Cyclonious & Chairman Maf : Hostile Leadership

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 ‘This is far from basic, it’s high-class science, the mic is my appliance, where I deliver defiance.’

For years now the insightful lyricism Cyclonious pens has been an integral part of UK Hip Hop’s more conscious, politically perceptive side. Never Lose Your Passion was steeped in historical knowledge, Africa brought rejuvenating sun rays alongside Nate and Jalex, and the incendiary verses on Freedom were as anthemic as they were truthful. For his latest mixtape Hostile Leadership, the East-London MC has linked with Cambridge producer Chairman Maf, resulting in nine staggeringly good songs with a revolutionary mentality imbued in every well-worded bar. As Maf loops epic strings on the introductory title cut, Cyclonious fires venom-laced lines at any target unfortunate enough to cross his lyrical scopes, then maintains that high level of verbal dexterity over Magnetic‘s catchy piano chops.

 Escalating horns back righteous rhymes on The Land Of The Strong, while MMA Plus takes a page out of Stic’s book to offer positive words on the transformative power of mental and physical health; Chairman Maf’s ear for melodic sounds makes Never Topple another uplifting listen, followed by a more delicate approach to his production as he layers subtle sounds to accompany Tamarae‘s spiritual scriptures. Soulful samples shift in and out of  the foreground on Constant Pivot, with both Cyclonious and 4orce penning heavy verses around a mantra-like chorus; and Smoke & Mirrors stands out for it’s galvanizing words; ‘The body is a temple, if God made man in his image, then who do you resemble?’

 I replayed Together four times upon first hearing it; it’s not only the best tune on the record but is potentially one of the most important songs you’ll hear this year. Combining Maf’s finest hour musically with Cyc’s deepest bars and masterful, thought-provoking features from Phoenix Da Icefire and Apex Zero; the lyrics challenge paradigms without being confrontational, offer solutions instead of problems, and drop historical knowledge you won’t find on any curriculum.

There’s plenty of solid Hip Hop albums coming out of Britain right now, but very few balance refined intelligence with rugged breaks the way Hostile Leadership does. Enlightening and entertaining in equal measure, the album illustrates exactly why underground music is so vital.

Buy it here.

Peace.

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The Art Of Emceeing with Arise King David.

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I recently got the opportunity to interview London-based MC Arise King David, who after years of honing his craft is set to release his second album; a collaborative project with Monad records founder and producer Deepstar, which is set to drop later this year. If you’re an MC on the come-up you might wana take notes, as AKD casts his perceptive eye over the current state of Hip Hop, reveals how he linked with AG from D.I.T.C, and examines the evolution of the modern emcee.

Give the people a brief background on who you are, and how your career has progressed up until now.

Im an emcee by the name of Arise King David, I’ve been on the underground scene since 2000; I was with independent label Strictly Bizzness until end of 2005, and used to sell units on road. During that time I opened up shows for Akon and The Game, and got airplay on national radio, before Strictly Bizzness disbanded and I took a break. I then founded a sound design company called DM Sound Design, composing music for film, tv, and theatre. In 2011 I decided it was time to contribute once again to my first love; Hip Hop, and released my first solo LP Free Music the following year. That project opened doors, and I feel lucky to have collaborated with some really talented artists and emcees that influenced me before I started rapping.

How did you get into Hip Hop?

After listening to Wu Tang’s 36 Chambers album and Biggie’s Ready To Die I was inspired to write; then through school and college I was battling and rhyming with friends. In college word got about and I was introduced to some brothers (Stamina and E Johnson) that set up an independent label (Strictly Bizzness). I was sold on the vision, went to the studio a few times, and the rest, as they say, is history.

What does being an MC mean to you?

Its who I am. Its my best mode of communication. I have a lot to say, and I’m never more comfortable than when I’m rhyming. Essentially an MC is a master of ceremony, someone who can move the crowd. It feels great when people appreciate your craft and are affected by what you say or how you say it, and it validates your artistry; but if no one feels you, then leave it alone.

