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Looking ahead...

Published by Warren Dell under on Monday, February 19, 2007
Below is a piece I wrote for the excellent resource that is Rap News on some of albums to keep an eye out for in 2007.

Sway

It seems like such a long time ago that Sway dropped 'This Is My Demo' after some solid mixtape success. Although the album did great things and earned Sway a Mercury nomination and BET award, those that were familiar with Mr DaSafo will have felt a little disappointed that so much of the album had been heard before. Fear not though, as 'Not Another Flipping Rap Album' should drop in the first half of the year with a mixtape coming February 10th and an EP to drop in between.

Tracks floating around at the moment include 'True Stories', sounding similar to 'Up Your Speed' and an overview of life in the UK today and 'We Love You', which features Lupe Fiasco. Although nothing concrete has been signed yet, everyone’s least favourite chipmunk Akon has been mentioned a few times in interviews about a possible collabo, while one American act definitely working with Sway is Small World from Ludacris' DTP camp. They have worked on the upcoming 'Global Warming' mixtape.

JME & Skepta

The Adanuga brother’s names were on the lips of grime fans more than any other through 2006. Whether it was JME with his conscious Grime or Skepta drawing plenty of pull-ups with dance floor smash 'Duppy', they go into this year with the hope and anticipation from fans to carry the grime scene further. From Old Street to Oxford Street, the word is being spread through the street fashion must have – the Boy Better Know t-shirt. With the t-shirts, label and hilarious myspace diaries JME has received plenty of praise for his work ethic, sometimes overshadowing his skills.

If the scene is going to grow, then artists like JME are needed. Rumours are saying that either 679 or The Beats could sign him to an album deal. After four mixtapes and no sign of burning out of material, 2007 should see JME gracing more than RWD and the style magazines. Skepta may not have made as many tunes as his brother, in fact we’ve only had a few vinyl releases from him, but that should change this year with his album, not a mixtape as he will tell you, is released.

Titled 'Greatest Hits', it is due to be released through BBK, but don’t be surprised if Mike Skinner is involved somewhere down the line. Any time he is asked to comment on grime, his name graces his lips and he’s already dropped his lyrical flow on the 'Prangin Out' remix. Expect 'Duppy' and 'Single' to make the cut, but for something a little different and deeper, keep an ear out for 'Postcode Wars'. Who said Grime had to be aggressive?

Roll Deep

By the time you read this you should be able to pick up 'Rules & Regulations'. The first long player since 'In At The Deep End', their attempted pop crossover which failed to materialise. The deal may have turned sour, but the boys are back with a more focused and full on grime album. 'Badman' is a tune, which sees the most substance heard in their lyrics, as they discuss the wrong choices young people are facing. You may have seen the Trident funded video in recent months.

'Do This Ting' and 'Floating Thru The Sky' continue on the 'substance over hype' lyrics while 'Celebrate' is a party tune, but the beat stays grimey as Scratchy, Skepta and Jet Li trade words. With Wiley working on '2nd Phaze' and the 'Tunnel Vision' series, don’t expect too many bars from the Eski Boy but expect Breeze, Scratchy and Jet Li to shine. Also, added to the mix are Skepta and JME who people sometimes forget are now in the line-up.

Just Jack

If you don’t see or hear the name Mike Skinner in the same breath as this man then you’re very lucky. Since The Streets broke through, anyone rapping in an English accent gets compared to the brummie geezer. Call it lazy journalism, but as the man said himself, it’s great to hear more of the English language coming out on record. With his 2-step dance ode to the fickle celebrity he has already been tipped by the BBC as one of the ten best talents to come through. Although he has already released one album and played at the V Festival.

Combining a number of styles, he has ultimate crossover appeal while uniting fans of Hiphop, Dance and Garage. Give the funky and dreamy 'Writers Block' a try while 'I Talk Too Much' sounds like Platinum Pied Pipers, Sa-Ra and Jamiroquai were merged together with rapping over the top. Could be too different for some heads.

Example/The Mitchell Brothers/Professor Green

My favourite UK label, The Beats, look set for a big year, with three albums due from Example, Professor Green and the return of everyone’s favourite cockneys, The Mitchell Brothers. Starting with those cheeky cousins, expect the usual street wit and banter, but one track that could be the first single is 'Solemate'. With its acoustic guitar lick, it has crossover appeal all over it but don’t think it’s a soppy rap love song. Remember the brilliant 'Alone With The TV?' Like their label boss, they were easily dismissed as not being Hiphop by heads, but the new album should see them change their mind.

