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Yungun & Mr Thing - Grown Man Business...

Published by Warren Dell under on Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fed on a diet of soul, motown and rare groove, Mr Thing and Yungun have combined to create one of the UK Hip-Hop scenes most mature and original long players.

Grown Man Business is 11 tracks of Yungun's most mature and introspective work, combined with Mr Thing taking you back with a soundtrack dripped in retro soul.

That's not to say these two live in the past as they combine their present day style with a heavy nod to their musical influences.

The catalyst for the album were the tapes Mr Thing would put together covering 70's funk and soul, motown and rare groove which would be the soundtrack to their journeys to gigs in what Yungun dubbed the 'thingmobile'. Speaking in the latest Hip-Hop Connection magazine Yungun revealed that pretty much the whole album was conceived from those journeys to save on studio time.

The intro is a bit strange with scratches of American mc's lyrics over a classical sample, when it would have perhaps been better suited with some classic UK lines. The real intro is G.N.B (Just Like That) which drum beat rattles along with a chanting sample flowing all the way through as Yungun lays down the law.

The albums single Forget Me Not really deserved to be blowing up mainstream radio with it's soulful instrumental and chilled out lyrics. The more I listen to the track the more I feel like I'm listening to an Avalanches tune.

The album is quite short at 11 tracks with guests in the form of Devise & Doc Brown on the violin led This Is Who We Be and Lowkey and Stylah drop by on the remix to Spit Fire, which was originally on the Essence album.

Although quite a short album there is still plenty to sink your teeth into and the rich blend of soulful beats make this a pleasant listen, although you feel as nice as it is to see Yungun show more of a mature side you just yearn for a few more uplifting party tracks. This isn't to put himself or the albums concept down at all but it definitely makes you want the proper solo album from Yungun to be coming soon.

Record bosses want to be tax dodgers...

Published by Warren Dell under on Thursday, September 28, 2006
In a move which could improve the music industry when it comes to finding new talent, record label bosses are to lobby the government to create a tax credit scheme that will enable them to invest more money in their search for the next big thing.

Similar schemes have been in place for years for encouraging research and development for a range of industries including pharmaceuticals, computing and car manufacturing in Britain.

The BPI, which represents hundreds of record labels claim the record industry spends the same as the aforementioned fields on their A&R endeavours, about £200 million - 17 per cent of their turnover.

The BPI paid £300 million in VAT last year, a chunk of which would be eaten into if this relief would be given. BPI chairmen Peter Jamieson said "Such a system would create incentives for greater investment in our industry and would put the development of British intellectual property on the same footing as other industries."

It would certainly help unsigned talent in this country and certainly in the area of black music, where we lag far behind in the amount of money and time invested into looking for new talent. Instead major labels would rather go for the quick buck and concentrate on releasing an American acts music.

We certainly have the talent in this scene but how many times have we heard down the years that an artist gets dumped soon after signing if a single doesn't perform well. New acts have to rely on trying to get a single deal, when labels should put the time into the long-term.

They should only have to look at the successes of Dizzee Rascal, The Streets and Lemar to name a few, that our artists are worth investing in.

Independents have a better ear to the ground and are more willing to hunt for the talent, but they need help too with limited funds available. It might not change things over night as we need more people that understand the scene to be behind the desks at the major labels, but with extra funds maybe they'll be willing to make it work.

Although not a sure fire way for success it would be good to see major labels invest in the smaller independents, utilizing each others talents. The independents like 679 and XL Recordings have plenty of talent on their roster and would be left to carry on with their formula for working, but with a major labels promotion and marketing behind them it can be beneficial for both parties.

R'n'B and Hip-Hop has never been so popular in this country with many acts flooding the charts, but with a change in perception from record label bosses it would be nice to see more done so we see artists from our shores making these moves. The next Lemar or Dizzee is certainly out there, the record labels just need to wake up and see it.

The Clipse in album push back shock...

Published by Warren Dell under on Thursday, September 28, 2006

This is hardly surprising, whenever we get near the release date of the Clipse second album, it gets pushed back. The latest release date was going to be on Halloween but now it's been pushed back to December. No word as to why but when the Halloween date was put forward Clipse were happily saying how they had re-recorded the album from scratch. Are they now happy with the results or are the label not so sure? It's been four years since Lord Willin dropped and about two since a second album was muted. I suddenly get the feeling we will never actually see this album and that it is actually a myth. The Clipse really don't exist any more as a recording duo. They now spend their days carrying round Pharrell's Bapestas.

