When discussing hotbeds of up and coming hip-hop talent, Atlanta, the Bay or the Midwest are locations you might expect to hear. What probably doesn't spring to mind is Brighton on the south coast of England. But unbeknownst to many this lively town has been bubbling up for quite some time and one of those breaking through has been Dr. Syntax. For those that don't know what the place is like the Doc's summed it up neatly on wax.
"Sex lies and digital videotape
Out-of-towners committing rapes
On weekend breaks convinced of escape
It's sun sea and burger meat
Disturbing scenes in the burning heat
One step beyond purgatory
Where I lives the perfect scene
Rich kids in their early teens
Already certainties for University
Bi nighters fights with guys in Burberry
Pros earn theirs keeping dirty sheets
Serving perverted freaks"
All this and more is spilled out over a set of moody strings, organ and hard drums. It's refreshing to hear an astute heartfelt anthem about somewhere other than one of the US' major cities. This track is typical of an album that, in a very English unassuming manner, gives a tangible window into its author's mind. There's no gloss, no spin, no beef just an articulate series of tunes collectively calling it how Doc Sinners sees it running a gamut of topics with typical ease. He's just as comfortable bashing other's egos with counterpart Stig of the Dump on "A Dose of Godzilla Slang" using punch lines like, "You're bring flames, well I'm Moonraker laser proof," as he is handing out worldly wisdom on "Sacred". Lyrically the real standout moments come from his ability to translate what goes down his ocular nerve back out his vocal cords. You'd have difficulty not to have rye smiles for at least one of the groups that gets a pasting on single "Subcultures".
"I met some UK Hip Hop heads on the Internet
Thinking 'Yes, I've finally found some kids that share my interest'
They spent the next sixty minutes on some whinging flex
Bitchin' about who they think is better Chester P or Jehst
I started chillin' with some indie kids
Who dressed as if they didn't have a penny
When they're clearly privileged
Obnoxious Oxbrige posh kids in a mosh pit
Watched me as if I was dogshit
I though 'Fuck this'
I went to party full of arty farty wannabe darlings
All dreaming of the day they paint a masterpiece
Charming freaks, dressed alarmingly
So you can't perceive the possibility
That artistry's not in their arteries"
Another of these is "She's Quite Some Picture" where the Dr. elucidates on the idea that maybe he needs a woman with a bit more than a pretty face. None of this is to say that he can't handle a good old fashioned dose of bragging as "Max Miller", "Animal Hides" and "Pack Mentality" show he can hold his own in a cypha with the best of them.
So far so good right? But it's not all about Benjamin even if it is his album. The album's main weak spot comes from what's spilling from the producer's desk. That's not to say that the beats are bad, far from it. They do however occupy a familiar head space of organic samples and natural drum sounds and as result there's a wealth of music out there for comparison. While much here stands up to the standard of its peers, past and present, it's rarely exceptional. The music flows along nicely and there is the odd hook for your brain but it doesn't stick around for the duration of a weekend. This is however a minor gripe for a set of relative unknowns, who show a wealth of potential on this release.
The Doc has lived up to the early promise of his numerous guest spots with this first full length. It's a set that shows an emcee who's already excelled in and progressed beyond mere freestyles and although it could use a few more real barnstorming nod-a-longs it's thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. If he takes up the challenge to up his game again on his next release, you could be looking at something quite special indeed. Now for a guy that's self-taught that is a considerable achievement.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: September 2, 2008