When it comes to word-play and multis, Life MC doesn't half hammer them out. From crazy off-the-top-of-the-dome freestyles on YouTube to socially-conscious solo albums, he's an incredible talent from the underground UK Hip-Hop scene who's been doing this thing for a fair few years now.
Originally part of the much-respected Phi-Life Cypher that helped put Luton on the Hip-Hop map, Life has been putting out his own work since 2003 via Zebra Traffic Records; and has most recently begun to self-distribute his music with the help of producer / DJ Nappa.
Gift Of Life is Life's fifth solo effort, and features no indications whatsoever that he has lost any of the hunger he started out with. After showing appreciation to Sly Stallone's speech in Rocky Balboa on the intro track, the emcee gets right into the thick of it, spitting lyrical assaults that address anything from boxing greats to the art of rhyming.
'A Message' is literally about the message of Hip-Hop – what it means to upcoming / underground cats who are making moves in the game ("You don't believe a rap artist can be musically great / And only if they're commercial do you choose to relate"). Smooth, laid-back tracks like 'Real Flavour' and 'Pictures Of Poetry' tap deeper into Life's state of lyric writing / music making and elaborate upon the subject.
Life comes across as one serious artist, and demonstrates his desire to not be just another rapper in the game with lyrics such as, "Too much gun-talk / Not enough philosophy", ('Too Much'). With that, Gift Of Life has got some real bangers, too: 'Next Dimension Comprehension', 'Power Of The Mind', 'Doctrine Of The System' and 'Beat Smashers' are the stand-outs, featuring some heavy production from Nappa behind the boards.
I must admit, despite its lyrical seriousness, I wasn't overly keen on the production on Realities Of Life – Life's sophomore album from 2006 – but there's a real strong selection of beats from Nappa here, with which Life attacks gracefully with his awesome emceeing ability.
The one effort not produced by Nappa is 'Survival Mode' (Sensa) – a definite head-nodder that reminds me of early Jedi Mind Tricks. There's also a fair few guest emceeing spots for a Life album, but they're all very noteworthy – with Tenchoo, Reveal, Res One, Micall Parknsun and Buggsy stating their claims as gifted talents on the mic.
This is a bloody good album from Life that comes at no surprise, taking into consideration his very impressive back catalogue of work. Phi-Life Cypher may be no more, but him Nappa are still going strong; just listening to 'Sound Bwoy Killers', in particular, sums up their collaborative excellence on Gift Of Life.
By: Andy Carrington