In hip-hop terms, Leeds-based record label 30-Tonne Slug can be likened to waiting for a bus. The Northern scene has been waiting for years for a debut release from these guys and now, following the release of “Alphabetix Anonymous” by their label mates, the Alphabetix, Verbal Contact are hot on their heels with their own EP; “Literary Vices”.
The newly-formed duo consists of two MCs who already command respect for their reputations around the Leeds scene, but this fresh collaboration between Matter and Prys could be set to propel the pair right into the spotlight.
“Literary Vices” kicks off with the aptly-named “First Impressions”, where the deep, rolling bass line is punctuated by back-to-back verses from the Northern duo. Even more apt, however, may be the final line of the track, where the duo “hopes you’ve got a comfortable seat”. With an intro this heavy, the EP certainly grabs your attention from the outset.
As the track numbers tick by what does become is apparent is the pair’s ability to move away from the one-trick pony cliché. As Prys states: “There’s a lot of different sounds on there. It’s not your typical grime-type stuff that there’s a lot of about at the moment.
“It’s got a sort of industrial sound, especially on “David’s Struggle”, it sort of reminds me of walking through Sheffield late at night”.
This is a fairly accurate appraisal of the track, where the relatively simple beat is brought to life with a gripping and eye-opening tale of a Leeds youth caught up in the drug dealing game.
“Tourist Information”, however, takes on a completely different vibe. With the aid of ex-X-Factor finalist, Chenai’s impressive, soulful chorus, the pair spit an array of technical verses over the bouncy, jazz-inspired beat.
With the exception of “Mind the Gap”, which is an interesting combination of grime / hip-hop and just a touch of dubstep, the beats for this EP remain firmly grounded within the hip-hop genre. However, it’s nice to see that the duo have, to a degree, broken away from the traditional conventions of the genre that we all know and love.
Prys said: “You can see it with the way we arrange and structure our bars. If he’s got a 24-bar verse and I’ve only got a 16-bar one, that doesn’t matter. If it works right, it works right".
Matter added: “Too many people have their idea of what’s hip-hop and what’s not. At the end of the day, if it sounds right, it sounds right. Fuck your conventions”.
“Literary Vices” is a relatively short debut offering from the duo, with only seven tracks from start to finish. However, Matter ensures us that this is not due to a lack of material:
“I like the idea of an EP because it’s short and sweet. There are a lot of people who are putting out 20 track mixtapes and people have short attention spans these days. If you’ve just got seven solid tracks that are sounding exactly like you want them to then I’m happy with that”.
Having heard the final article, Matter has just cause to be happy with the sound of this release. “Likad Tonight” is a sure-fire club banger featuring 30-Tonne Slug label mate Mr Ris, and “Misadventures” provides a comical narrative to a night out with scenarios that we have all seen at one time or another. Whether or not we would admit to them though, is a different story.
Matter said: “The EP basically details the standard procedures of what we do with our daily lives: stories we hear from people, getting pissed and walking round Leeds…”
Prys: “It’s almost a week in the life of…”
Despite the fact that “Literary Vices” has not even hit the shelves yet, it’s nice to see that the pair are already keen to get on with their next project:
Prys: “For this first EP, it’s pretty straight up hip-hop. Our producer, Sonar Cousin, has his own distinctive sound but it’s pretty much grounded in hip-hop. What we’re going to think about doing for the album is some proper out-there shit”.
Matter added: “We’re going to try and distinguish ourselves because there’s a million people out there trying to do the same thing: Every UK hip hop act is trying to spit over the same type of beat, the same type of rhymes and we’re going to try and do things a little bit differently”.
“When it comes to the album, we’re going to look at the broader issues and not stay so grounded in that UK-type stuff that we’re always hearing”.
So, with a solid debut under their belt and a progressive new album due next year, the future certainly looks bright for Verbal Contact, along with their affiliates at 30-Tonne Slug.
“Literary Vices” is hitting the shops on the 30th November, with the official launch night on the 28th November at the Elbow Rooms in Leeds. Masta Ace headlines, with strong support from some of Leeds’ finest. If you’re up in the North, my advice would be to get there…
With that said, I leave you with one final thought from Matter: “I just want to say to the UK hip hop scene in general; push it forward. Think differently. Think outside of the box. Stop sticking to the same old formulas because that’s the only way the scene is going to grow”.
By: Phil Clark