Bugz In The Attic - Live @ Orange Rooms...

Published by Warren Dell under on Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I continued my gigging experiences Sunday night and found myself back at the delights of Orange Rooms to see Bugz In The Attic do their thing.

This was their first night of a short tour to promote the summer released Back In The Dog House album and with live band in tow was high on promise, and more than delivered.

With the exception of say Basement Jaxx and The Chemical Brothers a lot of dance acts prefer to stay in the studio and knock out singles and remixes for others.

For ten years Bugz have been doing this but they were always going to be different to your average dance collective, with so much going on in their album songs and a blend of funk, soul and dance the live experience was always going to be something spectacular.

Each of the band members were switching instruments between songs and were flowing with energy, whether that was hyping the crowd or throwing some eye catching dance moves. At one point one of the band members took to the floor with his tambourine to shake it with crowd, which in turn started an impromptu dance cipher.

But the standout was the singer Yolanda whose smile lit up the venue and when she started to sing it had me hanging onto every word. The girl has some moves as well.
The long-standing single Booty La La received the biggest cheer while Don’t Stop The Music and Happy Days were well received.

Their album is one of my personal faves this year and I’m sure will be in my end of year lists, after tonight it will be hard not to include their live show also.

Grown man business live...

Published by Warren Dell under on Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Living in Southampton you don’t get an abundance of Hip-Hop gigs. But around September when the last of the summer nights disappear and the students flock to the city, we get a couple of months where gigs happen and then little or nothing for the rest of the year. This looks like changing now though as the trendy Orange Rooms bar has overseen a refurb and an extension, which now enables them to put on an array of live nights.

One of the first was the launch party gig for Mr Thing and Yungun’s collaborative effort Grown Man Business. The album has gone down well with critics ands fans alike and plenty of the packed capacity were showing appreciation and rapping along with the material.

After Mr Thing dropped an array of Hip-Hop bangers Yungun came into his own and proved why he is one of your more favourite emcees. Tracks like Push and Dancing Shoes are guaranteed to put life into any party and had people throwing their best b-boy stance and Soccer am moves. The majority of tracks from Grown Man Business were giving an airing here with G.M.B (Just Like That) and the lead single, the summery soulful Forget Me Not were standouts for me.

Their was plenty of mutual appreciation from Yungun and Mr Thing after their long awaited appearances in Southampton, hopefully it won’t be too long until they are back in one form or another. With plenty of acts planned for Orange Rooms and Southampton the next few months, Hip-Hop heads down here are being spoilt for choice. In fact in a couple of weeks people we’ll be faced with the dilemma of whether they go see Sway at Nexus, or De La Soul at the Guildhall.

Amp Fiddler - Afro Strut...

Published by Warren Dell under on Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Known for being a part of George Clinton’s Parliament and Funkadelic groups while credited with introducing J Dilla to the drum machine, Amp Fiddler is drenched in soul. His widely anticipated second album Afro Strut picks up where Waltz Of A Ghetto Fly left taking us on a journey of nu-jazz, soul and funk that just might fracture your nose. You don’t expect the ordinary with Amp and his experimental fusion of music blended with untouchable vocals is very much welcomed after a two-year hiatus. This guys oozes class and confidence and doesn’t dilute his music for anyone, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

With that trademark drum beat rattling along you can tell the track Faith had Raphael Saadiq involved. Sharing production duties this serves as the albums opener and is almost the best cut overall with it’s chilled out feel.

Our very own Mpho Skeef assists on backing vocals of Right Where You Are as he declares his commitment to be right by his girls’ side. This is the first release and also has some excellent remixes for the house persuasion in you from Tom Middleton.

Ridin was recorded on this side of the pond and is the most up-tempo track on the album. It has an old school vibe to it that wouldn’t look out of place at an 80’s night, yet is still sounding so relevant today. We need more of this quality on the radio. That pretty much goes for the whole album as Amp has carried on where he left off after Waltz Of A ghetto Fly. He is currently on these shores touring and suggest you try and catch at the earliest opportunity. This guy is the real deal.

Wiley makes big boy moves to Big Dada...

Published by Warren Dell under on Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Congrats go to Wiley who has signed for the respected Big Dada label. After going with Boy Better Know for the 2nd Phaze and Tunnel Vision series, he'll now have the backing of label who have had success with Ty, Roots Manuva and recently Spank Rock.

