Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Tinchy Stryder: Star in the Hood EP - Volume 2

Alright grime fans.

Tinchy has just dropped his second Star in the Hood EP. Download it here.

I'm sure track 6 will be of interest.


1) 1 of Us
2) Rate Man
3) Go Get 'Em
4) Yes Or No (Freestyle)
5) Money (Freestyle 2006)
6) Take Me Back (Maniac Remix)
7) Working for Days (Live)

The tunes didn't order themselves quite right on the journey to iTunes and, after an unexpected skip, the next thing I was hearing was Jump from 'Lost and Found'.

How times have changed.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

J2K - Wake Up EP Review

"Alright they've been waiting, let me give them something I've been saving..."

I have been waiting. 'Wake Up' is the new release from J2K and, in the current climate, an EP with ten tracks seems like a bold move. With little room for error, and on top of my own expectations, he delivers.

'Wake Up' is very consistent - consistently good. J2K limbers up for a quick statement of intent on the opening Wake Up, racing along with a slick flow that's pretty faultless throughout, swirling in and out of productions from the likes of Target, Bless Beats and Mega Mos Wanted.

On the whole the sound is quite up-beat, the jaunty brass of Big Brother, the perky droning of Talk of the Town and the chirpy Lights, Camera, Action giving the MC time and space to deliver his rhymes.

But this is the main problem. The production does give 'Wake Up' a unity of sound, but J2K is so consistent in lacing the laid-back beats that things do become slightly samey. I would love to see him vocal a few more hype beats, because he can murder them.

J2K - Barring on Snapshot 2

Barring on Ugly

The highlights are Wake Up and Kick Off Da Hinges, two of the more intense beats. Xtra is also one of the best here, as is Danger, the lead-single for the EP. J2K's flow, the vocals and, by grime standards, novel angle on the subject-matter makes the tune uniquely his own.

J2K - Danger Video

We Do is the main exception in the 'Wake Up' sound. A sombre beat with mournful vocals, J2K's lyrics are sincere and evocative, with Tex contributing to a CD which generally has good features - the underrated Manga has his flourish on Landlords, Bless Beats on Kick off da Hinges and Flow Dan, well, on everything he manages to get on.

Flow Dan's great.

And so is 'Wake Up' really, a release in which the only real weakness - its own consistency, solidity, self-assurance - sometimes holds it back from a bit more hype and few more moments of high-flown inspiration.

The 'Wake Up' EP is now available from bare places, but here's just some:

UK RecordShop
Avalanche Music Hut
Uptown Records

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Instrumental CDs - with Balistiq Beats

G'day grime fans.

A while ago I did a blog on instrumental CDs, just after the release of 'Nocstrumentals'. The instrumental CDs just keep coming and, nearly six months on, Silencer's released 'Run The CD', Swindle 'Curriculum Vitae', Dexplicit has put his 'Content' series up for digital download and arguably the most anticipated of the lot saw a physical release last Monday - Maniac's 'New Age Grime'.

To be honest, I only decided to write this after listening to Maniac's Ouch, which is just brilliant. His CD starts off with the familiar in Ugly, for me one of his best ever beats, and also finishes familiarly with Thug and Headshot, which have been all over the airwaves for the last six months. But in between are quite a few beats that have kept on a low in the run up to this release, like Boiler and Evil Dead.

Silencer's was a little different, catering to the CD crowd after releasing the first eight beats from Run The CD on vinyl and digital download previously. His Wow Base series has been a highlight in a flailing grime vinyl market, but his emphatic style of production, with bangers such as Dirtbag, Regulation and Mr. T, make this a collection of beats on CD copy.

Swindle's Cirriculum Vitae exhibits the producer's trademark - a mellow, 'musical' sound, which seems to give the CD more of a flow in relation to the others. While Swindle's productions get played by the likes of Spyro and other radio DJs, his beats here are more recognisable from their vocals. With different moods on here, from the down-and-out feel of The Rat to the bubbly Swaggeristic, Curriculum Vitae is a well-rounded release that provides something different within the scene.

Dexplicit continues to clear the cupboards, his latest volume of 'Content' having tunes such as Fireboy, Steamtrain and its VIP version. With other editions having beats like Hench and the Bizzle-vocalled Blood Nine, 'Content' is a series of bangers that anticipates his album 'Digikenesis', which should be about soon.

With Maniac set to release another CD, Dot Rotten's next batch of 'Rotten Riddims' forthcoming and Dexplicit planning to release five instalments with ten beats each in his 'Content' series, instrumental releases are a growing trend. Yet as back-catalogues become more available and the archives are cleared, the resultant blanker canvas allows the instrumental CD to adopt a new position.

