If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Stormzy's "Gang Signs & Prayer" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Stormzy :: Gang Signs & Prayer
Author: Grant Jones
"Stormzy is the #1 rapper in the UK right now. I'm not talking about skills, discographies or how much money he's got in the bank - Stormzy is a household name who simply has that crossover appeal so few British emcees manage to attain. He uses Twitter correctly for his thoughts on politics or racial injustice, but also for chatting about his favorite television shows. He'll pop up in Love Island or as a guest judge on X-Factor, without losing that respect he's earned from the grime scene. Given how long the likes of Skepta have been around, Stormzy is a product of a viral hit ("Shut Up") yet hasn't relied on a straightforward formula to try and replicate that success, instead crafting his brand carefully and delivering one of the best grime albums to date. Stormzy's debut album "Gang Signs & Prayer" is the first grime record to reach #1 in the UK charts. Grime isn't exactly new, but this record represents a pivotal switch - bear in mind that previous chart-toppers such as Tinie Tempah and Dizzee Rascal never accomplished this, despite garnering a large pop following. The seminal "Boy In Da Corner" peaked at #23, proving sales aren't the be-all and end-all. So how does "Gang Signs & Prayer" stand up to the few grime classics in a genre dominated by singles and mixtapes?"
Configa :: Configaration Volume 1 :: SlamJamz Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"One way to prove your underground hip-hop bona fides is to have Chuck D do the intro to your album firing shots at mumble rappers and trap rappers. That's how UK producer Configa launches his latest album, the 16-track "Configaration Volume 1," proving that he's no mere true school wannabe. Configa has been making music for most of this millennium, concentrating on sample-based beats that sound straight out of New York circa 1994. Maybe that's why so many old school New York rappers show up on this album. Craig G, Sean P, and Spoonie Gee are all featured. I'm guessing the fact that Configa makes the kind of beats that these legends came up rapping over helped get them on board. There verses are for the most part solid, with the blunt aggressiveness that I always associate with that era and region of hip-hop. There are also two verses by Asian-American rapper John "Vietnam" Nguyen, who died five years ago saving a friend who was drowning. His verses show a talent that was snuffed out far too young. British rappers round out the list of MCs. There's a decent range of styles represented, from hardcore East Coast rap to ragga-tinged UK rappers to more emotive indie rappers like John Vietnam."
J Hus :: Common Sense :: Black Butter Records
as reviewed by Matt Jost
Critical praise hasn't been in short supply for J Hus' "Common Sense" this year, the consensus being that the 21-year-old's retail debut masterfully ties up many musical influences that have gotten the public going in the present and not so distant past. Indeed this is not a record that gives you the same feeling over and over, a feat the East Londoner mainly achieves with the help of producer Jae5. Opener "Common Sense," festive and assertive, will likely please those looking for more traditional hip-hop fare as Jae5 and co-producers the Compozers pick from a rich palette of soulful ingredients right down to a playfully triumphant trumpet in the finale. J Hus himself remains distant (but not detatched) like most modern rap artists, but despite his casual demeanor it becomes quickly evident that as a performer he means business. What could be a better metaphor for this than money talk? "Bouff Daddy," one of several tunes with a distinct contemporary African influence, attains a certain level of sophistication in that department"
Rag'n'Bone Man :: Human :: Best Laid Plans Records/Sony Music
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"Some people may know Rag'n'Bone Man from his 2013 EP with rapper/producer Leaf Dog, or his numerous guest spots on UK underground hip-hop releases between 2012 and 2015, or his stint with Brighton-based rap collective Rum Committee. The overwhelming majority of people who came into contact with his music, however, most certainly did so through "Human," his widely successful breakout hit, which, depending on where you live, climbed up the charts in late 2016 or early 2017. Corroboration and concerns typically balance each other when an indie artist crosses over, and in Rag'n'Bone's case the distance that had to be overcome was particularly dratstic, from servicing rappers named Smellington Piff and Stig of the Dump with sung hooks to becoming the star of the show overnight and going platinum in a dozen countries. At the same time the singer has obviously been able to use his presumed handicaps to his advantage. Or if you want to be cynical about it, he's momentarily served as the music industry's token authentic guy, his working bluesman routine even falling in line with hipsterdom's championing of all things handmade."
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