Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dirty North

Martin Clark and Alex Sushon separately chide me for not knowing that "showa" has been grime slang for a good few years now. Apparently it originally comes from an infamous Jamaican gang who like to boast about showering their enemies with bullets. (And there was I half-hoping "showa" had something to do with precipitation, or personal cleanliness, or strong water pressure). So "showa", it's a twist on "killer", as in "that tune's killer".

It's also ruthless-meaning-good. As in this track--

KMZ, "Showa Man Dub feat. As it is TV"

where the MC boasts: "I walk with my stick every day, I make it rain"

Listening to all these darkbass-roiling 4/4 tracks with MC-ing on, it's a bit like a rewind to the summer of 2002, being in London and hearing outfits like Black Ops and Horra Squad on the pirates. There's that same odd feeling of being simultaneously repelled and rapt, appalled and attracted. The rapping, fairly crappy; lyrics ugly with misogny and carnographic doggerel; beats thin and cheap, murda muzak. That summer it wasn't at all clear whether this was the absolute nadir of UKG (i.e. So Solid's afterbirth) or the start of Something New. As it turned out, all that proto-grime submusic turned out to be the No Limit to Dizzee/Wiley/etc's Cash Money. The shit out of which greatness grew.

Remember Sublo inventor Jon E. Cash and "Swallow"? C.f. this.

And oh look at this: KMZ, "Batty Man Dub feat. As it is TV". Horrible (at least T.O.K. had a great beat).

Meanwhile, the other strand of bassline--the poptastic R&B hyperdiva strand, now that is actually the drastic pendulum swing from yang to yin, testosterone to oestrogen, that I had always imagined would happen in reaction to grime, except it took so long to happen I gave up on it and just forgot. But here it is: the return to dance energy, groove, amorous vibes, "girls like this/this one's for the ladies massive/feminine pressure". I'd imagined it would happen as a some kind of resurgence of 2step. Well, on the rhythmic substructure level bassline is
4/4, but its whole upper chassis pretty much is 2step. Bassline of the ‘Heartbroken’/’Smile’/’Bed’/’Never Rush’/’Why Can’t I Find Love’ stripe is pure ‘Flowers’/’Destiny’/’My Desire’/’Sorry’. And as much as it's called "bassline", it's got that extreme treble thing that 2step had, that fizzy ultrabrite sound.

Back on the hard’n’dark tip:

Cool bass-riff on this track, sMoKio "Janno", it's like bassline, screwed

From the West Midlands, this sMoKio fellow is kinda like Pitman, but for real.

Or perhaps at one point he wanted to be the next Mike Skinner, judging by "Hooligan House"

But then check out this JTJ-produced track "Is You" ,with a proper video

Then there's MC Murkz, the guy who did "Night Showa". Check out his tune "Manny Man"--he's from Manchester (lyrical references to Gunchester)--and his mixtape Do the Maths Vol 1 via Smugpolice

You know what it is, all this MCs-over-4/4, bassline rap... It's the Dirty North. Like with rap starting in New York, grime started in London. But it diffused itself into the provinces, then mutated. The results sound backward to the originators, just like crunk and other Dirty South regional sounds seemed retarded and crude to rap custodians. But...