Wednesday, June 6, 2012

UK Hip-Hop for Adults

Previously, I've made a couple of posts about the early 90's UK hip-hop duo Solid 'N' Mind releasing top quality vinyl 12"s of their vaulted material from back in the day. Well SnM's MC, Whirlwind D, is back... this time with new material. But the quality's just as high.

The release is titled WD-40, as it embraces Whirlwind's new role as a representative of grown man rap. In other words, Whirlwind D is turning 40, and it's time to celebrate with a limited release of 300 slabs of wax in a smart picture cover.  WD-40 is a three song 12", plus instrumentals, so let's jump right in.

Regardless of which side you decide to start on, the first thing you'll notice is that the production is really vibrant. Solid 'N' Mind's Johnny F may not be along for this ride, but the relatively inexperienced Waxer (who, appropriately enough, is also turning 40) proves himself more than ready to take the wheel.  Music starts out sounding like a Phillip Glass film score, then explodes as crisp old school break drums drop like dynamite. Instrumental samples are rich and original, sometimes jazzy and sometimes cinematic; and they combine forces with instantly recognizable vocal samples for the choruses (from the opening to "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash On the Wheels of Steel" to Ferris Bueller), giving us an an epic sense of the old school returning without simply retreading old ground. It's the old school back on new terms.

"32 and Tea" is a nice, concise moment of reflection over some rich piano. But just in case that's too mature for you, "Stronger" takes it back to the rough, fast-paced battle delivery. Lyrically, however, it's an ode to UK hip-hop, including short (non-rhyming) appearances by MC Duke, Original One and Bandog of Killa Instinct. And "Hunter" has a nice PM Dawn vibe going for it.  That might not be a comparison anybody involved would embrace [there's an ocean between us, though, so I can say what I want  haha], but I'm talking about that all too brief period before Prince Be and Minute started lean towards house and pop music (much less that sappy, new age-y R&B stuff further down the road), and they were actually producing some nice, innovative hip-hop that made you chill and think.

Oh, and on "Stronger," they've enlisted a DJ named Theory 77 to provide the needle work. His work is really sharp and  precise; I could've done with a scratch mix, with just him cutting up over the beat. And I want to hear this guy on a lot more records in future.

If you're into UK hip-hop, this has gotta be one of the best new releases in a while. It's a limited, and the pre-orders have shipped, but you can still order copies (and listen to clips) from D's bandcamp page for a reasonable 6.99.  ...That's pounds, though, not dollars.

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