The artwork of this album has to be mentioned first. I’m still trying to take it all in. Think mountains with faces, tanks, pigs of the apocalypse and… yeh. Some other freaky ish I don’t know the names for. The main point is that it’s heavy on the eye and intriguing for the mind. The only warning? ‘Governmental Advisory, Seditious Lyrics’.
Verbal Terrorists are dedicated to anarchy and activism in a time where the biggest reactions in hip hop seem to be reactive rather than proactive. Small Axe is a set of facts, opinions and, it has to be said, choooons… which aim to dismantle and disinfect mainstream media brainwashing. So there you have it cynics; hip hop can have a purpose. ‘NE64 Life’, I don’t have a great deal to say about. It’s a local pride thing British hip hop is full of. Nothing wrong with it. In fact, it’s a great community infiltrator. As it isn’t my community. I just keep going.
‘Fuck Bovis’ I don’t like straight away. The music sounds like something out of Doctor Who. But it’s cleverly minimal enough to emphasise the lyrics themselves. Which, aside from the chorus, deserve some ribbons on chests. However, whole ‘fuck this, fuck that’ unoriginal, overused trip is boring me. I get the point, and the reason they used it here, but for those outside of the box they’re trying to educate, it doesn’t say much for hip hop’s integrity. It’s a one off on a genius set of lines and beats though. So my complaining will end there.
‘Hardcore’ should have been the kick off track if you ask me. My repeat button is held on it and I type. It’s this psychedelic collection of issues, rolling through a grimey tunnel that would rock both Channel U and MTV Raps (R.I.P.). And that’s a sense I never thought I’d say. ‘Rising Up’ is another favourite. Imagine a blindfolded political paintball game… as a song. And you’ll get the idea. ‘It’s like they make a bomb from financing wars’.
‘Idle Hands’ featuring Lims is a mash up in my mind. It generates so many associated feelings at once, I’m into it from the start. The beats sound like one of those wordless, one off bars from a Cypress Hill track. The strings sound like Dilated Peoples and Lauryn Hill schooled Dr Dre. And the lyrics are the opposite of Idle, ‘I try stay underground but on top of my game’…
‘Dance of the Money Men’ featuring The Old Rope String Band is a witty collaboration. It makes me want to Russian Cossack dance outside my local bank. And should really be the theme tune for the recession. Imagine that. BBC News 24, with Verbal Terrorists and the Old Rope String Band bedding Gordon Brown’s latest terrible speech. Hey, maybe it would stop people tuning out so fast when you chat Brownie.
The real triumph of this album is that you say you know what you expect, yet you don’t, and if you did, you still wouldn’t… In other words, the mindset is education and revolution. But the themes span beyond any spider diagram you’d make from those two words. There’s the local, familiar level. The political level. The British society level. The international understanding. And just an all round library of first class, PhD dissertations. The conclusion is clear. Support the movement. Engage your mind and body. Fight the system with intellect not violence.
And I’ll see you there…