Production duo Balistiq Beats, fresh off the back of their Power Cut Riddim with vocals from the likes of Shizzle, Badness, Riko, Doctor and Trim, as well as collaborations with Jammer on Make a Hit and Wiley with Headbanger, have an instrumental album waiting in the wings that could take the format into a direction that hasn't yet been fully realised.

Andrew, one half of the duo, explains:

To be honest, both of us just decided that would be the direction we'll take for our own release. There are a lot of good CDs out there but we just feel like the majority of them are just a mish-mash of tunes with no real thought behind them.

And from Ryan:

It has to be a musical journey, otherwise, why is it an album in the first place? Albums, to me, should be concept-based (and) because this will be instrumental, the music will have to speak for itself. Therefore it will have to be more expressive on its own.

So perhaps this could herald a new chapter for the instrumental CD in grime?

Ryan: Grime is HUGE, look at the charts, look at YouTubes top viewed videos. Now is the time to show what we're all about, from every angle. So, regarding the future of instrumental albums, it's nothing new - look at Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx, Massive Attack, Prodigy, Calvin Harris, Chase n Status etc - the majority is music based. Granted they do have some vocals (which is just an instrument anyway), but they let their music be the forefront, which is how it should be if you decide to do an album. What we're doing is bringing that same angle to the Balistiq brand. Compositions, arrangements, sections, key changes.. listen to George Benson's Breezin', Miles Davis playing Michael Jackson's Human Nature or any Joe Hisaishi composition. It takes you to another place - let the music move you!

Andrew: When proper albums are made you can listen to them from top to bottom and feel the continuity as you go along. Obviously within the grime scene it's more of a mixtape thing and the target audience just wanna hear bangers so that's probably why CDs come out the way they do. Big up everyone who's doing this ting though, because they're all good in their own way. Everyone is different, they got different ideas so with our one this is the direction we wanna take.

As the instrumental CD becomes a more permanent fixtre in grime, perhaps producers may feel more obliged to release these products now and in the future?

Andrew: It's not even a feeling of obligation that's making us do this. We've done stuff in the past with a number of MCs and a lot of other work outside of the grime scene, but now this is gonna be about us. We're aiming to make this something you can put on your iPod and on your way to college/uni/work listen to the whole ting from start to finish and just appreciate the music for what it is. We're known mostly for our grime productions and we'll always be a part of that scene, but this CD will reach out to people outside of that - people who know of us for different reasons, who've heard the other side of our work.

Ryan: We've worked with so many people in many different genres so it'll be good to showcase our diversity. We have actually built our music so we have no obligations, making it so we have free will to do whatever we want, when we want - it's not a job, it's a passion. That's something we will make sure gets through.

Right now, it's the producer's time.

Balistiq Beats Myspace
Balistiq Beats Twitter

Monday, 6 July 2009

Come Grime With Me

So DJ Manara likes Come Dine With Me. With fellow Night Slugs residents Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990, Donaeo and Warrior Queen also popped round.

'Come Grime With Me' was born.

There's not the token wanker that usually slips into the average Come Dine With Me here but, like the original, the highlight is the narration. Provided by no less than Jammer, there's some absolute gems from him in this little video so have a watch.

Come Grime With Me video

Boxfresh presents ... Come Grime With Me! from Boxfresh International on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Around Bow with Lee Brasco - Part 3

This is the third part of a little tour around E3 with Lee Brasco. You can catch the first instalment here and the second here.

But for now the talk of radio filters out, and we go through Lanfranc estate. Over one of the walls, looking towards Roman Road, we can just see the top of the sign.

rhythm division Pictures, Images and Photos

The sun shines, and the tees in the window look so much better than on the internet thumbnails or Myspace albums where I usually see the designs. Hoodstars, SN1 and Boy Better Know are the main ones on show.

There's no customers, so we just have a look around. It's the sort of place that you step into and wish you were a DJ. It's not the biggest shop, but funky vinyl is stacked all along the back wall, behind the steel-topped counter with decks sitting on top. But it's on the oppposite wall where all of the grime CDs are, complemented by a smaller stack of road rap CDs on the right.

If you could only get five CDs from here right now, which ones would you get?

Brasco takes time to think.

LB: Race against Time, Trim's mixtape, Back 2 Da Lab 3, Down Volume 2 and Tinchy’s Star in the Hood. But if Tinchy’s album ain't there then Wretchrospective.

The guy out the back is sitting in the office.

LB: What's going on boss?

The man comes up to the front and stands behind the counter, giving us the low-down on the shop.

MrRD: Rhythm started about twelve years ago, and I’ve been here for about seven years.

How's Rhythm doing at the moment, given the recession and stuff?

