual strength. As soon as I heard Desperation I knew the album was guna be something special, Ramson hammers out words with feel over a chilled beat that holds a more positive message than a lot of the content carries lyrically. Even after repeated listens, it still stands as one of the album’s best tracks; not to mention one of the nicest High Focus videos to date.

 

December swings around and Let The Others Know finds a nice closing point that’s bang in the middle of the Mac and Badbonez’ style; it’s got real soul and warmth that Ramson’s lyrics provide with an edge. Oscar’s year ends the same way it began, living on the breadline in Britain’s backstreets trying to get by; and although the character’s story didn’t arc as much as it stayed in one spot and documented a point of view; it did provide an entertainingly accurate snapshot of inner city life from a perspective that is too often marginalised or disregarded. If you’re looking for an underground Hip Hop record with polished production, ill scratches of some classic lyrics, consistently adept lyricism and some banging tracks look no further; but if like me, your prefer your musical choices to elucidate on fresh topics with content you can return to and glean new information from as your perspective grows, you may be slightly let down. By the halfway point the album begins to hit a wall as Badbonez topics are limited to his immediate experience as relayed through Oscar. Concept albums are an idea you rarely come across in Hip Hop, and although A Year In The Life Of Oscar The Slouch works well initially; its tight concept limits it’s appeal in the long run.

Check out Oscar’s council estate chronicles for yourself  here

3/5.

Peace.

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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.