How do you feel the role has changed over the years?

Well emcees originally went hand in hand with DJ’s in order to rock a party; the two would work in tandem, or the DJ would spin records and MC at the same time. Now that partnership is not as prominent. Now-a-days you can be called an MC but not necessarily have the ability to move the crowd, you maybe able to rap over a beat, but you’re not judged on how well you work with a DJ to rock an event.

Where do you see Hip Hop’s future?

As far as the music is concerned, I see it getting stronger as long as it comes from the underground. Its a global phenomenon and I hope exponents around the world continue to preserve the elements that drew us to it in the first place. As a culture I think it will continue to permeate everyone’s lives in one way or another; through music, clothes, dance, art, and its use in advertising and tv. Commercially it will continue to be watered down and exploited by opportunists purely as a means to make money with no respect for the art, but then I’d ask can we really call anything in that vein Hip Hop?

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Who do you rate out of the new generation of artists?

Clear Soul Forces, Que Hampton, Mystro, Joey Bada$$, Melanin 9, Phoenix Da Icefire and all the members of Triple Darkness, just to name a few.

What advice would you give young MC’s?

Try to be creative with your delivery, content and the name you choose for yourself. Be as original as possible and be true to yourself; no fakery.

How did your collaborations with AG and Deepstar come about?

I put a profile of my work up on Conspiracy Worldwide Radio’s social network. Deepstar heard my stuff and contacted me, thats how the connection sparked. Thats my brother! I heard his beats and they were so on point, the guy is a real talent. We decided to work on an EP; which then turned into an LP (Universal Language), he had lined up some collabs with some well known names in Hip Hop, and I had done the same, so we put it together. He sent me one particular beat and I immediately thought of who I’d like to work with; so I contacted AG online, and sent him my work so he could hear what I’m about. He felt it, and said he was down to collab and shoot a vid. I was hyped to fly out to Hip Hop’s birthplace The Bronx to record the video, and it was very humbling to know someone I’d listened to growing up felt my music to the point that he was willing to collaborate.

Do you see much difference between the scene in the UK and America?

Of course the UK is tiny compared to America so the scene there is much, much bigger. You can be well known in 1 state in the USA and have more fans than in the whole of the UK, plus Hip Hop was born in America so it’s hard to compare. I will say however I’m hearing a lot of rawness coming out of the UK in terms of the underground MC’s; the kind of realness I used to hear in the 90’s and early 2000’s in the US, none of that bubblegum crap.

On your ‘Free Music’ intro you speak on the commercialization of the culture. How do you feel we could best reduce the impact of this negative influence?

I think we have to take more ownership in terms of what we put out there as a Hip Hop community. It comes down to the integrity of the individual. We have to try not to cater to the corporations that exploit us, and be fearless; because then we can once again dictate what’s hot and what’s not, rather than having dross shoved down our throats. Let’s not be naive though; there’s no doubt that there’s a sense of empowerment derived from commercialization, in that if we can make money from our craft we make more time to dedicate to it. The question is where do you draw the line? What message do we want to put out, who or what do we allow Hip Hop to be associated with?

As a communication method Hip Hop is one of the most effective. Do you feel there should be more responsibility for what’s being said?

Plain and simple, Yes.

What message do you most want to communicate with your music?

That’s a good question. I guess I’m calling people to question everything; their role in society, family, their community. Don’t believe the hype; question your own existence and don’t plod along with your head down, get to know yourself and the creator, because we have a purpose, Whats yours? Oh, and take pleasure in the simple things in life, dare to dream.

Arise King David, Hammersmith

How has Hip Hop affected other aspects of your life?

Its been central to my life, a constant soundtrack. It got me through good times and bad, made me life-long friends. I met my wife through Hip Hop, I have 2 beautiful kids because Hip Hop brought my wife into my life, it’s crazy.

What inspires you?

