Featuring Orifice Vulgartron, one of the masters of double time rhyme, production by Dag Nabbit, solid MCing by Metropolis and complimented by the talents of beatboxer Shlomo and deejay Nonanes, the FBees are back, serving up 18 new tracks under the title of Stray Point Agenda and, yet again, have come up with the goods. Improving on the rawness of Asylum Speakers and delving into some tender moments along the way, Foreign Beggars have together shown how far the group has come along since its debut album release of 2003.
Starting with the tracklist, one noticeable difference between this album and “Asylum Speakers” is the reduced number of guest appearances (must be less than half), this has given each member their own rightful air space and allowed them to shine much more than before.
04. In It For A Minute (ft. Graziella)
05. Clockwork Skit
06. Confessions of a… (ft. Graziella)
07. To Be A Memory (ft. Dudley Perkins)
08. Black Hole Prophecies (ft. DJ Vadim)
09. On A Winter’s Day (ft. Ravi Shakti)
12. Slow Broiled Ilk (ft. OhNo)
13. Hot Plate (ft. Dubbledge)
14. Shlonames Piece
15. Let Go (ft. Wildchild)
16. Reach Out (ft. Dr Syntax)
17. Clouds Skit
18. The Coming (ft. Moschops , Dr Syntax and Skrein)
A slow, but unassuming start to the album gives way to some tightly produced beats and lyrics that are thought-provoking, insightful and reflective. From the hooligan defining introduction, “Reelfire” kicks in with some Al Green tinged samples, sparse beats and bassline, and lyrics defining what the Beggars are all about – battle-hardened and prepared to knock down all comers – accentuated with such lines as “You rappers are Neanderthal it’s hard to catch what you’re saying, with your primitive grunts and groans it’s like I’m chatting with cavemen”.
“Slo-Speed” features the start of those thought-provoking and reflective lyrics I mentioned earlier, the chorus being “We’re trying to speak to a nation of people who don’t heed, the future’s a stain of pure evil with no peace, the truth is we need to use reason to slow speed, but all we ever do is sit back and smoke weed”, truer words never spoken by MCs the world over, never mind the UK. Too many hip hoppers are influenced by mass media and the fact you have to smoke to be cool.
“In It For A Minute” has a deep, rolling piano break and is the basis for the introduction of those double time rhymes, Graziella swoons over the chorus while Metropolis and Vulgar spit some venomous lyrics describing how living the wrong way might have you living longer than you deserve. Although you might want to eliminate your boss or cause him some serious grief, fulfilling such a desire isn’t the best idea!
“Clockwork Skit” breaks things up with good use of the old Quincy Jones “Kitty With A Bent Frame” sample.
“Confessions Of A…”, “To Be A Memory” and “Black Hole Prophecies” quickly follow suit and all add to the Beggars growing reputation for delivering quality tunes and keep you hungry for more.
“On A Winters Day” is firmly planted in the middle of the album, and most probably for one reason – it is the pièce de résistance amongst these tunes, a dark reworking of Mamas and Papas “California Dreaming” and featuring some very haunting vocals from Ravi Shakti. “I’m figuring which path to choose” opens the rap on this track, the lyrics follow this contemplative nature throughout, this is one of those Hip Hop tunes which is specially reserved for Sunday use… uplifting and inspirational in its own way and a good way to get the day going after a night of living large!
The “Interlude” which follows quickly gives way to the first of two synth heavy tracks. The hardcore leanings of the lyrics of “Backdraft” are swiftly broken up by some mad horn samples which kick into “Slow Broiled Ilk” – the synth stabs compliment the scything lyrics that follow: “Foreign Beggars, Oh No make you sound so so, slapping wack MCs just for chatting out their blow holes”, Vulgar and Metropolis trade lyrical punches over this heavyweight Oh No production.
“What is one man’s dearest fantasy is another’s most horrific nightmare” introduces the next tune. A homage to the Dead Prez tune “Hip Hop”, Hot Plate (featuring Dubbledge) has that drone bassline and a killer groove which Vulgar double times over to great effect, proving that UK MCs can blaze mics as good, if not better, than their American counterparts.
The beatboxer versus deejay showcase of “Shlonames Piece” injects some jazzyness into proceedings before we launch into the funk of “Let Go”. Wildchild from Lootpack makes an appearance on this track, further building on Anglo-American Hip Hop relations and more proof that collaborations between our continents CAN work. (Check Jehst & J-Zone’s Staircase II Stage as a good example.)
Next up we have another one of those lighter moments, “Reach Out” is pure head nod material, not only in joining in with the beat but the lyrics will make you nod affirmatively too.
The “Clouds Skit” is here only to give you the impression the album is over, pure and simple. As soon as the beat kicks in for “The Coming”, you are left wondering why you hadn’t switched it off as Moschops’ beat, coupled with the lyrics of Vulgar, Metropolis, Dr Syntax and Skrein, leaves you with the feeling of being dragged through a hedge backwards. The beat and samples are very harsh and bring the album to a halt in a way that is rarely heard, nothing like those old Britcore days where you were hammered senseless by a 100mph beat; this is just oddness which is reminiscent of Company Flow.
This release enhances The Beggars reputation, this is an excellent album which showcases all the respective member’s talents and ability to deliver simplicity, complexity, and catchiness, firmly putting them on the UK Hip Hop map. Having seen them live in York recently (unfortunately for the first time too, my attempt to see them doing the Asylum album launch failed miserably despite travelling 200 miles and being stood outside the venue while proceedings were underway) their reputation is just and, for anyone who’s new to the scene, they are definitely worth checking out.