What do you think of when asked to consider the Manchester music scene? Well, if you’re my age and were in your teens when Britpop hit, your first thought might well be Oasis. I won’t deny for a second that Manchester might equally well be celebrated for its significant and progressive connections with rave culture – for example, the legacy of the Hacienda and more recently a stunning take on Liquid Funk D&B courtesy of Soul:R Records.
But it’s the Gallagher brothers that come to mind when I listen in to the promotional CD that’s been sent to me by Fat City. Why? Well, mainly because we have here a hip-hop equivalent of Britpop – generally well-executed, occasionally great, sometimes sub-par but always resolutely conservative, taking no chances and with hardly a bar that couldn’t have been made ten years ago. This reluctance to push things forward is particularly galling when one considers that half of the MC pairing fronting up B’N’E is none other than DRS, who co-signed LTJ Bukem’s “Progression” series of mixes, responsible for helping break D&B to the mainstream back in the day.
The beats on show here do occasionally creep into the 21st Century and there’s a case to be made that a Konny Kon instrumental album would be a pretty good listen and a justifiable use of crate-space for the working DJ. Unfortunately, the beats are generally let down by the flows, particularly when MC Strategy spits on “Tryin’” –
“You’re a big girl now and I ain’t your chaperone,
For you I would’ve pulled out the guns of Navarone
And tried to keep control of my testosterone.
I’m just trying to sit here with some tea and a scone…”
Yeah, you read that right… “tea and a scone”. It sounds worse even on record than it reads. Strategy has a horrible tendency to over-stretch himself as an MC – going for cool gangster wit and coming across as plain ignorant. The skits on the album are also particularly annoying – take for example the fake advert for “Yes-You’re-Weak” rap replacement patches, designed to ease wack MCs off the mic in the same way that Nicorette patches do for smokers. That kind of self-aggrandising mockery only works when you’re a considerably sicker MC than 95% of the competition and while Broke’N’English are by no means wack, a touch of humility would be more appropriate given their moderate talent.
I don’t want to play down the hard work and passion all three crew members have obviously put into producing this album and their live shows are apparently fire but it’s likely to be a while before I can get enthusiastic about anything these guys are putting on shelves.