All too often hip-hop is considered a solely American sport, an understandable consideration given the history of the genre and it’s firm roots in New York, but an offensive one all the same. Since the 1980s the UK has fought it’s own rap corner with many heavyweights, acts such as Cookie Crew, X Posse, Rodney P and Monie Love flying the flag spectacularly and today there are still many UK artists who continue to do this, it’s unfortunate that so often they don’t receive the credit or success their work deserves.
Earlier this week UK spoken word artist shortMAN aka MattBlack released new 5‑track album ‘jokesville [part won]’ via his bandcamp page. The album has no set price, you can pay as much or as little as you want, you can even download it completely free.
Let’s start with Self Taught Beats, the producer of this album. STB has produced some of the slickest, most polished beats the UK scene has heard in recent years. He’s worked with artists including national rap treasure Speech Debelle and the criminally underexposed Realism (both of whom are currently working on new material by the way) and possesses the kind of beat making skill that, were the UK hip-hop market as lucrative as the American scene, you would most definitely have heard of. The production on ‘jokesville [part won]’ is world class, the beats are soft where you want them to be and hard where you need them to be, the brilliance of this album is reliant as equally on the production and the sensational soundscape they produce as it is on the vocals.
‘Get No Play’ kicks off the album, an introduction to shortMAN’s vocal style, which is seriously high-grade. Part spoken, part rapped and part sung the delivery is faultless, wrapping around the beat at times and distancing itself from it in the next bar. Major points are also earned on this track for the rhyming coup Julia Roberts/Hippopotamus (trust me, it works).
Track two ‘Lady Love’ keeps the bar up where track one set it. The beauty of this track lies in the uncomplicated old skool beat (there’s rave horns too) and the rhymes and delivery both remain faultless.
‘God’s Gift’ follows as track three, an upbeat anthem with organs and horns playing leading roles in the beat and a chorus that will stick in your head, in a good way. The vocal delivery here reaches a peak, critics who refuse to acknowledge the talent of rapping should listen to this track, the way shortMAN goes through the track with subtle but effective use of tone and aggression really showcase the skills he possesses as a performer brilliantly.
Track four ‘Pro’ is another ear-gasm. By this point it’s clear that the producer and artist have an awesome creative energy combined, the beat and vocals wrap around each other with amazing ease and original choices of both instrumentation and vocal style play together to create an immense hip-hop experience.
The album closes in perfect fashion with laid back rap slow jam ‘Taking the Pop’, honest lyrics delivered in a way that really emphasises shortMAN’s talent as a spoken word artist. With flawless poetic metre the vocal line creates a counter rhythm to that of the beat, creating a really unique sound.
With this record shortMAN and Self Taught Beats have created a masterpiece in modern UK hip-hop, a work that deserves recognition and success, a perfect blend of originality, talent and passion that has conceived something very special indeed. ShortMAN is definitely an artist on the rise and it’s so exciting to have him on the UK hip-hop scene.
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