The last few years have proven to be some of the finest in the history of British hip-hop, with the ever increasing number of solid emcees emerging, and with them some premier independent record labels that continue to flourish with every passing day. The sheer volume of commendable releases from last year alone was a sure sign that things only continue to get bigger and better for UK hip-hop enthusiasts, and that someday soon hopefully the mainstream industry will catch up and wise up to what they’ve been missing out on.
With that in mind, and with January drawing to a close, it’s time to take a look back at what has already proven to be an extremely affluent start to 2012, and run through a list of the best tunes on offer right now.
Jack Danz and Lego – Funbags MP3 [Defenders Of Style]
I’ll kick the list off with the first freebie I came across this year Funbags, the collaborative effort of Don’t Flop top tier competitor Lego, and Jack Danz out of the Leeds based hip-hop Defenderz of Style. The two mc’s compliment each over well over the promotional release, and sound more than at home on the beat, which is produced under the partnership of Versatile and Jack Danz himself.
Lego has shown some real growth recently, noticeable through several tracks released over 2011 and 2012. Funnily enough I’ll be discussing another one shortly. Be sure to watch out for his upcoming EP with Steady, the producer behind The Prose, which is expected to drop next month, not to mention a full length project that’s also in the pipeline.
Jack Danz is also currently working on a solo project, dropped the free mix-tape Dirty Sterling last week with Defenders of Style, and will continue to prove himself as a competent, well rounded producer as he works on his and Lego’s future projects.
Overall, Funbags is a tasty track, which marks the start of a highly productive year for each artist. It’s a tune that shows British Boom-Bap at its best, which despite what the title may suggest, has absolutely nothing to do with tits.
Midnight EyeZ – Behind Enemy Lines MP3 [Indie]
Now you may not be familiar with Midnight Eyez yet – I certainly wasn’t – however after hearing this track it wouldn’t be a surprise if 2012 is a year in which his stock in the UK industry rises immensely. Behind Enemy Lines is the first leak from his new album Deja Vu, and again features Lego, this time appearing aside his partner in winning the 2010 Don’t Flop doubles tournament Tenchoo.
The track features some top-class, beautifully string laden production from 2Deep, which compliments Midnight’s vocal style to a tee. Lego and Tenchoo also contribute fine verses that, along with Midnight’s verse, make this track a great example of some of the upcoming talent we have building in the UK right now. Midnight Eyes is most definitely someone to watch over the coming year. Have a little listen, and if you’re feeling it, then be sure to support the album on its release.
Rap battle fans can catch Lego battling young Manchester grime artist Blizzard at the Don’t Flop’s two-day To The Test event this weekend, on February 4th. You can also expect to see an interview with Tenchoo feature on here in the upcoming months.
Ronnie Bosh – Escapism MP3 [High Focus]
Ronnie Bosh is just the first of High Focus Record‘s Contact Play members to release a tune this month, but not the only one I’ll be mentioning in this article. Escapism is the first solo leak leading to the inevitable release of a full-length for Bosh, and featured on Wordplay Magazine‘s recent free 19 track Words Played sampler, along with solid features from HF’s 3 Amigos, Supremebeing, and Fliptrix, not to mention verses from Jehst, Wordsworth, and renowned Wu Tang Clan member Master Ace.
Escapism is an extremely promising preview for Ronnie, with a deliciously summery sound and a deep set of reflective lyrics, which in conjunction with his exclusive live bars dropped on the High Focus Youtube channel last month, supports the notion of an extremely positive solo career in line for the artist. We certainly look forward to seeing what comes next.
Dirty Dike – Catch Me If You…Nah MP3 [High Focus]
Dirty Dike – the man with the rap alias that sounds like the average Red Tube video – returned this month with Catch Me if You..Nah, another tune that featured on the Wordplay Magazine CD. The tune features a positively funky bounce that sounds reminiscent of a 70’s blaxploitation cop film. Over it, everybody’s favourite cheeky reprobate and ex-con Dike paints a cheery story of police evasion in the 21st century.
Dirty Dike released his second, and most polished album last year, and with this early January release proving to be one of his best narrative based tracks to date, not to mention the recent news of a planned collaborative EP with Stig of the Dump, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if we heard another solo project drop before the next Contact Play album emerges.
Jam Baxter and Ed Scissortongue – Pipe Smoke MP3 [High Focus]
Finishing off what has proven to be an extremely fruitful month of releases for High Focus Records and Contact Play members alike, comes another free release, this time featuring the collaborative efforts of group members Jam Baxter and Ed Scissortongue. Fans of Contact Play won’t be surprised to hear that the two complement each other fantastically over the wonderfully whimsical and irresistible swing of producer GhostTown‘s beat.
Considering that half of Contact Play have either released a solo project, or are currently working on one, it’s no surprise that Scissortongue also has his debut LP Better Luck Next Life currently in production, with plans to release it later this year. With the wealth of Contact Play members now working on solo enterprises, and also dropping hints of a follow up to their debut album Champion Fraff, 2012 is looking to be an extremely important year for the crew and, with all things considered, we wouldn’t be surprised if we also see a solo release from remaining crew member Mr. Key before the end of the year. Don’t miss this one!
Sonnyjim – Eatin’ Like a King MP3 [Eat Good Records]
2011 was a big year for Sonnyjim. In fact, with a relentless string of releases from work on the free collaborative Eat Good Records and Associated Minds project The Highball, The Psychonaut EP, and it’s fantastic successive LP, not to mention The Tall Poppy Syndrome EP, and a free Christmas promo to close out the year, it’s fair to say that it was his biggest year to date.
Showing no signs of slowing down, Eatin’ Like a King is the first leak from and upcoming project with producer June 25th, and is an instant hit with the forward momentum of the beat creating another head-nodder which sounds fairly reminiscent of the tone set by the Psychonaut LP. The lyric, “I’m working like a slave so I can eat like a king” is one that perfectly sums up the rappers work ethic, and explains his rapidly expanding back catalogue. As the year gets fully in to swing Sonnyjim continues to build a fine hip-hop legacy, and continues to grow Eat Good Records in to the definitive source of Birmingham based rap music, not to mention one of the countries strongest record labels.
SonnyJim will be supporting legendary Wu Tang member GZA on February 16th at The Other Room, The Birmingham Ballroom, Birmingham.
So there you have it, just a few of the quality tracks released throughout January, and signs of what’s to come from the artists who brought them to us. With all these projects on the horizon, not to mention recent news of the three new Fliptrix EP’s that will precede the release of a new album expected to drop around March, it’s fair to say that the year already promises to be another exciting one for UK hip-hop fans everywhere.
By: Calvin Hussey