Big Dada are quite a diverse label and are perfect for Wiley to get his music over to a wider audience while still having complete control. Something he was pleased to say on the labels site.

"I think it's good because all my life I've been looking for a creative control, to make an album that I'll enjoy listening to and performing... a grime album that I really want to make!"

It will be interesting to see if any collaborations with other artists on the Big Dada roster happen. I personally would love to see a Spank Rock and Wiley collabo.

Book review...

Published by Warren Dell under on Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Freakonomics by Steven D.Levitt & Stephen J.Dubner

Onto another book review that strays out of the music genre, but we can't be living that ghetto lifestyle 24/7 you know. Sometimes you have to step away and be entertained by other means.

While economics may analyse how individuals and societies seek to satisfy their needs and wants, Freakonomics takes a simpler view of things to get people into an economist’s way of thinking.

The subjects chosen at first may seem pretty random, but on reading one chapter you'll begin to understand the similarities between a member of the Ku-Klux Klan and an estate agent.

At first that may seem such a strange comparison to make but the way the authors break down their case you quickly understand each other’s common goal.

The reason behind having what would seem to be two different cases compared is to get people to become economists in their own right. By asking the right questions many of life’s everyday mysteries don't need to be so mysterious.

The subject of economics isn’t one that immediately strikes people as being very glamorous or sexy. It gets the least recognition when it comes to handing out the Nobel Prize in that field but the theories put forward by the economist Steven D.Levitt and his research will change the notion that economics is only about finance.

The chapter on “Why do drug dealers live with their mums?” is an intricate breakdown of the drug selling hierarchy that is no different to the corporate model of a company like McDonalds. Where people at the top make substantial wealthy gains while the foot soldiers carry all the risk for little pay.

Freakonomics is a book that should be read by anyone who wants to further their thinking of everyday issues. By thinking outside the box and taking a different approach to matter, like putting the fall in crime in America down to not an improvement in policing but abortion being made legal - Steven D.Levitt manages to make statements that on the face of it seem outrageous but when you think about it, make a lot of sense.

Has Beyonce turned Jay-Z soft?...

Published by Warren Dell under on Sunday, September 17, 2006
It’s been two years since Jay-Z took over the hot seat as el presidente of Def Jam and in that time he has managed to turn the label into a haven for R'n'B music. For a label that at one time was putting out albums by The Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Run-DMC, their release schedule in recent times now includes Tearri Mari, Rihanna and Ne-Yo.

The label has always had a soft spot for R’n’B with Def Soul putting out records by Sisqo, Montell Jordan and Kelly Price to name a few. Now the label is giving the indication that they are looking for the next Mario, rather than LL Cool J.

Since falling for Beyonce in 2003 Jay painted a picture of a man who was happy playing the background and letting the missus shine. He didn't long to make records and had had enough of the rap game. It was now time for other avenues to take up his time and when the Def Jam position was announced, despite having limited experience with running Roc-a-Fella (a roster full of weed carriers) it was hoped he could bring back Def Jam as the 'in' label, back to its previous glory.

Their focus on rap music hasn't been top notch since his appointment and many of the labels roster have let their discontent known with DMX and allegedly Ludacris all airing their feelings on wax. DMX seems to think Mrs Jay-Z has something to do with it, which may explain his recent flip-flop fetish. "...He’s just not the same," DMX complains in Vibe magazine. "It's BeyoncĂ©. He's a sucker for love. Thugs don't do flip-flops. Yo, no matter how much vacation I'm on - we been to St. Thomas, Bahamas, all the little islands - I don't wear no flip-flops. I'm never that comfortable, not even in my own house."

Has this softening up resulted in a change of output by the record label? Or is he worried that he may sign that someone who could take away his legacy. Although Ghostface would like to refrain from a Kobe Byrant filling Michael Jordan's shoes comparison, he was talked about filling that void and getting the commercial success he deserved, but his album ended up no better than his previous sales wise.

Now off the label after 22 years there LL Cool J recently added that his the focus on other artists may not be 100%, as Jay embarks on another tour ahead of his return.

“I think Def Jam needs to be a better promoter of Hip-Hop” speaking at the VMA’s “…I think Jay-Z does a very good job… of promoting Jay-Z.”

