If anyone's picked up the new issue of Traffic magazine by the time of reading this you may have gathered that whilst covering the Vauxhall Beatboxing Championships at Stylus, I had a word with the winner, Huddersfield-based Ball-Zee. It's his crew, Don't Talk To Strangers who are ultimately responsible for this project and, if you lot know me at all, you must be aware that once I heard of a West Yorkshire mix CD in the offing I wasn't going to stop until I had a copy for review.
I'm still waiting to hear the definitive Yorkshire mix CD… in fact I'm halfway scheming to make it myself one day, but having been born and raised down South it seems only appropriate that a group of true local heads will beat me to it. If any one knows of any serious contenders I can guarantee I'll do a review. But what of this prospective champ-in-the-making?
Well, this is definitely a great introduction to the Yorkshire scene (particularly Huddersfield, natch) and there's no shortage of good tracks on board. JND's "Just Me Thinking" is one of the strongest instrospective / reflective rap tracks I've heard in a while and the lyrics deserve to be listened to as closely as possible, as does the subtle, rippling beat.
At the other end of the scale we have the rolling, devil-may-care energy of 9-Lives Clik's Chief Wiggum, riding rough-shod over reggae horns on the chorus to Eliphino's booming beat. In between, Spida Lee, Gramma Marksman, Ball-Zee (on an admittedly dry beatbox freestyle) and Megamouth all do their thing with panache. I'm also pleased to report that the sound of the production on here is generally fairly up-to-date and innovative… Hip-Hop in touch with its roots and fundamentals but looking outwards beyond Element-obsessed purism.
There are two things which to my mind allow this to fall short of top-ranking status… one trivial, the other more significant. The trivial complaint is that this is more a compilation than a mixtape… I was expecting some DJ blending and cutting of the tracks or at least some hosting to bring the whole thing together. As it is, this is not really a mixtape any more than, say, Leeds By Example is, except in that the MCs occasionally announce it to be one. That's obviously not a major problem…
In fact there's no major problem here at all but my second issue is that there's one or two too many tracks that just aren't that good, enough to drag one's perception of the whole down. Northern Property's "'81" doesn't quite number among these (great beat, somewhat less amazing lyrics – as you'd expect from a group featuring Young Max from Dirty Diggers) but tracks by Livewire and ExP fail to realise good ideas into listenable tracks and the sampled / rapped hooks to Strontium Dogs' "AEIOU" are positively grating.
On the whole though, it's all you could hope for from a local Hip-Hop compilation and more, with some very good tracks indeed included and a good range of material in place too. Final summary then… support local Hip-Hop, support good Hip-Hop, cop the CD.