Generally I’m inspired when I see people working hard to fulfill their dreams and aspirations. Musically I’m inspired by many things; from life situations, conversations, nature, film, books and other artists, to news items, historical, political, and social events.

What do you feel the key to longevity is?

Creativity. I think as long as you can remain creative you will always come up with something new to share with your fans.

What have got coming up the rest of this year?

In September Deepstar and I release the Universal Language LP. It’s a collaborative project with some exciting features such as AG, Sadat X, and Masta Ace. I’ll be spending a lot of time promoting that; and I’m looking for more shows, so promoters please holla at me! I’ll also be working on an EP with Cyclonious which I cant wait to sink my teeth into; then I start work on my solo LP, so there’s plenty to keep me busy, and a lot more flava for ya ear. Stay tuned….

You can keep up with AKD @arisekingdavid, check his youtube channel AKDTV, like his FB page, and get yourself copies of his Between Projects mixtape here, and heavyweight début album Free Music here.

Peace.

TPS Fam : Hot Water Music

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With a full-time fixation on gambling, whiskey and women, Charles Bukowski was a man who knew what he wanted out of life. What he didn’t know, was that the liquor-soaked scrawlings he penned in his smokey room between trips to the track wouldn’t only go on to inspire a generation of film-makers, writers and full-time day-drinkers; but also three Hip Hop heads from Croydon. Big Toast, Jack Diggs & Strange Neighbour have taken TPS Fam from strength to strength over the last year, and their label Revorg Records has put out some quality albums, from the crew cuts on The Heisenberg Project to Efek’s dope new LP Contemporary Classic. With inspiration from Bukowski’s working-man approach to creativity, the trio have created some of their best tunes to date on Hot Water Music. 

Couple early mornings with grey clouds and a grim commute on stinking public transport and you can see why Monday Blues bad-mouths Britain’s over-proliferated ‘you’re lucky to have a job at all‘ rhetoric; replacing it with the line ‘Monday, waking up and I think fuck a job’ to introduce the LP’s anti-work attitude. Jack Digg’s beats always bang, and his gully vibe on Chain Breakers encapsulates the grimmer side of UK Hip Hop as the MC’s leave behind the daytime toil of wage-slavery to embrace the full time job of mental emancipation through their lyrics. 5 Nuggets copes with the weekly grind trying to get smashed on overpriced pints and still survive an ever- increasing cost of living; before Bristol legend Sirplus brings the heat to Strange Neighbour’s string arrangements on HD, every MC steps up their game to follow his lead, rhyming with real passion.

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Jack Diggs channels the sound of the city on his interlude As It Crossed My Mind, beginning the album’s second wind as the mellow sounds of Drift Away provide the crew with another opportunity for lyrical honesty; ‘Rhyme to a beat and it takes me to places, beyond flat lager and slavery wages.’ Like Jehst’s ‘unemployed B Boys’  Tea Breaks brings a welcome break from the 9-5 drudgery, with a lyrical escape from the cold reality of the previous tracks. The MC’s delve back into that daily grind once more for a few tunes, meaning it’s not until Strange Neighbour’s stand-out beat on Broken Smile that the album really begins to peak again; as each MC touches on the unconscious mental state pressed onto the public with George Romero comparisons, and revitalize their content. Pound Signs is a straight- up banger; the scratches are ill, the epic loops give the rapper’s lines even more force as they weave words with a purpose, deriding the paper chase and the dodgy dealings Croydon’s streets host nightly, then continue their verbal assault on Ruff Draft; boasting bars from a few of the UK’s foremost MC’s. Gee Bag’s distinctive flow blesses the raw break with an old-school rhyme-scheme, Bristol’s Res reps Split Prophets with some leary bars and Phoenix Da Icefire’s intricate rhymes fire as fast as his thoughts, making for another flawless Triple Darkness feature.

