UK Hip Hop has always been heavily influenced by the Golden-Era, New York boom bap sound. Whether it be Blade and Phi Life Cypher rapping with American accents or the gritty, scratch-infused production that still features predominately on key artists such as Jehst and Klashnekoff’s records, it makes me proud to be a British hip hop fan. Whilst the mainstream are still milking the â€˜throw a female vocalist on the hook and it’s a hit’ formula, the hip hop community itself still fully embraces that throwback sound, but always threw a British twist in to the equation. Endemic is a producer from Nottingham that has always had a healthy combination of both American and British in his beats.
2009’s “Terminal Illness” was well-received by fans on both sides of the pond despite being nothing more than a bunch of hard raps and hard beats. But sometimes that’s all you need with hip hop â€“ as long as the rhymes are interesting enough and delivered with a technically refined manner, and the beat bangs, many rap fans are happy enough. The problem with a lot of producer-centric compilation records is that the strength of the album lays in the individual songs rather than the overall package. Statik Selektah, Pete Rock and numerous others have tried to craft records that showcase their talents, but usually end up being half good, half skippable. Fortunately, Endemic’s prelude to the inevitable “Terminal Illness 2” consists of mostly strong examples of street rap.
Endemic released “Terminal Illness” a few years back now, with a healthy dose of American rappers from the ever-popular Sean Price through to underground stalwart Killah Priest. His production is always hard hitting, usually relying on crashing snares and subtle strings or pianos. The style somehow maintains a British-ness, with Cappo or Cyrus Malachi proving lethal when paired with Endemic’s backdrops over recent years. There’s no denying Americans sound stereotypically New York over these beats, but the production alone doesn’t suffer from being copycat like fellow Brits Anno Domini. In fact the track that works best is “Shadow Stitchin'” featuring Tesla’s Ghost, a sick combination of harps and strings with an emcee I’ve not heard before, very British (almost sounding like Mike GLC on steroids) and incredibly pissed off. By the third verse, he struggles to spit bars coherently. Another track that truly proves Endemic is one of Britain’s best talents is “NY Untouchables”, a vicious beat with Tragedy Khadafi delivering one of his best verses all year.
Just as “Terminal Illness” saw Wu-Tang affiliates Hell Razah and Killah Priest contribute their higher profile prophecy-rap, Endemic has called in Hell Razah again, this time to rap alongside Kevlaar 7 and London rhyme-machine Melanin 9. “Three Kings” is suitably epic, sounding like the type of beat that would play as you walk through the corridors of an Egyptian pyramid. Melanin 9 attacks the track like his life depends on it, while Kevlaar 7 adds to the atmosphere by name-dropping Medina, mandolins and spider webs. “Hip Hop Poets” is musically sound, as good as any Premo-knockoff but doesn’t quite meet expectations given the status of lyricists Sha Stimuli and Cyrus Malachi. “24k Rap” sees Triple Darkness member Ray Vendetta provide a down-to-earth contribution that was better than I was expecting. Stylistically similar to Ramson Badbonez in his chatty delivery and unabashed attitude to just talk about real life without any vague metaphors, it left me wanting more.
What is interesting with “Quarantine” is the occasional appearance from mainland European artists. “Casquettes” sees Le Sous Marin provide a dominant presence atop some production IAM wouldn’t turn down, and “Real Recognise Real”, despite having the most played out song name in history, sees Mexican emcee Eric El Nino and John Maloso combine with Durag Dynasty member Tristate for a unique example of international hip hop. Of course, “Quarantine” isn’t without it’s weaker moments. Bugsy Da God’s “The Arrival” feels like it is going through the motions, with Bugsy using the fact Endemic sounds a little bit scientific to fuel his rhymes. Master K Bar’s “Sandy” just sounds out of place, with the emcee having an amateurish, emotionless presence that isn’t on the level the rest of the record operates on. Even Endemic’s production sounds half-assed.
“Quarantine” provides plenty of dope beats and hard rhymes, but it’s worth noting some songs can be heard elsewhere too. The admittedly excellent “Hell’s Garrisons” is two years old and was on Cyrus Malachi’s “Ancient Future”, as was the posse cut “Rap Assassins”. Considering three people knew about that album, it makes sense to include them here, as Endemic’s production on both cuts is some of his best. There’s no hiding the fact that you will already be into a certain style of hip hop to truly appreciate what Endemic and company are offering up here, so if you’re craving another slice of hard production but have a willingness to hear emceeing from various areas of the world, there is little not to recommend.