Kid Kanevil's first release was the "Cranium Rock" 12" with fellow New Bohemia resident MC Testament a couple of years back. Since then the Kid has clearly been on his grind and has managed to scare up a few big names for his album. Jehst, anyone? Lateef The Truth Speaker? Yes, I thought most of you might have heard of them... those of you at the back still listening to Tim Westwood's show on the weekend need to wise up and ask the nice people at HMV for some real Hip-Hop. They won't have much but at least you will have tried.
Before you real heads break out the lino though, I should state that the really striking thing about this album is how good it is when it leaves Hip-Hop at a distance and pursues other sonic avenues, other styles and other genres. The eclecticism, the deep and soulful melancholy present at times, the tough-yet subtle beats and the exquisite precision of the production will bring to mind DJ Shadow but Kanevil is his own man.
Despite real-world connections between Kanevil's band Stateless and Shadow's Quannum crew / label, this is far from being a facsimile of "Entroducing". J Dilla is also an obvious and longstanding influence, plus one hears distinct echoes of Timbaland and the RZA's voice is sampled prominently on "Rainstorm 1". Influences from all these and more are present but, more importantly, there is a feeling of completeness and overall cohesion to the finished product which can only have come from Kid K himself.
Breaking the LP down into individual songs (as one tends to when listening to a vinyl album on Technics... the urge to mix things up is too great) one might be tempted to say that the instrumental tracks come across more strongly than those featuring MCs / vocalists. Within the context of the album as a whole, the weaker guest spots become a positive annoyance.
The main culprit is Yarah Bravo on "FIRE"... an acquaintance of mine has expressed the entirely credible opinion that she only has a career because she's doing the dirty with DJ Vadim. Whilst I wouldn't dream of starting any libellous rumours about her and Mr K, it's hard to see how else she's convinced another top-notch producer to let her within spitting distance of their studio mic. When the track dropped as a single, I stated that her vocals might be an acquired taste. Unfortunately it's not a taste that I have acquired, despite dropping the track on the first Straight Out Leodis podcast. In my defence the beat is fuckin' sick...
Although pretty annoying and nowhere near strong enough to carry a track on her own, Yarah does an okay job with the help-outs for Lateef on "5th Gear". Lateef himself is on typically elevated lyrical and rhythmic form on this sex-themed club tune (apparently Common's not the only MC who manages to get laid despite the backpack), although it never sounds like he's really stretching himself.
Similarly, Double D Dagger flex their usual cocky, complex flow on "Click Click Pop" - I've yet to be totally knocked off my feet by anything this Leeds duo have produced but they're certainly showing some potential and are appropriately blessed with one of the most twisted beats on the album. To be fair, being separated only by a short instrumental track ("Rainstorm 3") from the strongest vocal track on the album, Double D Dagger were always going to have their work cut out.
The track in question is "Def Certificate" and it features a perennial competitor for the title "Best British MC Of All Time" in the form of Huddersfield's favourite prodigal son, Jehst. His verses are up to his usual impeccably high standards, raw and psychedelic with every nuance of tone and impulse carefully yet casually controlled. He also brings in his latest protege, Sir Smurf Little of The Colony, but strangely only to handle the chorus hooks... a welcome presence nonetheless.
"Def Certificate" is honestly one of only two tracks on the album where I feel the vocals really live up to the quality of the production. The other is "Good Morning, What's New" featuring Andreya Triana - a deceptively simple, almost fomulaic, Neo-Soul effort which nonetheless succeeds admirably through attention to detail, subtly inventive touches and a certain indescribable quality to Triana's vocals.
Other than these two tracks, Kid Kanevil's talent shines brightest when it is simply him, an MPC and a turntable left to do their thing. From the loose, upbeat, cut-driven funk of "It's Me", through romantic lament "The Hours" and the jazz-hop of "The Lo-Fi Club" and onto the abstract closing sonics of "Yuki" and "Water Sign" many moods are captured without resort to live vocals... for me this is where the true strength of "Problems & Solutions" lies.
As a final thought, I should probably mention that the vinyl version of this is what's called DigiWax, which means you also get access to a high-quality digital download version as part of the asking price. Perfect for anyone who ever uses Serato or who is worried about their iPod not being wax-compatible...
PS - Thanks to Ben for the LP... and shame on First Word for not coming through with a review copy! LOLBy: Analogue
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