The talent on the label and promotional work was always in need of a shake-up, with a lot of artists no longer the draw they once were, but only sub-standard rappers have been brought in so far. Def Jam's biggest money earners have been Rihanna and Ne-Yo of late. Not to knock those talents but they aren't exactly what you envision when you look at those iconic record sleeves.

Jay-Z looks set to release Show Me What You Got as his first single from his out of retirement surprise comeback album. Either the director of the film classic Friday F Gary Gray or Hype Williams will shoot the video, which will be from the album Kingdom Come. With his mission to turn Def jam into the an R'n'B paradise it will be interesting to see what sort of direction he goes in with the album, which will feature production from Kanye West, Timbaland and The Neptunes. Pube head lead singer of Coldplay Chris Martin is set to feature on one of the songs. Already it seems this could be as disappointing as the Black Album.

If he doesn't come hard with a classic set then it will be a crushing blow to Def Jam and the man himself. Hip-Hop may not be in such a great state depending on what you read but it's debatable whether we need another album from Jay. We knew all along he would return but if he comes out and delivers another Black Album or Blueprint 2, then it looks like it's back to being Beyonce's bag handler. Lets hope Beyonce hasn’t got those Roc-A-Wear trousers on just yet…

Like that fat kid in the playground...

Published by Warren Dell under on Thursday, September 14, 2006
...a lot of digs are being thrown at Wiley right now. I seem to have lost count of the amount of emcees who've gone at him now. Whether they have been around for a minute or are just new in the game it seems going at him is one of the credentials if you want to be a grime artist. Currently Ghetto, Scorcher, Mercston, Wretch 32 and Devline are acting the school bully, to add to Fire Camp and pretty much 80% of grime emcees in the past. It's a backhanded compliment to his standing in the scene and while he has thrown lines back at them all in a couple of tunes he's kept focused by working on Tunnel Vision Volumes 1-4. Notice how JME and Skepta have stayed out of it as they prepare more material. If more emcees showed this focus and stayed out of throwing time wasting pot shots the scene would be in a much better state right now.

I don't really see how going at Wiley will make a name for yourself when nine times out of ten he's going to come back and pick you off with little effort. Hip-Hop has always had its fair share of beef but artists already have albums out, or at least it's to gain publicity leading up to an album release. Going at each other on Lord of the Mics and such is healthy competition, but I for one am finding this going at Wiley act tiresome. They say there is no money in grime, but if they spend more time beefing then there's even less chance of making some pounds and alienating any avenues to get it from venues not wanting to touch holding a grime night.

Speaking of that boy named William, Tunnel Vision volume 1 is now out from UK Record Shop and to preview on his murdochspace. Logan Sama did a free mixtape for Major FM messageboard users which is a quick fire shot of the scene and in the final bit of retail news another batch of Boy Better Know t-shirts are now out again. A must look for the autumn.

J Dilla - The Shining...

Published by Warren Dell under on Thursday, September 14, 2006
J Dilla blessed the Hip-Hop and Soul world with some of its finest cuts down the years with his close knit circulated beat CD’s being christened ‘treats’ by Questlove of The Roots. The Shining was made before his untimely passing and is one last treat before he went to that cipher in the sky. His music always oozed soul and a feeling which is missing in so much music these days and despite being a short 12 tracks, it’s justifiably one of the albums of the year with its heavyweight cast of Common, Black Thought, Dwele, Madlib and Busta Rhymes. Even D’Angelo makes a long awaited appearance!

One of the standouts is the song Love featuring a much welcome return for Pharoah Monch. It’s been seven years since Pharoahe released an album and if J Dilla can make him sound like this then we have one hell of an album on the way. Bringing that feel good factor back to the music it celebrates Love without being corny, it’s strictly real talk over a beat that leaves you with the feeling of Motown.

A lesson in in the art of emceeing is E=MC2. A hard hitting bounce of a beat combined with Common's on point flow. How those that could ever have doubted Common’s mic ability when he made ‘Electric Circus’ I don’t know. He fired back last year with ‘Be’ and continues his hunger with a lyrical assault over a hard-hitting funk beat with Dilla inserting a rousing chorus. Strictly heavyweight stuff.

