Mystic Man, with an approach to production that's just that bit too elusive to put your finger on, has crafted a superb set of sonic canvasses for rapper Eshamanjaro to wave his lyrical brush over, and he does it with the flourish of a true master too.
In the art world you'd be hard pushed to find a master without a maverick streak and whilst Esha's lyrics are in someway very grounded, there is something different in them, an intelligence – he has a way with words. Half the time it's like he's just talking and it happens to rhyme brilliantly and the rest of time you're left thinking, 'where did that thought come from?'.
For a debut album, this is really outstanding, it's obvious that this duo have really gelled and used their knowledge of both the industry and their crafts to maximum effect. This is an intellectual effort, something that is reflected in the cultural references (a version of Hokusai's 'The Great Wave' on the cover), the production and the lyrics. As a result, it consciously distances itself from all Hip Hop that I know and for anyone willing to embrace something a little different this will be refreshing listen. Where most 'different' or 'leftfield' artists in any genre fail (and end up being weird and unlistenable-to), Mystic Man and Eshamanjaro have succeeded. It's enough like Hip Hop for a casual listener to recognise it as such but as you listen more deeply, it's obvious it is something quite new.
The album kicks off with 'Chesire Cat' (previously reviewed here) which is a great track to start with. 'The Rambler' does what it says on the tin: lots of rambling jazz samples spliced together (expertly mind you) and a rap that strolls in after one minute and thirty four seconds. 'Keeper Of The Flame' is a favourite due to the eastern sound captured in the samples and the lyric 'You might wonder who that girl is singing / I tell ya, she represents same one bringing / Joy to my life, Pain to my life / Her claims that she loves me cut like a knife', really displays the interaction between producer and MC as well as the more thoughtful take on the usual subject matter. 'Dust' is real UK Hip Hop and 'New Jack Swing' is pure bouncy party starting pleasure.
'Nervous' paints an interesting first hand picture of a guy who has done the dirty with his mates missus and lets us into the mind of someone in this position (whether this is how folk actually feel, I wouldn't know!). 'Minds I' is the second single and whilst it's more relaxed than the first, it retains a sense of urgency and keeps you nodding along although I'm not sure the reference to 'Littlewoods' being a 'Style Catalogue' is exactly accurate! If you want you to be stirred into a range of emotions and have a rainy day to lie and listen to an album in its entirety (it really is best that way) then you'd do well to get a copy of this on Fat! Records. It'll cheer you up, then make you think, then make you drift away and then bring you back home again. Worth your spondoolies, for real. Try before you buy at the Fat! website.
Certified Bangers: 'Chesire Cat', 'Keeper of the Flame' & 'New Jack Swing'
Top Lyrics: 'Beaming my music back to universe / Back to galactic, back to first / Back to verse blow up like bacteria' (The Rambler)