First off, big up to Headcount Records for being the first to send me vinyl to review – that's the realness right there. Illustrate is a one man music machine; producing, rapping and scratching in varying combinations. Having already released his EP 'Bedroom Production' and the mix CD 'Get the Picture' he has dropped this quadruple A-side 12" as a taster of what's to come on his album 'The Stuff' to be released this October.
He also featured on the Rising Styles compilation, free with HHC, with his excellent track 'Do What You Like'. 'Work is what this song is about', says Ollie Bates on the chorus to 'Work'… so he gave it an apt name then. Over a slightly melancholy guitar-picked, but lively-drummed beat Illustrate spits verses that you can hear and understand. With natural delivery and seemingly effortless rhyme patterns Illustrate speaks to the masses. 'Work' sees a classic story rap interweaved with thoughts about the world of 9 to 5ing and being an aspiring musician.
'My Hat' follows the theme of giving tracks obvious names; it's about Illustrate's cap. You may think that's corny, you may think it's a refreshing serving of genius – either way, I've never heard another track like it. Over a classic Premo-ish beat Bates raps lyrics like, 'It's been snatched and grabbed, packed in bags / Stamped and hanged you could say this hat's had it bad / Manufactured in a factory then wrapped and crammed in box then sent to a shop in the back of a van / Then I bought it and snapped off the tag…". Fresh.
'Sweet Dream', produced by DJ Tigerstyle, is a broken beat led track with a scratched K-Os vocal on the chorus. Illustrate outlines his ideal world, so highlighting all the evil that is actually present on this sphere. 'Winter Lady' is a slow paced obituary built upon Mike Hostile's snare rolls and phased piano chords and synth choirs. Illustrate tells the sad story of a down-and-out junkie, and with real emotion in his voice he demonstrates his ability to affect the listener.
Above all this 12" exhibits Illustrate's all round versatility. The beats differ, the topics differ vastly and as a result the mood differs from track to track. If Illustrate's (also an apt name; this guy paints the clearest pictures) forthcoming long player follows this pattern he'll have a highly lauded piece of work on his hands, I'm sure of that. The 'Work' 12" was a satisfying listening experience – Illustrate harbours the energy and ideas of someone willing to do what they like – this is the Hip Hop I love.
'Work' is out now on Headcount Records and is available at places like Suspect Packages.