As a hip-hop purist, I feel it’s always possible to differentiate between artists that rap because they want to make rap music and those that rap because it came naturally to them and started organically. One artist representative of the latter is Nottingham based MC Duke01 who recently revealed that he started rapping as a form of expression during a time in his youth when he felt a real sense of isolation and being alone, the organic roots of his craft are evident in the depth of passion poured into his delivery.
Latest release ‘Steroid Stereo’, out now on Uncommon Records, verifies this passion and intensity perfectly.
Intro ‘Killed Your Radio’ opens with horns and scratching, setting an old-skool tone that continues throughout the record. There’s a futuristic feel to the intro which combines well with the old-skool elements to create a sound that’s contemporarily innovative whilst ‘tipping the hat’ to the origins of hip-hop.
‘Ellington Binary (A Depth Jam Recording)’ follows as track 2. The beat and style of delivery here are reminiscent of 80s hip-hop, Duke01 has taken a style of flow similar to greats such as Public Enemy and put a British stamp on it, evocative of some legendary UK hip-hop heavyweights from back in the day such as Cookie Crew or Rodney P. The beat chugs away mechanically behind the vocal both components cleverly working both independently and collaboratively with each other, at times the beat and vocal are hand in hand and at other times playing off against one another. The vocal line also works to create counter-rhythms which add to the overall effect magnificently, then towards the end a guitar riff you could have heard as a solo on a Prince track is thrown into the mix carrying the listener to the finale in grandiose style finishing off with more scratching, again giving us a hint of the old-skool.
Track 3 is ‘Eat Your Mistakes’ , a track about taking responsibility for your actions, conduct and behaviour in relationship breakdowns. The beat is of a similar style to track 2, chugging and partially old-skool but with a contemporary twist. The wordplay here is on point with attention being paid to both rhyme and meaning.
‘The Pursuit of Cow Meat’ follows as track 4 and with a marching beat, scratching and some impressively fast spitting, is a highlight of the record. There is, again, some clever wordplay ‘The Persuit of Cow Meat/Beef’ for example, it’s good to see artists remembering that they can put out music with a serious and important message but still have fun with concepts and wordplay as this is so often forgotten in hip-hop today.
Track 5 is ‘Countdown to Armour Getting’ (another great example of the high-grade wordplay we’re being treated to on this record), featuring fellow MCs Dwyzak, Masai Bey, Passive 65ive, Atari Blitzkrieg & Uncommon as guests. At 7:38 the track does drag on slightly but it’s filled with so much greatness that this doesn’t really matter. The beat is, again, hardcore and action packed with sound effects and crashes with the MCs letting their words wrap around and become part of the rhythms created.
‘Silence Fiction’ is the penultimate track, another highlight of the record. The delivery is on point and there’s more top wordplay. A guitar riff repeats throughout, holding the track together, making a refreshing change from the drum machine heavy sounds so prolific on the hip-hop scene.
‘Separated By An Abyss’ is the record closer, opening with scratching as if to remind the listener one last time of the old-skool influences that have been present throughout. There’s some deep meaning in the lines of this track and, again, some great wordplay. On this track both instrumentation and delivery seem a little less hard than both have been at other points on the record and this works perfectly at this point, pushing the listeners focus to the words themselves and what is being said.
With ‘Steroid Stereo’ Duke01 has created a great record, which will please fans of both old-skool and modern day rap due to the inclusion of elements synonymous with both styles. The scratching and delivery for example are often reminiscent of 80s hip-hop whereas the subject matter, instrumentation (at times) and some of the soundscaping techniques borrow more from modern day hip-hop. It’s also incredibly refreshing to hear beats that rely heavily on guitar riffs and horns to hold them together rather than the ‘drums-or-nothing’ approach so often taken. These innovative elements may mean that you have to listen to the record more than once before you start to really embrace it as it’s different to a lot of the hip-hop put out on today’s market. If you find yourself unsure after the first spin, I highly recommend you play the record again.
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