The Leeds By Example project (see LeedsByExample.com) first dropped this CD around a year back to positive reviews, but the team behind it obviously feel that it hasn't yet reached every member of it's potential target audience as there's an official re-release under way.
I didn't cop this the first time around, mainly because it didn't get a vinyl release that I'm aware of and I'm a fiend for wax, straight up (and always too skint to buy every record on my constantly-expanding wish-list). Thankfully though I've been sent a review copy and can now spill some enlightenment as to the quality of the tracks therein.
First up is a reworking of Junkyard Tactics' "On Road" by BTI, who produced the original. I always felt the original 12" version lacked the punch on the beat it might have had and I'm liking this take on it a lot better, while the lyrics remain thoughtful, intelligent and well-delivered.
Next, BTI (Breaking The Illusion) takes to the mic as well as the boards to produce a bittersweet track, telling the story of a failed bank-robbery with dark, deadpan humour. As well as conjuring up a few laughs, the verses paint a picture of the frustrations of poverty and the resulting temptations of crime… a timely demonstration that the art of storytelling rap is alive and well. If you like the sound of this, you should also check out "Squaddie's Holiday" at myspace.com/breakingtheillusion.
BTI's other solo track is "DMMK", which is an all-out attack on mindless, commercialised gangsta-rap… still a very necessary message and only strengthened by the agressive force of the beat… the instrumental could comfortably be laced by Mobb Deep or the like and I'm sure BTI hasn't missed the inherent irony.
I was somewhat less keen on the production work submitted by Peacewise & Homestyle (P&H). Their jazz-funk-rap sound is perfectly acceptable, but a little soft for my tastes. If the best sample-based hip-hop takes it's cue from James Brown or George Clinton, their work is perhaps closer in impact to the Average White Band. Anyway, their track with BTI was fine but not up to his other two appearances and the remix of Junkyard Tactics' "Takin' Ova" bears no resemblance to the banging original… depends what you're looking for I guess, and I've got to admit that Danger & BTI's extra verses are off the hook.
Haiku's "On The Road" is one of my favourite tracks on the album. The beat is driven by a lilting flute loop and overlaid by tripped-out tales of adventure from Haiku's intoxicated imagination. His other contribution, "Haiku Interview", is a concept track (as per the title) and equally spun out. The rest of the 9-Lives Clik (Eliphino, Chief Wigz, Pro-Optic) also appear and demonstrate that they have been smoking a serious amount of weed… but in a good way. Seriously, I can't think of anyone else who does the pothead thing quite like these guys and if y'all don't know about Eliphino's beats, get on it.
Big Ben's "LEEDS Man" (featuring QB, Los Cauz & Jo Nova) represents the darker, streetier sounds of Leeds rap… a necessary balance to the more jazzy, comfortable moments on show and the flows are as hard and sharp as the spoken threats.
That only really leaves a couple of tracks by Malaki, one ("Hangman's Remedy") produced by Jo Nova and another handled by Wisdomtooth as part of the Dr Knox project ("Absolute Resolution Of Feeling"). Leeds/ Seattle MC Malaki manages to ride his transatlantic flow over two very different beats… I think Jo Nova just about takes it on the production tip. I've been sent the Dr Knox album as well so I'll be running through that at a later date.
This is definitely a good round-up of some up-and-coming Leeds artists. I can name a few artists I would have liked to see on here (Kidkanevil, Kockee K, Yorkshire Terrierz and maybe a full track from Double D Dagger [Danger & D-Bizzy]) but there's plenty of time for a sequel. In the meantime, the quality of what did make the cut is pretty high.