Bris­tol MC Gardna released his debut album on 19th Octo­ber fea­tur­ing a who’s who of UK music span­ning UK Hip Hop and Reg­gae. This is a sum­mer album provid­ing an uplift­ing wave sun­shine in Autumn. The Nextmen’s Brad Baloo provides the pro­duc­tion duties and his work with Mungo’s Hi-Fi really shines through on this album.

Album open­er ‘Wel­come to the Garden’ fea­tures Catch­ing Cairo, here Gardna lays down the law over a jazzy upbeat, wel­com­ing us to the good times almost like the start of a new rela­tion­ship.

Track 2 is ‘Good Time not A Long Time’ the title track, fea­tures UK soul legend Omar with an equally soul­ful gui­tar sample, I can detect trip hop under­neath the upbeat. This is an album to get lost in, no ana­lys­is, just a good­time.

The reg­gae influ­ence con­tin­ues with track 3 ‘A Game’ fea­tur­ing Fox, we see the birth of UK gar­age all over again. Reg­gae instru­ment­al samples and vocals from Fox backed by bass­line brings the party home, encour­aging the listen­ers to “Do their own thing”, over lus­cious horns.

Track 4 ‘Lion­ess’ fea­tures the icon­ic Hol­lie Cook on vocals and soul­ful back­ing har­mon­ies, this is power­ful hip hop by num­bers, a rumin­a­tion on a love that might not even work out. Reg­gae instru­ments flour­ish the break beat and takes the track in a refresh­ing dir­ec­tion. Lyr­ics on empower­ment come to the fore­front mak­ing this a sure fire smash hit.

Track 5 ‘Do your thing’ brings forth the dub and trip hop influ­ence and ref­er­ences to UK Rave cul­ture pep­per the track.  Track 6 ‘In my zone’ fea­tures Charli Brix, and is a very chilled affair.

‘Bur­eau De Change’ fea­tures Eva Laz­arus, and brings out the grime influ­ence on the album, open­ing with a clas­sic reg­gae call and response, Gardna’s deliv­ery is on point! Over a bub­blers style instru­ment­al.

Kiko Bun who is mak­ing waves right now in the UK Reg­gae scene, fea­tures on Track 8,Slave 2 The Rhythm’. It’s a del­ic­ate con­struc­tion, which again shows the dub reg­gae influ­ence and is anoth­er hark back to the Bris­tol reg­gae scene. It is at this point that the album takes a more ser­i­ous turn, the good times will also fea­ture bad times and it’s about how we get through them.

‘In & Out’ fea­tur­ing Dread MC is a polit­ic­al track with lyr­ics ask­ing “Why are they clos­ing down our raves?” a sen­ti­ment that has been part of UK dance music since the early 90s but is more per­tin­ent and wide reach­ing now in this time of tory aus­ter­ity, “We just tryna live!”.

Track 10, Pres­sure fea­tur­ing Taiwan MC is the albums hard­est moment and wouldn’t be out of place in a Roots dance­hall. It is a med­it­a­tion on one’s place in the music industry and the artist’s struggle to sur­vive but more import­antly it’s about believ­ing in one­self and nev­er giv­ing up hope. The title Pres­sure is a nice call back to the clas­sic of black Brit­ish cinema by Hor­ace Ove and its sub­ject mat­ter and reg­gae influ­ence would not be out of place in that film.

‘Shine’ fea­tur­ing Rider Shafique is a med­it­a­tion on mod­ern life and how to sur­vive in the chaos. “Life is pre­cious so don’t waste your time!”, again the album returns to themes of empower­ment and beat­ing the sys­tem.

The album closer ‘Outro’ fea­tures a return of Catch­ing Cairo and the jazzy chords of the first track, it is a mel­an­chol­ic farewell, but one that makes you want to play the album over again and stay in the garden.

All in all this is a great debut album from Gardna the pro­duc­tion, lyr­ics and guest artists are on point. It encap­su­lates his music­al diversity, and artist­ic cre­ativ­ity and is fun. I look for­ward to hear­ing more from him.

Inter­view with Gardna

Where does your jour­ney as a music fan begin? 

It begins with me as a youth in HMV buy­ing £1.99 singles and play­ing them through my Sony Walk­man. Even­tu­ally mov­ing on to vinyl as I got decks for my 11th birth­day. I was into all sorts though. Prob­ably some dodgy CD’s knock­ing about at my rents yard still.

“Was Bris­tol trip-hop / hip-hop an influ­ence on your work?” 

Those guys inspired a gen­er­a­tion of musi­cians in the city. Def­in­itely. I met Daddy G at a show I did with the man Don Letts recently, he’s a sound geeza.

Tell me about your early pro­duc­tions? 

Got to be hon­est I don’t talk much about the early stuff. I don’t think many rap­pers do because look­ing back on old videos is a bit cringe some­times init. I grew up mak­ing music videos, selling mix­tapes at school, rap battles out­side in my loc­al com­munity centre – all of that kind of stuff. Nat­ur­ally there’s vids of me online where I am a prop­er young. Early stuff was all UK hip-hop inspired but I really found my thing when I prop­erly moved the city – Bris­tol.

Your album fea­tures many guest artists, how do you choose the artists that you work with? 

I love all the musi­cians on the pro­ject. They’re all friends of mine now but first and fore­most I was a fan. I listen to all their music and watch them all play live

reg­u­larly, it’s an hon­our to have some abso­lute legends on the fea­ture list along­side some of my favour­ite new artists.

What are your thoughts on the cur­rent state of UK Hip Hop? 

It’s thriv­ing to be hon­est; MCR is where it’s at for me. Chil­dren of Zeus, DRS, Levelz are my go too. It’s good to see the vets involved KING­DEM doing bits again. I know Daddy Skitz and Joe Burn have a fire album com­ing, Beg­gars doing a final album too. Just wish there was more UKHH com­ing out of Bris­tol.

What are your plans for the future? 

I’ve got a remix EP of Good Time not a Long Time in the works, A new Gardna x Kreed EP under­way. Rumours of Next­men vs Gen­tle­mans Dub Club vol 2. Ooof.

What is the greatest hip hop album of all time? 

Tough one. I’d prob­ably have to go with Lauryn Hill — The Mise­du­ca­tion of Lauryn Hill. In recent times Chil­dren of Zeus – Travel Light.

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DJ Isuru is a music journ­al­ist and broad­caster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series fea­tur­ing the best in Asi­an Under­ground, the next party will be on March 24th Ven­ue TBC.


DJ Isuru is a music journalist and broadcaster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series featuring the best in Asian Underground, the next party will be on March 24th Venue TBC.