Goddamnit, Manc MC Black Josh's new full-length set 'Yung Sweg Lawd' is a freakin' MASTERPIECE — the production is handled by fellow Levelz headz Biome & Metrodome, as well as Reklews and Pitch 92 among others. This single, produced by Skepta, is the perfect introduction to the album's sultry, lurid, bass-heavy and addictive contours — the kind of low-end that is practically giving you a reach-around, and ever compelling rhymes from BJ, walking that perfect tight-rope 'tween scally hooliganism and molten philosophical despair. Ruffneck brilliance as ever from Blah!
Hock Tu Down
'Black Hoodie Weather '
HTD are Lee Scott and Reklews, which should already tip you the wink as to what kind of lunacy is going on here. OR SO YOU THINK — genuinely haven't heard anything quite like this from either of them before. The poise and balance of this track, its steady refusal to surge or depart from its intensely strange sound world, is entirely unique. What sound like Indian-classical-drone textures are slathered over some crisp cinematic beats; spooked Theremin swims with needling keyboards (or are they guitars?); the rhymes demand listening to from beginning to end to get the full narrative impact. Superb, and must check out the full length, 'Hock Tu 3' as soon as possible.
The Alchemist feat. Earl Sweatshirt
The new EP ('Bread') drops soon, featuring lip-smacking cameos from Westside Gunn, Conway, Roc Marciano, Black Thought and Earl Sweatshirt on this lead-off single. Very much digging the unplaceable oddity of the music here — haven't heard Alchemist dig this deep since 'Israeli Salad', and once I got used to Sweat's somewhat laconic delivery, the single works as almost an interlude piece, a dreamlike track of travel with occasionally violent sounds flickering in the peripheries. Packed with dread, which right now, is as it should be.
DA FLYY HOOLIGAN
Phwooar — what a gorgeous little package this is, five tracks on some delicious pink 7" (fnarr fnarr) vinyl, everything produced by NCL-TM, everything as intriguing and dazzling as you'd expect from DFH. Gritty soul samples, tweaked vocals and a gratifying unhurried-ness characterise the tracks here — this is music that unfolds slowly, seductively, teasingly, even if Hooligan's vocals are as feral and furious as ever. Something it's a total joy to drop the needle on, because it has the radiance and warmth of its sample sources but still, thanks to the rhymes, sounds totally contemporary. Superb.
Pan Amsterdam x Open Mike Eagle
First new music from the mighty Pan Amsterdam since the magnificent 'Pocket Watch' LP sees him hook up with fellow psychonaut Open Mike Eagle, for a stealthy, beautifully poised track. Sixteen bars for each MC in four verses, a delicious horn solo from Leron Thomas that'll have you digging out that stupendous Kamaal Williams album, and a neon-bright sense of gloopy, glitchy weirdness, that's the perfect way to welcome a new year of insanity. Hoping for more from this collaboration, and I rarely say that. A doozie.
Brothers Of The Stone
'Overseers feat Inspectah Deck'
Real Life Drama Records
Illinformed behind the desk, BVA and Leaf Dog in the booth, and man oh man, their new 'Return To Stoney Island' album's a corker, as you might imagine with M.O.P., Inspectah Deck, Young Z, Rome Streetz, Smellington Piff and Eric The Red providing cameos, as well as cuts by Jazz T. This is a tough, mournful track shot through with real beauty in the string hook, and the kind of hypnotic, headnodic quality of a prime Pete Rock production. No one should feel guilty about sounding like '90s stuff if you sound this fucking good.
'Talos Enters '
High Focus Recordings
The first salvo from a new departure for High Focus — a purely instrumental album from newcomer Talos, called 'Dissonance'. At a time in which Aver, Remulak, Chairman Maf and others are setting the bar high for rap-less hip-hop, it's good to hear Talos sound NOTHING like any of them, his work closer to Calvin Valentine's mix of lushness and hi-fi beats, definitely more engrossed in the '80s than any other era, and thumping with a confidence that's infectious. Bodes well for the full length, get on it.
MoSik & Koncise
One of the original MCs and producers from the Jungle Brown crew, Mosik, teams up with fellow MC/producer Koncise to drop this fantastically fresh track, that dives deep into the kind of jazzy, neck-snapping hip-hop Madison Washington fans would be familiar with. Love the stoned-to-the-bone lyrics and the tasty horn licks through this, suggesting that their debut album 'The Dots' might need immediate checking out.
'Warning Call '
Love the production from Sparkz and Metrodome here — a drill/grime/trap paced lunge to the beats, a heavy, dub style low-end, and twinkling, bell-like high-end Rhodes in the loop. Sealing yet another fantastic deal from the mighty Levelz are the vocals from Sparkz, Chimpo and Black Josh — every verse giving you at least a dozen rewind points of hilarity and incisiveness. Goddamnit I want Levelz to give us another full-length album, 'cause next to Foreign Beggars, they're emblematic of EVERYTHING that should be celebrated in UK music. Essential.