That Don't Mean
High Focus Records
Fantastic to see TrueMendous picked up by the ever-sharp High Focus, and absolutely cannot wait for a glut of tracks from her over the coming year. Her HF debut boasts a fab, bubbly funky backdrop courtesy of Pitch 92, but crucially showcases True's astonishing rhyme skills, her sharp wit and her ability to slip between the deep, the personal, the hilarious, the domestic and political within the space of lines and bars. The first female signing to High Focus, and though it seems crass to say it, I really hope that in 2020 artists like TrueMendous, IAMDDB and more familiar names like Little Simz finally get their due for creating some of the most compelling UK rap music out there. All hail.
Produced by Toni and Marek Pędziwiatr from the group EABS (a jazz sextet from Wroclaw), this bargain four-tracker showcases the oddly compelling lo-fi hip-hop of Toni Sauna that we'll hear more from with his debut full-length later in the year. 'Dead Flour' is weird beard Pan-Amsterdam-style nuttiness, 'Pimp Game' a truly bizarre mix of fluid '80s pop and echoey Kool Keith-style rhyming, 'Red Eyes' mixes gruff dancehall vocals with primitivist eight-bit madness, and 'I Can Fight' is a strange swirl of minimalist jazzy funk with Sauna's uniquely unhinged flows. I simultaneously want to find out more about Sauna AND want to keep this fruitcake at arm's length. Engaging, funny, freaky hip-hop.
DA FLYY HOOLIGAN x CRIMEAPPLE x OH NO
It's great to see both US and UK artists feel none of the residual intimidation/inferiority that used to accompany Transatlantic collaborations and just GO FOR IT when they sense like-minds on the other side of the pond. The ever-dependable DFH here joins forces with that CRIMEAPPLE loon for this new single with production from the don dada Oh No and cuts from the legendary Jazz T. The frabjous, lurid neon soundtrack funk cooked up by ON and 'apple is sensational enough, but DFH absolutely matches it line for line, and as the track unfolds you're caught between getting frantically obsessed with the rhymes, and with the almost post-punk oddity of the groove. Utterly stunning.
Brooklyn-born, Barbados-raised rapper Haleek Maul has been building up an intriguing discography ever since his 'Oxyconteen' EP back in 2012 (when he was just 16). His new album 'Errol' is perhaps his best yet — an intriguing mix of trap dynamics, UK drill doominess, grime-style electronica and dancehall-style AutoTune crooning — as showcased on this addictive new single. By turns dealing with bereavement, loss, identity and ambition, the set is equal parts Vybz Kartel, Aphex Twin, Tricky, Crystal Castles and Kendrick Lamar, and offers something markedly different from virtually everyone else working in that hinterland where bass music and rap meet. Essential.
'Learn/How To Cope'
Stones Throw Records
A pair of pre-transmissions from K's soon-dropping '1988' album and, although you might know what to expect, it's wonderful how Knxledge always manages to delight you a little bit more than you can predict — sublime, sun-kissed, rain-lashed little pearls, these tracks. I'm reminded heavily of Stimulator Jones' sublime and too oft-forgot 'Exotic Worlds' set — there's a similar quiet-storm sense of simmering mood, but the textures are so damn delicious it's like stumbling across some great lost Patrick Cowley production from the early '80s. Cling them close.
'Legal Money '
T.C.F Music Group
In 2019 El Camino gave us five awesome albums, that most of us are still catching up with — unlike fellow underground heads like Tha God Fahim, there doesn't seem to be any drop off in quality with this prolific output, and his latest set 'Martyrs Prayer', featuring production throughout by 38 Spesh, is no exception. Grimy, grainy, deliciously deranged beats and sharp yet ruggedly unmannered rhymes throughout, as shown on this addictively menacing first drop. Get the newie, hoover up the old ones and good luck trying to crawl out of El Cam's woozy, wasted world.
'Scrape The Bowl '
'The Price Of Tea In China' is the stunning new full-length from Boldy James in collaboration with Alchemist, and it's his most diverse, devastating set yet, from which this single — featuring Griselda's ever-unmissable Benny The Butcher — is a highlight. Helps that Alc has crafted such a poised, tense, menacing track — twinkling piano riding a bass-heavy electro-funk groove full of buzzing saw-bass. But what really lifts this above the welter of dankness from the US underground this week is the way that Boldy and Benny swap lines without rancour or competitiveness; rather, the track is delivered with a kind of red-eyed, dead-eyed calm that's actually way more threatening and disturbing than any hysteria could have been. Superb.