MrRD: We haven't been doing too badly to tell you the truth, because-

Because Rhythm's a specialist shop?

MrRD: Yeah exactly. We're a specialist shop, so people will still spend their money here. Obviously we get in a lot of DJs and collectors as well as fans so, even if they're bruck-up, they'll still spend money on music because it's a hobby. And also, in these times, music is something that's fun and which gives entertainment.

I still think about his seven years. He must have remembered a few notable customers from back in the day. Dizzee?

His face lights up.

MrRD: Ah yeah, I remember Dizzee coming in here back in the day, course. He would make a tune at home on his computer, press it up round the corner and come straight down here, boxes and boxes of vinyl he would bring in to us. Around I Luv U times we would buy boxes and boxes off him, knowing that we would easily sell them all.

Dizzee was on the main stage at Glastonbury last week. His new song Holiday looks like another chart-topper.

MrRD: See some people might say that Dizzee has sold out, but there's a part of his music that's still E3.

What? Like in his delivery?

MrRD: I dunno but, to me, I just think he still brings a little bit of Bow E3 to the mainstream.

LB: Yeah man, Dizzee still reps for E3 - I'm not even gonna say he don't.

MrRD: Like I would say that grime was born in E3, and in that sense Rhythm is the lifeblood for the music here.

LB: When I came in here, I used to think that, one day, I wanna get on that wall.

Brasco almost says it as an aside, but it still shows that this isn't just a place to buy records. It's a shop with a history, and one of the cornerstones of a culture. I didn't quite realise Rhythm's significance only half an hour before.

LB: There was another shop that opened in Mile End called Allstar Records, but that closed as soon as it started.

MrRD: Yeah, I remember that. Rhythm was already more established, and they had nothing that we didn't already.

tinchy picture 2003 Pictures, Images and Photos

So are you - well maybe it's the wrong word - but like kinda 'proud' of Tinchy, Dizzee and Wiley, coming from here and now seeing them having such success?
MrRD: Yeah of course, definitely. I remember Tinchy coming in here.

He puts his forearm across his body, just above his waist.

MrRD: He must have come up to about here, you couldn't see him on the other side of the counter. I saw him and I was like 'what!? This guy can MC?'. But he was merking raves, 'tingz in boots' and all that, you know like the Eskimo Dance Top 100 reloads or whatever. Everyone in the crowd would just be going nuts.

Mr Rhythm Division fully explains by bussing gunfingers behind the counter. Brasco points at the Tinchy album on the rack.

LB: Tinchy is an original. Apart from Wiley, Tinch has probably been doing grime the longest out of all of the MCs you see on this wall - he helped pave the way.

But we change to current talk - what's the best grime-sellers in the shop at the moment?

Mr RD: Erm, a few things have been selling well. 'Microphone Champion' and 'Race against Time' have probably done the best.

But with all the June 1st hype, who has sold the most so far?

MrRD: They've both done well, but here probably Wiley.

LB: Well Wiley is from the bits, so that's kinda expected to see him sell the most here. We all support him fully.

MrRD: But the hype and publicity of releasing on the same day has worked, because what's been happening is that people having been coming in and buying both albums at the same time. Another thing is that the Skepta and Wiley albums have done a lot of units in a short space of time. Like for example what we would expect to sell in two or even three weeks, they did in just one week.

Brasco asks what has sold the most in the shop, ever. While the guy thinks, I pluck a guess at Eskimo.

MrRD: Yeah I actually think it was you know. The thing is that with vinyl, Wiley was just absolutely untouchable. A few years ago, if he had something just out the phone wouldn't stop ringing. For Eskimo, people were even driving down from Wales just so that they could get the tune.

Logan Sama's Earth 616 Maniac vinyl is there. I ask to have a look. It's green and it's Maniac and I just really want it, even without decks. How have they been doing?

MrRD: It's difficult because Logan's doing on his own what at the very least what three or four people should be doing. We only got them in last Monday but they are selling solidly. Not massive numbers, but just selling solidly.

I'm just about to ask the guy what his name is, but the phone rings again. He's picks up, and now seems a good time to leave. On the way out, near the funky vinyl, is Lee Brasco's Computer Girls, with Having a Bad Day on the B-Side.

LB: Make sure you go out and get that man, it's a good look.

We carry along down Roman Road. Brasco sees a tidy car sitting in traffic. The motor moves off but Brasco hurries, following the car down the road it just turned. We flag it down near Olga primary school.

LB: Oi, Mercs!

Mercston pops his head out of the window.

M: Ah Lee man, what's good fam? Alright - I'll pull over for a sec.

Catch the rest of the Roman sights and find out what Mercston's up to on Grime Forum tomorrow.

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