I really miss Afro-centric hip hop, particularly the passion behind the sentiments associated with it. I also miss the enlightenment provided by the rappers of the mould; I actually learnt quite a lot from the rappers of the era during my youth, and I say without any exaggeration that they played a major role in shaping me into a far more culturally aware person than I would have been had hip hop of that nature not come into my life. Whilst there are a handful of hip hop artists these days waving barely noticeable black awareness banners, the movement is nothing like it was. Hip hop is regarded as many things these days; an art form, a culture, a dance style, a fashionable trend and image, or simply another genre of music (and at times hip hop is unfortunately made to look as an exploitable gimmick when someone like Miley Cyrus latches onto it), however the idea of hip hop being a movement of awareness and change has long been forgotten – for close to 20 years now. It’s a sad fact, and I think that deep down the likes of Chuck D, KRS-One, Paris and so on wouldn’t be too happy with the lack of knowledge, wisdom and understanding in today’s hip hop. Yes, hip hop still holds on to back in the day ideals such as the Four Elements, and there’s an ever growing retro trend developing in the sound of the music also, but unfortunately important ideologies that were once very significantly at the root of the hip hop such as “Fight the Power” and “By Any Means Necessary” rank as pretty meaningless and insignificant to kids into hip hop these days. Many of the new generation of fans label such hip hop as “too preachy” (I’ve heard such sentiments time and time again in relation to KRS, for example). Whatever happened to the “Edutainment” factor in hip hop?
1995’s “P$ychological £nslavement” by the UK’s Silent Eclipse is an album that I often turn to when looking to get an injection of the thoughts and era that I described above; an era where I was angrily waving my fist in the air, chanting down the oppressors in unison with my rap heroes. Actually the album came out at a time when the Afro-centric era was on its last legs; by 1995 hip hop in general was all about East Coast vs. West Coast, The Wu-Tang Clan, G-Funk, Master P/No Limit Records etc., whilst African Medallions and Malcolm X quotes on albums were mere novelty trends of the past. UK hip hop itself had also left the once prevalent black conscious leanings behind, and went in a variety of other directions that weren’t particularly focused on fighting oppressors.
Before even talking about the music it has to be lyrical content of Silent Eclipse’s MCD (i.e. pronounced as emcee D) that gets first mention. He’s pissed off and in a very militant mind-state, and he has no hesitation in telling the listener who and what makes him that way. You need not look further than the album cover and the song titles to know exactly what you’re getting on this album. Song names like “Best at Slavery”, “Government Piss Off, Parliament Spin” and “Policing as a Tool” play out topically as their names imply. The album cover further reinforces the themes, with quotes such as “My soul is mine you can’t buy that”, “Facts not myths” and “Spread the knowledge inside the black brotherhood”.
The verbals on this album are the major highlight as they are very blunt and confronting; a bluntness to the extent of which hasn’t been reached on many other rap albums, if any. For example, stinging attacks on (at the time) UK Prime Minister John Major are very abundant, more-so than any US rapper ever spoke out against their own President. “Story to Tell” is a good example:
“I could dis a rapper if I have to, but mostly I’m taking out the fuckers that oppose me
I like to dis the government, killing my people left and right
And you know the little fuckers are lovin’ it, and they been there for years
Where’s the MC gonna draw the line, dissing wack emcees wastes my time
I’m talking to the army of black intelligence, so-called dropouts
Not the fuckers putting the pop out
A twist in the little fucker’s tail
John Major praying to the devil daily, thinking he won’t fail
That feeble little fucker John Major
If I see you round ’bout near me on your own, I’m gonna tuck you
Put John Major on a giro for one fucken week
He starts selling his ass on the street for corn beef
Then he realise, most of the people he generalise was not really thieves
Then he have to go and visit a police station
Hand himself in for skanking people on inflation
Slap my cheek, I turn the other cheek?
Nah mate, I smack you with a bat
Til you no longer speak those lies, deceit and those fuckerys”
The above is only a small portion of five minutes of line after line of relentless calling out of the British Government and monarchy. Bill Clinton even gets a mention.
Speaking of the British Royal Family, they are very much in the firing line across the whole album also. “Best at Slavery” leaves little doubt as to MCD’s stance:
“The Queen’s Mother is a slut bag, a true slag
So was both her mum and her dad
That family, I should have stalled, I hit a certain chord
What about the blacks that were thrown overboard on their journey into slavery?
When the mothers weren’t allowed to get to know their own babies
You weren’t there for her career or her love life
You was there to work for the rest of your fucking life
400 years later, things have changed, have they?
What’s their game? Take a look at your fucking surname
Explain how you landed up with your new name?
Your answer, you got the name from your slave master, seen
You want to make a pyramid in slavery, you’re pushing a broom
And that’s day after day, for real
If that weren’t the case, then you was working in a field
Notice that word you’re “working”
Working like a fucker
You say “what’s that gotta do” with the Queen’s Mother?
