Hip-Hop is global these days and so, it would appear, are its trends. It should come as little surprise then that across the Pacific from hip-hop’s birthplace yet another emcee is retiring from the spotlight. “Burn City” is Pegz’ third and final album as a solo artist. This may come as a bit of a shock as outside his home country he is, in his own words, “virtually unknown,” so retiring right now might seem a bit premature. But Pegz is far from belatedly jumping on the retirement bandwagon, so for those that don’t know, here’s a recap. Having only released his first EP in 2000, he has busied himself building the biggest independent hip-hop label in his own country and signing a plethora of the nation’s talent to it. This includes Hilltop Hoods, certainly the biggest act to cross over to mainstream success in a country where domestic acts lag far behind their US counterparts on the sales front. While he was doing this he also managed to drop 2 full length albums of his own, the first of which could certainly be considered an Australian classic. Seven years on the frontline is quite a while in hip-hop terms.
As such a stalwart his ducking from the limelight appears as significant to the scene Down Under as Jay-Z’s fooled many into thinking it was 2 years ago. The question is, has he come with suitably style for the occasion? Pegz wastes no time laying out exactly what you can expect at this leaving bash, or rather what you shouldn’t expect:
“Mighty drums bangin’ like Heidi Klum
Got DJ Bonez on the final cut
No diamond lump, no blingy bling
No synthy synth, no singy sing
Just hip-hop on a gritty tip
Like kinky bitches with a titty ring
Strictly hardcore, no ifs or buts
No video clips with Linkin Park
No pop hits in the singles charts
No club shit, I don’t listen to crunk”
It’s fair to say that Pegz sticks to his manifesto. Most tracks deal a dose of no nonsense hip-hop over samples of strings, horns, organs and the odd blues guitar. Pegz’ status in his homeland has clearly afforded him a premier choice of Ozzy beat makers. Plutonic Lab brings to the party several choice cuts of the tasteful organic sounding beats that have become his trademark. Suffa of Hilltop Hoods drops a number of catchy backdrops which stay on just the right side of commercial. Although his contributions do prove a notably less potent brand of party punch than the other beat smiths invited. While Jase of the Beatheadz uses the occasion to further his style with suitably grand horns leaving him coming off like Just Blaze in a cork hat. This is most evident on the highlight of “7 Days 6 Nights” where Pegs give us his recipe for a good week off:
“7 Days 6 Nights of animal instincts
A one way ticket traveling business
Random acts of passion and kinship
Backpacking through Paris in winter
Damage your liver with a Japanese stripper
And wake up in a national geographical picture”
It’s tracks like these where Pegz shines brightest. When he has a topic to stick to his flowing deep Melbourne drawl, which favors honesty and simplicity over thesaurus plundering wordplay and grammatical gymnastics, works best. On more free wheeling tracks “Block to Block” with Funkoars and “Before I Leave” the passion in his voice seems a little lacking and you feel he might have done this a few too many times before. His punch lines feel a bit too predictable and he is sometimes outshone by his guests. He does step his game up for “Dilligent Music” with Planet Asia and Vents, clearly wishing to look his best on a track with a big name US artist. Clearly though he’s not the type to speak unless there’s something on his mind. Thankfully concept songs make up most of the album as Pegz makes a leaving speech of several topics close to his heart including the state of his hometown (“Burn City”), calling it as you see it (“I Don’t Need Your Judgments”) and an open letter to the next generation (“No Sense”).
There is a danger that Pegz’ delivery could get a bit dull over 14 full tracks but instead he provides consistency as the soundscapes vary around him. What you’re left with is a good sense of who Pegz is and what he cares about, which is more than many manage. So we can forgive a few drunken ramblings off track in the same way Fridays office party excesses are forgotten by Monday. Pegz certainly has a well defined presence on the mic and while he might not be the raucous joker of his retirement party, he’s definitely the guy you’d want to get stuck talking to in the corner over a cold beer or two.