Going from rap battler to fully-fledged artist is not something that has been easy in the past for rappers, but Professor Green looks to turn his Jump Off and Power Summit success into album sales with his full long player dropping late summer. As he revealed to RapNews, he is working with Sem/Beat Peddlers, Core, Apa Tight, Sticky, Epydemix, Afreex, Plastician, Joe Buddha and his boss on the beats. Hit up the net for his video to 'Before I Die', because you won’t be seeing it on Base as its not for the faint hearted!

Mike Skinner may have lightened up on the drink and drugs front of late but his newest signing Example is more than determined to do enough for the two of them if his festival antics are anything to go by – as told on 'Yes Please' where even Skinner doesn’t escape the abuse. 'You Can’t Rap' continues the antics with his introduction promo release. As the most recent signing, it could be the last album released of the three, but the quality looks to be the same from one of the most exciting labels in this country.

Dizzee Rascal

The raskit boy returns with his third album 'Maths and English' in spring. He accredited the title to the maths being the beats and the English his rhymes. The title has been known for the last year or so but there is little in way of tracks floating around. Semtex has been playing 'Wasteman' and a couple of other tracks on his 1xtra show but these will likely not appear on the album. One track that should is 'Ghetto' and can be heard on his Myspace page.

It remains to be seen whether we’ll get another track in the vein of 'Dreams' with its novelty chorus but more 'Fix Up, Look Sharp' would not hurt. It does seem like a long time since we heard Dizzee’s notorious flow, but with touring around the world and setting up his Dirtee Skank label, he’s been busy. 2007 looks like being a busier year with 'Maths and English', the Dirtee Skank mixtape and material from Klass A and Newham Generals all set to go.

Kano

The much anticipated and yet unnamed second album from Kane Robinson is due to drop in April, around the same time as Dizzee’s. Talk about spoilt for choice! Not much is available to listen to as the material is being closely guarded, but already RWD and even men’s style magazine 'Arena' is tipping the album for big things. The Vybz Cartel assisted 'Buss It Up' and the lyrical heat of 'Til The Milkman Comes' are big tracks that give a taster for an album that will also see dancehall legend Don Corleone and more surprisingly, Damon Albarn helping out.

Wiley

Wiley seems to be putting out as much material as 2pac, but I think we can all agree we would rather hear the eskiboy over some stripped down beat than another regurgitated vocal from a guy that died over 10 years ago. With one edition left of his already four deep 'Tunnel Vision' series, not to mention '2nd Phaze' from spring, Wiley goes into 2007 ready to release an album called 'Playtime Is Over' on the worldly respected Big Dada. If anyone can make his album a better success than 'Treddin On Thin Ice' on XL, it’s certainly those guys. With one more mixtape left to come, little is clear on what material to expect and although Big Dada will let him get on with making an album his way, I hope someone at the label recommends a Spank Rock collab.
Mr Hudson

Now signed to Mercury after releasing singles through the mecca in Carnaby that is Deal Real, Mr Hudson will be an artist to turn a few heads this year. Dressed in a waistcoat and trilby, he’s the last person you would expect to be releasing Hiphop music, let alone being undisputed producer champion at the Jump Off in 2005. But he could be the most unexpected hit with the Hiphop crowd and with Sway and DJ Semtex already giving their seal of approval to his hybrid sound and live shows with his band. Take his early guitar references, yearning for the Hiphop beats of J Dilla and The Roots with his song writing, and you’ve got a hybrid sound that is Radio 1 and beyond for the self-confessed outsider.

Other releases

Kyza may have left but the Terra Firma camp release 'Terra Firma 2 The Deaf' and Klashnekoff keeps it moving with the HHC Connection highly rated 'Lionheart Tussle With The Beast'. The latter is out 12th February. Yungun will release his third long player but 'The Middle Man' will be his first official solo effort after the highly credible 'Essence' and Mr Thing assisted 'Grown Man Business'. Sway’s cohorts Bigz and Pyrelli will have more mixtapes for the streets, while UK legend Blak Twang is also working on a follow up to 'The Rotton Club'. Plenty of new artists and plenty of anticipated albums make 2007 potentially a better year for releases than the last. Lets hope this all lives up to expectation.

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