The government and the Royal Family won’t save me
Coz dem little fuckers was the best as slavery”
The album isn’t only finger pointing at others though. On “Baptism, War and a Satellite” MCD is calling on his black brothers to unite:
“Wiping out ourself is wrong, ain’t it?
It’s planned though, we gotta undo their plan
Their scam grows, they want ya kill another black man
The sand blows, they want to obscure your vision
We ha’fee look out for each other
That’s a must, because right now, the blacks, no one’s lookin’ out for us
Yo better know, so if we’re killing off each other
And we’re flexin’ like how pleased we are
We all are making their jobs easier
The race that killed off itself is that the tag we’re adopting?
If so, line up your coffin
You don’t like him coz he’s from another manor?
You’re buzzin’, because he might have been your cousin
Yeah, he could be the brother in the future that saves ya
When a dirty Nazi wants to shoot ya”
By now you probably have a clear picture of the lyrical content of the album; you can add targets like the police, the (mis)education system and the Church to the list as well, but all in all the album is driven by a very strong anti-government vibe. Admittedly, in terms of today’s audience, the constant bombardment of antagonism might be too much for some, especially as the average song length is around the five minute mark, and those five minutes are chock full of lyrics, but the lyrical content and its intensity is the main reason I personally love the album.
So all subject matter aside, what can you expect sonically? MCD possesses a deep, rough and raspy voice, with the added benefit of a ragga-tinged flow which he utilises to varying degrees throughout the album. For comparison’s sake to rappers that you may be familiar with: he’s a UK accented mix of Just-Ice and Nine, even reminiscent of Method Man in some ways, and becomes somewhat like Mad Lion when his ragga flow is fully activated. He has a superb voice, which has very appropriate levels of aggression and intimidation in it to suit the feelings he is portraying on the record.
Aside from the ragga track “One In Ya Body”, the production is shared equally by Danish production crew Madness 4 Real and UK producer Adam Fuest. Whilst the sounds on the album do vary, there is an overall feel to it; to me it’s somewhat of a darker and less polished Method Man “Tical” album sound, mixed with the rawness of the early 90’s UK hardcore hip hop vibe, with underlying ragga influences evident as well. Tracks like “How Many Die?”, “Story to Tell” and “Best at Slavery” all fit into the aforementioned formula, with “Best at Slavery” being a perfect rough and rugged opener to the album, setting the scene for the rest of the LP from both a sonic and mental standpoint. Madness 4 Real laced beats for the likes of MC Ren, Eazy-E, Ice Cube and Mack 10 (to name a few) which would explain the additional touches of the harder edged West Coast sounds on “Don’t Judge a Book By it’s Cover”, “Policing as a Tool” and “Baptism, War and a Satellite” – specifically with the heavy drums and the menacing synths. Although curiously, two of those tracks are Adam Fuest efforts, whose resume includes artists totally unrelated to West Coast hip hop (and unrelated to each other) such as Queen Latifah, Big Audio Dynamite, Samantha Fox and The Cure, so it’s quite interesting (and satisfying) to note that his sounds are closely aligned to what was presented by the other producers here.
For something a bit different, there are a trio of songs that hint towards the funky DJ Muggs/Cypress Hill sounds, namely “Government Piss Off, Parliament Spin”, “What Ya Gonna Do?” and the dope title track “P$ychological £nslavement”. Especially in the case of “What Ya Gonna Do?” which samples Lee Dorsey’s “Get Out of My Life, Woman”, which was used by Cypress on “Hits from the Bong” (and used by many other artists also).
However, “Black Ladies” and “One In A Ya Body” are distinct exceptions to the mostly uniform sound of the album; both are essentially hip hop album prerequisites of the era. The R&B track “Black Ladies” is a smooth female singer laden track showing MCD’s respect for black women of the world. It wasn’t my kind of song musically in those days, and still isn’t really, but you can’t front on the sentiment. “One In A Ya Body” is the aforementioned fully fledged raggamuffin track, where MCD fires up his ragga flow levels to the max and chats away for four minutes over a very enjoyable rough and rugged Jamaican rhythm (produced by reggae/ragga producers Mafia & Fluxy).
Thematically this album reminds me of other earlier efforts from UK crews Katch22 and Black Radical MKII, or stateside artists such as Public Enemy and Paris. The album sits nicely alongside all those artists, although as mentioned, MCD delivers his pro-black and anti-establishment messages in a far more intense manner than his peers – it is absolutely in your face verbal scorn here. What also marks the album as quite unique is that the 1995 release date was at the dusk of the militant and political hip hop era, essentially defining this album as a strong, poignant and passionate swansong to the era where hip hop was regarded by many as “The Black CNN”.