Loving Movin is a head nodding jam and the most experimental of the albums 12 tracks with the vibe dripped in the feel of a late night cabaret bar. J Dilla provides the feet tapping backing to Black Thoughts gusto for a rhyme, coupled with shout outs to your favourite emcees. Other highlights see two artists who Jaydee was responsible for producing their most standout albums, Common and D'Angleo combine on the laidback So far To Go and Jungle Love featruing newcomer Guilty Simpson is one to test your speakers with its heavyweight drumbeat.

He may have passed to make beats in the sky, but Jaydee will never be forgotten.

The video gets taken to task...

Published by Warren Dell under on Wednesday, September 13, 2006

After pushing the grounds of journalism with my first video analysis, it's time for a second and it's the Diddy himself that makes a return to our screens. The video is for Come To Me and features the lovely Nicole whatshername from the Pussy Cat Dolls. The one that does all the signing and is featured on just about everyone's songs at the moment. She's appearing on so many at the right now even I'm thinking of getting her on a track. I don't even sing or rap but do a mean R Kelly 'whoo' and could do that in the background while she prances around.

The video opens the morning after the night before with what must be a typical night in the Diddy household with a couple of woman passed out from the Hypnotic, or maybe that Unforgivable aftershave he's now flogging. Some other girl appears and answers the phone and and answers that 'he'll be there'. Maybe it's another court date to attend for Black Rob or even Aubrey from Making The Band on the line.

Instead it turns out they are going clubbing and Diddy rolls in to make his grand entrance complete with Paul Wall grills. Now Diddy has the style and swagger when he has the suit look but looks like he's trying too hard when he has a baggy white tee on, the same applies with the grills. But this isn't ghetto vogue so back to the video.

Nicole makes her first appearance sat down singing her verse, really it should be her song as Diddy doesn't really say much. We then get treated to the first of Diddy's comical dance steps. You know when you're at a family gathering and all of a sudden the older members of the family have to take to the dance floor. It's something along the lines of that spectacle. For someone that danced in videos before his Uptown days he really should know better.

The whole song is about Nicole wanting some smuck to make a move but being too shy, it seems she had this problem in the Buttons video. What is it with these shy guys? Go Diana King. Diddy eventually tracks her down and we get some dodgy matrix looking video effect before he finally gets a hold of her, and he tries to impress her with the grandad moves again. It actually works. But don't be fooled that this will get you any dollsnatch in a club, unless you're worth the millions those moves need to stay on VH1.

Technically this video is no different than any other and sticks to the same hit the club then get the girl routine. But ample screen time for Nicole makes this one worthwhile watching, as long as you contain your embarrassment over those dance moves.

Myspace > Weed Carriers...

Published by Warren Dell under on Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Being part of a rappers entourage can be a great thing, you get off the streets and are introduced to a world you would probably never see, hang out in clubs full of models who would never have dreamt of going near you, and in the case of Tony Yayo - release an album despite having no talent. All this in exchange for being able to tend to your guys needs and occasionally take the rap for things that go wrong. Known as the job of the weed carrier this role has gone to new heights with its official recognition. But although things may seem all rosy for the weed carrier, there is something out there that is threatening to put them out of a job. Not some jealous hood rat that wants their spot in the entourage but something that has become a bit of a phenomenon in the last year.

Myspace may be able to break an unsigned musician but it could pose a serious threat to credentials of the weed carrier. Now we know the majority of the rappers around don’t edit their own pages, instead it is someone else’s job to add you when someone wants to be that rappers friend. It may spoil the illusion but I just can't see Cam'ron pondering whether to add DipsetAdam as his friend when the latest catalogue carrying pink wear from Luis Vuitton is out. So does this responsibility fall to the weed carrier now? Before their job was just about polishing their employers ego and rolling the weed, now due to the demands of having an online presence, weed carriers are expected to know their Apple Macs from their Mac – 10s. As well as keeping their rolling game tight they now have to worry about a backlog of friend requests.

Maybe this is why Diddy employed Farnsworth as his weed carrier rather than Black Rob? Can Busta Rhymes really expect Spliff Star to filter out the Stans? Is Lloyd Banks responsible enough to make sure Fiddy has more friends than The Game? I can see this issue being as important as boasting about how much bling you've got as the importance of the internet and in particular myspace has on any musicians career. That Tom fella may seem all friendly being your first friend and all, but he could be responsible for putting weed killers out of a job. Soon rappers at the top of the food chain will have to start looking to recruit smart college graduates with a tendency for some Mary Jane when they look to filling the spots on their entourage.

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