As regular readers and my mates from Leeds will know, I'm a long-time fan of more or less anything associated with LowLife Records. However, I've been particularly looking out for Verb T since hearing the Braintax-produced "So Cool" on Kam's "Life Before 40" promo mix.
His effortlessly confident tones and witty lines ("I'm not one to play with so save it, You're better letting Gary Glitter look after your baby") raising him above the general background noise of UK hip-hop hopefuls, I was definitely keen to hear more from him.
01. Bring It Back
04. Chaos (We Came Here)
05. Not Enuf Hours
08. Behind Ur Eyes
11. Equal Portions
13. Run Amuk
14. Get Dis Happnin
15. Makin' It
16. Back 2 Basics Outro
I picked up this CD in anticipation of tonight's gig at Chase The Devil, where Verbs will be joined by Kashmere and UK production superstar Ghost. Unfortunately HMV (AKA the Evil Empire) have decided to abolish CD and vinyl listening stations and adopt some sort of hi-tech e-listening post… and then not upload any proper hip-hop albums onto it. I hence made the purchase without hearing so much as a bar of the product on offer.
So is it any cop? The answer is of course a resounding "hell yeah", with a few minor reservations. As the title implies, the whole album is pretty retro – sample-based hip-hop in the classic 90s style. However, on the boards we have Harry Love, ex-Scratch Pervert, current member of the Extended Players crew and the producer of both sides of Klashnekoff's landmark "Murda In Parrowdice" 12", so you know the beats and scratches are going to be top-notch. There are a couple of recognisable samples up in it – Gwen McRae's "90% Of Me Is You" on "Not Enuf Hours" and a KRS1 vocal from "I Can't Wake Up" on "Dreaming"* – but generally I reckon Harry's been digging pretty deep in the crates and everything sounds dope as.
On the vocal side of things, I still reckon Verbs is the most under-rated artist on LowLife, although his distinctive flow remains pretty much the same throughout the album – both a strength and a weakness of the album and of the artist I guess. Mic backups feature a couple of genuinely big (UK) names – Jehst and Kyza Smirnoff – plus Yungun, Karizma, Red and Ransom Badbonez, plus some sung vocals on "Chaos" by Rosie Wilson.
Subject matter doesn't generally jump out and hit you in the face – there's obviously a political swipe in one of the samples / skits and "Not Enuf Hours" covers similar ground to Dubbledge's "9 to 5", but otherwise it's Hip-Hop 101 all the way. This is not a remarkable album in terms of what it tries to do – but it does border on genius in the execution. Take for example the twisted, extended romantic metaphor on "Behind Ur Eyes":
"I want to explore your mind the next time that it's suitable, girl you know your grey matter's so beautiful, I want to probe through your frontal lobe into the back of your mind until my pulse explodes…"
Damn… I'm gutted that Valentine's Day's been and gone cos I want to put that on a tape for someone.
*Not to mention Nas' "Halftime" on "Overdose" – can't believe I nearly missed that one!