Saturday, February 07, 2015

garage rap # 5

Foundation tune.

Never heard this remix before.

And the instrumental

Here's a little thing I wrote in my Unfaves of 2000, written in early 2001. It starts out complaining about breakstep, a UKG strand/phase I found dreary, but then switches to identifying a sign of nuum life and a new direction: the emergence of garage rap as a separate genre rather than an occasional format within UKG, what in time would become grime:

... Generally [breakbeat garage] sounds too much like jungle minus the extra b.p.m speed-rush, hardcore without the E-fired euphoria. Or worse like nu-skool breaks... 
That said, the last batch of pirate tapes I got, showed signs of a new twist in this breakstep (or whatever they're calling it) direction: not so much jungle-slowed-down, and more like a post-rave, drum'n'bass influenced form of English rap. 

On these spring 2001 pirate tapes, there's hardly any R&B diva tunes, and every other track features very Lunndunn-sounding MCs or ragga-flavored vocals, over caustic acid-riffs and techsteppy sounds, like some latterday Dillinja production. Unlike with techstep or recent d&b, there's very little distorto-blare in the production, there's this typically 2step clipped, costive feel, an almost prim and dainty quality to the aggression-- a weird combo of nasty and neat-freak. 

Lyrically, the vibe seems to be similarly pinched in spirit, a harsh, bleak worldview shaped subconsciously by the crumbling infrastructural reality beneath New Labour's fake grin; UKG seems to be already transforming itself from boom-time music to recession blues. The Englishness of the vocals reminds me of 3 Wizemen Men and that perpetual false-dawn for UK rap.

Lots of killer tunes I can't identify, but one in particular stood out that I could: "Know We" by Pay As U Go Kartel. 

As I say, quite mean-minded and loveless music but sonically very exciting-- a new twist if not quite paradigm shift from the hardcore continuum.

And here's what I wrote about "Know We" (and Roll Deep's "Terrible") for the Grime Primer in The Wire, 2005:

Pay As U Go Kartel
"Know We"
Solid City 2001
Wiley and Roll Deep
Solid City 2001
Circulating on dubplate as early as 1999, "Know We" was in constant pirate rotation by the time of its 2001 release, alongside chip-off-the-same-block track "Terrible". Both are back to basics affairs: simple programmed beats, in each case adorned with the solitary hook of a violin flourish, functioning purely as a vehicle for the MCs. Another striking shared characteristic is the use of the first person plural. Each MC bigs up himself when it's his turn on the mic, but at the chorus individualism is subsumed in a collective thrust for prestige. "Now we're going on terrible," promise/threaten Roll Deep, and they don't mean they're about to give a weak performance. 'Roll deep' itself means marauding around town as a mob. But there's a hint of precariousness to Pay As U Go's assertions of universal renown. The sense of grandeur is latent; they're not stars yet. What does come through loud and clear on both tracks is the hunger. "Terrible" starts with a Puff Daddy soundbite: "sometimes I don't think you motherfuckers understand where I'm coming from, where I'm trying to get to." Both the PAUG and Roll Deep tracks were produced by a young prodigy named Wiley, whose catchphrase back then was "they call me William/I'm gonna make a million". Roll Deep are Grime's NWA (its ranks have included such luminaries as Dizzee Rascal, Riko, Flow Dan, Trim, and Danny Weed), with Wiley as its Dr Dre. If he's yet to make that first million, this human dynamo must surely have released close to that number of tracks these last four years.