RapReviews.com Editorial - Jay Soul: UK Hip Hop Month on RapReviews
Author: Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania
It's become customary since I started writing for this illustrious website
to try and target one month a year, dedicating it to all that is current and
noteworthy in the field of UK hip hop. It is noticeably easier in 2011, as
there is just SO MUCH going on. A few years ago, it was a genuine struggle:
now there is a flood of material, and the quality level has definitely
risen. Whilst it's not quite at the stage where the world is being conquered
(reports of that are premature, to say the least), the involvement of major
labels has helped to raise the profile of these young, hungry rappers.
Whether they have come from hip hop or grime, their end destination is
usually the same: success.
The Brits are very good at a couple of things: creating a "scene" and
getting the youth market hyped up about it. Unfortunately, the British music
press is also extremely quick to spray hyperbolic praise to undeserving
artists. Whilst I'm proud of my nation, I'm also extremely aware of my
reputation and refuse to compromise on certain things: it would be fair to
say that the importance of my musical beliefs rank far higher than anything
religious. Therefore, you shouldn't ever see me "gassing up" a British MC
for the sake of geographical pride, or because I might just bump into them.
It's strictly about the skills.
Which makes it all the more satisfying to report that UK rappers have
stepped their game up. A lot. Yes, there are multiple chart successes, and
the inevitable sampling, crossovers and having to placate profit-driven
labels. But we are now entering the second phase: artistic freedom. In a few
of my reviews, I'd frequently say the same thing about debut LP's from
British rappers on major labels: that they sounded like guests on their own
label-assembled albums. The thing with a lot of labels is, however, that
once you've proved to them you can sell, they generally allow you a bit of
leeway the next time around.
Chipmunk is the perfect example - if you read the review of his debut
("I Am Chipmunk") and then check out "Transition" (up this week), you'll see that
he's rammed those words back down my throat. And it feels great. Great to
watch a young artist evolve, take their personal growth seriously and be
afforded the freedom to express themselves. Professor Green seems to be in a
similar position - unfortunately, his album isn't being released until after
this month, but just one look at the track listing for his sophomore effort
and one can ascertain that he's in a similar position.
Aside from the major label rappers, we will have a selection of independent
label MC's, unsigned artists and some real hustlers doing it all by
themselves. Some have a very contemporary sound, other have become experts
at boom bap; some spit grime, others hip hop; some are just can't be
categorised. The first phase was to achieve recognition through commercial
success, by any means necessary. That has been done. Now, the artists have a
license to thrill. Prepare to be impressed over the next month.
Originally posted: September 6th, 2011