Out Of This World’s middle eastern melodies make for the best beat on the LP, Revorg label-mate Efeks dropping a dope hook. Everything the man touches turns to gold right now, be sure to check his back catalogue for more gems, especially his work with Steady as Prose. The fact that this late in the LP the crew are still pulling out nothing but bangers is evidence of their skill for shaping enjoyable songs with a grimy edge; and as 4AM closes the album on a calmer note, melancholy piano loops and claustrophobic horns swirl through the haze, the rhymes shining through the dense fog the beat invokes. Whether you’re living in Britain or abroad, TPS Fam bring relate-able content with consistently top-class production that’ll help you navigate the rat race with head nods for days, it’s safe to say Henry Chinaksi’s real-life inspiration would be proud; as TPS manifest his poetry is what happens when nothing else can’ line as they juggle city living while remaining creative, and like the alcoholic author, use their words as an escape from the tedium the modern bustle brings.

Grab Hot Water Music digitally here, or get a hard copy here.

3/5

Peace.

Ray Vendetta : 7 Swordz Ov Light

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North London MC Ray Vendetta comes out spittin like he’s got something to prove on his first official Triple Darkness release. MKD’s 7th Dan handles production for the most part, and creates a darkly brooding atmosphere that sets off the EP’s ominous tone from the get-go. Every song’s a street anthem and a thought-provoking zoner in one. As with every TD member, Ray’s lyrics are deeply interwoven with mysticism and esoteric knowledge that immediately impresses; while his contextually relevant rhymes possess a depth that allows the listener to return as his or her’s wealth of knowledge increases, and find deeper meaning within the lines. Thematically every MC to feature on 7 Swordz Ov Light covers a wide array of important topics; each verse serving as a potential catalyst to spur the listener onto their own path toward wisdom if listened to with open ears and mind. Ray wastes no words on trivialities, and there’s not a bar on the whole EP that isn’t potentially career-threatening for Britain’s lazier MCs; on Seven Swordz Ov Light not only has he firmly announced his arrival within the TD camp; but has stepped up his whole lyrical game to mark the occasion.

The Grand Opening lets you know from the start. This is no easy-going club rap for the deaf, dumb and blind; this is righteous rhymes from the heart. His mid-paced flow is confident and well-informed over the melodic beat, as he layers tight lines heavily laden with style. In my view, before this EP his verse on Cyrus Malachi’s Papercuts was his best work; after listening to this there’s too many standout verses to even call it. The title track is exactly why I back UK Hip Hop so heavily, 7th Dan needs to calm down before he takes his own headtop off with snares that hard; every beat smacks like a backhand from God, which is apt considering the Supreme Mathematics encoded in the EP’s title. I suspect the choice for the title’s numerology to correspond to the alphabet’s Seventh letter, the 7 days of creation in Genesis, the notes on the musical scale, the chakra system, and the representation of perfection in ancient Kemet was an0ther intentionally occult move on Ray’s part. Fire In The Pen is nothin’ but warfare on the mic with no apologies; and keeps things moving at a speed that barely gives you time to chill between each songs heavy attack, with the verses from Ray and Cyrus Malachi providing a deep listen, both rhyming as uncompromising and captivating as ever.

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Addictions is the first real variation in beat and tone on 7 Swordz so far; and relaxes things slightly despite the continuation of the weighty content. Ray takes a sombre and thoughtful look back on his past vices through a lens uncoloured by shame or regret; instead sounding humbled by his previous shortcomings and grateful for the lessons he was given. His words warning of over-indulgence in women and herb, and his ability to recant his more youthful assertions on how to live are wise; and should be commended for their power to positively influence the younger generation listening. God knows there’s more than enough voices promoting the opposite over the airwaves these days. Tesla’s verse on Genuine Cuts is one of his most solid, amongst a back catalogue of bars harder and denser than neutron stars; Ray’s long-time collaborator and comrade keeps getting better with every guest verse I hear, hopefully 2014 will see the Two MC’s releasing many more collaborations along with a Tesla’s Ghost solo LP. 

