Thursday, December 23, 2010

Album Reviews: British Hip-Hop

Dizzee Rascal and Chipmunk had British hip-hop covered last year, sharing a total of 6 top 10 hits between them. This year a new leading force, Tinie Tempah, ruled the charts, as well as newcomer Devlin (his mate painted my house once) meeting with positive reviews for his debut album. Here's a quick run though of British hip-hop albums I've been listening to recently:

Tinie Tempah – Disc-Overy (4/5). It seems every popular British hip-hop artist have mastered the art to creating a well-balanced album after they score their first hit—a heavy side of radio-friendly rap with catchy hooks matching it effectively with dark bass-heavy topical grime, re-calling their roots before the UK charts were kind to them. Tinie Tempah doesn't quite use that formula on here, everything on here is pretty fun, radio-friendly and untaxing. You already know the fun skittering beats of breakthrough hit “Pass Out,” blaring electronic undertones of “Frisky,” and the contemplative pop of “Written in the Stars,” however Tempah boasts on the introductory darkening beats of “Simply Unstoppable,” which is about the closest to inaccessible hip-hop you''ll get on here. It's not a bad thing though, he wears the sound pretty well—delivering a handful of great pop -influenced tracks, which could land the rapper another batch of hits, such as current piano-assisted single “Invincible” with R&B singer Kelly Rowland and the delightful beaty collab with pop singer Ellie Goulding on “Wonderman.” But the albums most interesting moment is the firey collab with Swedish House Mafia on “Miami 2 Ibiza,” great synth-drenched undertones, kinetic beats and electronic flourishes. Best: Pass Out, Miami 2 Ibiza, Frisky, Written in the Stars, Wonderman, Simply Unstoppable.

Devlin – Bud, Sweat & Beers (4/5). Tinie and Tinchy were quick to leave the frustrations of London street life behind for a frothy naïve dabble in pop assisted hip-hop to secure their place in the upper-reaches of the UK charts—ultimatley 'selling out' as some hardcore hip-hop fans would call it. However British rapper Devlin (did I mention his mate painted my house once?) demonstrates on his aggressive debut those frustrations quite intensely, re-calling the same cut-throat and blunt affirmations as The Streets rather than his young contemporary counterparts. I like this a lot, but it's rather inconsistent, where it capitalizes on the relentless hip-hop beats, blunt lyrics and complex frantic delivery (“1989,” “Brainwashed” and “Marching Through the Fog”) it works well, however where it warms to a lighter radio-friendly sound (“Let it Go” and top 40 hit “Runaway”) doesn't work quite as well. Also, while it's refreshing to see Devlin sticking to his roots for his debut, however didn't fellow British rapper P'lan B do this way better on Who Needs Actions When You Got Words? Best: Brainwashed, 1989, Brainwashed, Marching Through the Fog, London City, Yesterday's News, Finally.

Tinchy Stryder – Third Strike (2/5) There were some great moments on Tinchy Stryder's major label debut, Catch 22, delivering an honest mix of grime and pop, however on the rapper's third album things feel a little patchy and lightweight—reeling from the thundering electro-pop/rap of “In My System” and the hard-hitting grime of “Game Over,” which features a host of British hip-hop rappers, including Tinie Tempah and Devlin, there aren't anymore worthy moments and kind of falls flat, ultimately any trails of something better than “Game Over” is buried beneath the excessive barrage of unnecessary features. Best: Game Over, In My System, Tommorow.

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