Yoshi Riot is putting Manchester on the Hip-Hop map. Since releasing debut EP ‘Smoke Me I’m Dope’ two years ago he’s featured in numerous collaborations including ‘Terminal Testimony’ with Jister and ‘Ain’t No Use’ with fellow mancunians Leddie & Smoggy. 2014 has seen him adopt an assiduous workflow, already having released two EPs, ‘The Working Classy’ and ‘The Stretch’, early August will see the release of debut album ‘Contrast’, a brilliant record that should cement his place on the UK hip-hop scene.
The album kicks off with ‘Let’s Go’, a great intro track that sees Yoshi deliver parlayed vocals over a soft and reminiscent beat, introducing us not only to his style and flow, what he’s about as a rapper, but also what he’s about as a human.
Track 2 ‘Lately’ has a typically hip-hop sound beat that will please purists such as myself. Yoshi adopts a similarly definitive style of delivery and flow to match this and his timing is expert, delivering drawn out rhymes in a style reminiscent of Nas, the rhyme is completed by the penultimate word of the sentence with the last word carrying forward to the next line, not an easy feat to achieve successfully, but here it’s been mastered.
‘It’s Deeper Than That’ is track 3 and has a similar style to track 2, giving the album a good flow. In addition to the hard-hitting old-skool drum patterns, the beat incorporates some beautiful melodic and harmonic elements, giving a further dimension.
Track 4 ‘Like Ya Meant It (Drop)’ is an early highlight of the record. Yoshi delivers some great wordplay commentating on this generation’s superficialities and shortcomings with impressive depth whilst maintaining high quality structure, flow and rhyme. The chorus sees him adopt a more aggressive style of delivery and incorporating growls further demonstrating his high ability as an MC.
‘No Sleep (Cousin of Death)’ follows as track 5 and perfectly follows on from the aggressive style of track 4 with a laidback, clap-along beat and parlayed vocals. Packed full of relentless wordplay and well timed delivery this track is another highlight with its smooth-as-vinyl-lining hook and chilled vibe. This chilled vibe is continued with track 6 ‘Lightspeed’ with instrumentation reminiscent of early Speech Debelle material and a shuffling beat. Yoshi delivers more high-grade wordplay with a definitive flow and catchy hook.
Track 7 ‘Contrast’ features the records first guest spot in the form of Smooth Jezza, whose verse is hip-hop gold with amazing flow. Following the style of the previous track the vibe is kept chilled with a laidback beat. ‘Signz’ follows as track 8 with another guest appearance, this time from Genesis Elijah. A simple yet effective beat is accompanied by both MCs delivering socially aware lines about hidden truths and oppression, displaying their appreciation for hip-hop’s often forgotten fifth element; knowledge. Great production, giving the beat and the bass their separate sonic zones, also adds to the effectiveness of this track; another highlight.
Track 9 ‘Breath’ sees Yoshi return to a more aggressive style, which sits perfectly after the laid back vibe of the previous few tracks. In spite of the aggressive style, the tempo of the vocal is laid back which gives a great contrast and also demonstrates Yoshi’s talent for delivering the notoriously troublesome ‘slow-rap’ with amazing ease, really highlighting his talent as an MC.
‘’Maybe I Could’ follows as track 10 and again sees a laid back beat accompanied with slightly more aggressive vocals this time with a smooth hook providing a pleasing contrast. Once again the production of the beat has been handled expertly giving a really atmospheric sound and letting the vocal sit beautifully. With lyrics about love and relationships this track’s maturity gives a refreshing change from the overtly chauvinistic subject matter of most chart hip-hop today. Track 11 ‘Call Me When You Get This’ makes brilliant use of sampling and more parlayed flow from Yoshi produce a sound reminiscent of golden era hip-hop from the 90s or an early Kanye West sound.
Top female rapper Leddie (of Leddie & Smoggy) features on track 12 ‘Yes Lord’ and the combination of her and Yoshi really creates a special sound, a suitably aggressive flow is delivered by both MCs and a start-stop beat allows the vocal lines to create their own rhythms, fitting around the track and creating am awesome sound. Leddie is a brilliant MC and her appearance here really showcases her talent. A catchy hook sung by Yoshi and Leddie further adds to the greatness of this track; gold-standard hip-hop.
Track 13 ‘Natural Selection’ continues with the stop-start beat style, leaving space for the vocal to stand alone, and it works really well. Another guest spot from Jister also sits well, giving the track greater dimension. ‘Hello Sunshine’ follows as track 14 and sees a return to a chilled vibe. The vocals are delivered again with great timing, wrapping around the beat. Track 15 ‘Do What I Gotta’ returns to a golden-era sound, employing a reverberated beat and a great vocal flow with relentless rhyming and brilliant wordplay, but again it’s wordplay with meaning, which is always welcome.
Track 16 ‘2nd Generation’ was released earlier in the year in the wake of the UKIP debate and deals with Yoshi’s take on the ‘immigrant bashing’ that’s all too present. Having family originating from Russia, Hungary and Yugoslavia gives him an in-depth knowledge of the subject and he’s cleverly passing on that insight to the listener, whilst maintaining a great flow and much wordplay and rhyme. This track marks another highlight of the record, handling such a contentious social issue with such maturity and ease suggests real potential for Yoshi to go far on the hip-hop scene internationally and showcases his integrity perfectly.
Track 17 ‘I Miss You Sometimes’ is the best track on the record, I won’t go into depth on the subject matter, but Yoshi pitches it flawlessly with a breathtakingly emotive delivery over a reminiscent beat, highlighting music’s ability to break the fourth wall and hit listeners on another level.
‘Shine On’, track 18, has another catchy hook and returns to the more upbeat vibe. Yoshi spits some impressively intricate lines at pro-speed and switches between rapping and singing without issue. The inclusion of horns and synths in the beat give a great sound that accompanies the vocal brilliantly. Track 19 ‘If There Was Any Other Way’ featuring TS17 Projekt has a similar sound to the previous track and sees Yoshi continue to showcase some impressive vocal ability.
The record closes with ‘We Don’t Have Forever’, a laid back track where the focus is on the vocal, which works perfectly as the final sound, cementing Yoshi’s ability displayed throughout the album. Intelligent and intricate rhyme patters and wordplay, and a simple beat all work together to create a classic hip-hop sound with a modern stamp.
This record showcases Yoshi Riot’s ability and talent perfectly and the production has been handled masterfully; Contrast is a brilliant work of modern UK hip-hop. There is potential for Yoshi to go far with ability this high and if he continues to develop his sound we are undoubtedly in store for a classic album in the not-too-distant future. At 20 tracks, this record is a long player, and amazingly, it’s all killer and no filler. Highly recommended.
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