 Take any MC from TD and put them on a track with Cyrus Malachi & M9 and you’ve got a trinity capable of some serious verbal contusions. Take the pair and add Ray Vendetta and you get one of the best songs on this already outstanding EP. 3 Strike Kill holds some serious wisdom, M9 in particular showing his dexterity as he drops lines that could have easily nestled amongst his best-to-date on his Magna Carta LP that dropped a year ago. Director and film-maker Jimmy Chiba expands his cache of dope music videos with another edition to the already interesting content on his youtube channel; and Malachi and Vendetta’s verses serve up some more of that fire in the pen they brought to the table earlier. 7th Dan creates some seriously epic melody behind the Three dreamscapes Ray writes on Reality’s Dream, the second verse in particular stands out for it’s vivid descriptions; In dream Two I’m shivering, chains ’round my ankles, I’m feeling seasickness, the slave ship rammed full, up to the brim no space for me to move, my inside eating itself from lack of food, desperation, I can hear it in my brother’s cries, old dad got his back lashed, I saw him die.” He does what only a few MCs can do and turns past events such as slavery into contemporary source material without sounding contrived or forlorn. It took a while for impartial information to be published concerning slaves that stood up and took their freedom by force; which makes songs like this important for upcoming generations more likely to blast a mixtape than sit and read the ‘Narrative Of The Life Of Fredrick Douglass’ or be Googling Nat Turner & Denmark Vesey.  

Bodyshotz is where the EP needed to go after the heavyness of the last track; Ringz Ov Saturn slows the pace to a crawl and lightens the tone as his beat prowls through dense string melodies and Phoenix Da Icefire flows cool and calm as his TD alias Solar Black, his darts sharp and on point as always. Ray Vendetta presides over the track with authority on a strong chorus and another hard sixteen from his brimming back catalogue of bars; his ability to adapt to a slower style of spittin adds a definitively strong presence to tracks like this one and on the subsequent track That Gang. As the EP continues it’s unstoppable momentum, Iron Braydz and Vendetta give the system’s enforcers a piece of their mind and weigh in on the heavy police presence and racial profiling rife both globally, and closer to home in London on another slammin Ringz Ov Saturn beat.

It doesn’t take Hideous Ugly’s chorus to tell you that the kick and snare is dusty; the beat is one of 7th Dan’s roughest with heaps of swagger and flare. The song’s a creeper that seeps into your veins with every repeated listen, and the content Ray’s bringing is tight as ever; his more reserved flow winds it’s course through the track with purpose, and the video from Chiba Visuals uses the colour palette of the EP cover well to create a warm tone; along with GlobalFaction, Chiba is quickly becoming one of my favourite videographers in the country. There isn’t a dull track on the whole release; its just banger after banger until the end, and when that end is brought about it’s with trademark TD venom and verbal dexterity on Crowbar HeadTopper. Ringz Ov Saturn pulls another savage beat out the bag that defines the clique’s sound and gets bodied by Iron Braydz, Solar Black and Ray Vendetta; every MC spits nothin’ but flames, as Braydz slaps up a racist, Solar Black pens a mean verse that leaves your head spinning, and Vendetta drops another career highlight with his last bars on the EP. “You see the scarab on my torso and scratch your head, I resurrect the type of verses that could wake the dead, send a tremor through the ground, watch it break your legs, spin ya premises around, back to bakin’ bread.” 

 Seven Swordz Ov Light is flat out one of the best releases of last year; if you like your Hip Hop underground, rugged, intelligent and righteous you owe it to yourself to cop this EP; Vendetta’s honest portrayal of the environment he sees on the daily is modern Hip Hop in Britain at it’s most lyrically prolific and accomplished. When he adds to that already deadly concoction a heavy dose of knowledge, love for the culture and the raw hunger that exalts all members of Triple Darkness; he elevates to levels unattainable by so many of the crew’s somnambulist contemporaries on these grey shores. 

Buy it here.

5/5.

Peace.