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One Take

One Take: December In Grime By Tomas Fraser
Tomas Fraser , December 4th, 2015 09:31

Tomas Fraser steps real steady with all of the grime reviews that are fit for consumption this month

Skepta - Top Boy

“I’m gonna step real steady”, says Skepta at both the opening and close of the new Noisey documentary Top Boy, a 30 minute film shot during his time on tour across the US and Canada - “If there’s any time in my life that I was ready for this opportunity, it’d be now.”

By all accounts, 2015 has belonged to Skepta, not only musically but also in terms of how far his image - one of imposing empowerment and strength - has given people a voice and put his sound, and his culture, on the map. His lyrics have fostered a growing disenchantment towards the establishment, towards the industry, towards authority - the ideals of a man chasing his music dream for 10 years, a man who’s suffered more disappointments, more upset and more missed opportunities than most. It’s perhaps this struggle that makes him such an interesting character, particularly for a US audience who’ll find parallels between his story and those of hip hop artists - rappers who’ve worked hard and grinded for their chance. And it’s this that ‘Top Boy’ manages to capture, as well as the stylistic differences that mark Skepta out as his own man.

Although only pieced together across five nights on tour with Boy Better Know, the film amplifies just how much a US tour means for those on both side of the Atlantic. “Skepta raps about being from London and how his life was, about getting his family and friends out of the ends… I feel that’s more relatable than talking about women and money and cars”, says one fan interviewed after a show in Washington DC, while another, this time from the UK, is filmed stopping him on the streets of New York to tell him to "feel very proud" of himself. Skepta might be well trodden ground in 2015, but there is a magnetism surrounding his name - and it’s hard to ignore.

There are lighter, more trivial moments to the film - the tour bus scenes are genuinely hilarious - it’s also interesting to listen to insight from younger artists like Novelist, Krept & Konan, who are filmed speaking after a riotous performance at MOMA PS1 in NYC. “Skepta’s been doing this for a long time, you get me”, says Novelist, “and he has a lot of influence in the UK, so anyone looking in from overseas, like, you have to respect him.”

Although now a figurehead at a more commercial, mainstream level, there’s never been a time when everyone - from fans, fellow artists and industry bods alike - have felt so clearly united behind one artist. “The only thing people remember about the guy with the spotlight is what he did with it”, Sketpa says as the film draws to a close, perhaps a reminder to himself of the wider responsibilities his music now carries. Lets hope he steps real steady.

Chip - ‘My Bruddaz’ Remix

Speaking of top boys, Chipmunk’s turbulent return to the fold has continued apace after taking proverbial shots at half the grime scene over Rapid’s ‘Pepper Riddim’ at the turn of the year. He’s announced the second volume in his Believe & Achieve EP series, lacing seven tracks of varying subject matter with guest appearances from Wiley, JME and Lethal Bizzle amongst others.

While the first was concerned with setting out his stall for a fresh start, the second volume frames the mindset of an artist with the ability to go down as one of grime’s greats, but one still reeling from his time out of the spotlight. That said, the remix of ‘My Bruddaz’ - more of a no frills, party banger than an ode to the complex, quick-fire lyricism that marked him out so famously on that Tim Westwood freestyle with Ice Kid back in 2007 - is genuinely good fun.

With JME and Lethal Bizzle providing big, brash, amped-up verses of their own, Chip’s vocals seem relaxed and unshackled. “Gift with the words, man got the gift of the gab, don’t make me give you a verse”, he reels off during the opening exchanges. It might not scale the heights of his early promise, but it’s with these records, the records that allow in which he gives himself the freedom to relax rather than analyse the scene he inhabits, that should see Chip back to his best.

Various - Boxed001

Looking at grime’s instrumental arm this month, there had to be a time when influential club-night-come-movement Boxed took the plunge into releasing records of their own - and Boxed001 has arrived just in time for Christmas, near-on three years since the first club night in a dusty, ramshackle Peckham club.

As with everything Boxed, the music is entirely self-sourced by the producers who helped birth the scene in which the club night now flourishes. The first is Dullah Beatz, consistently one of the best instrumental producers of the last 18 months, who has joined forces with Boxed originator Slackk on the oddly enchanting ‘Forest Walk’. It’s far removed from the robust, gun-cocking grime drills that have come to characterise the club-facing output of both, instead reminding one of, well, a walk in a forest - only preferably lit up by lighters in the air than lanterns hanging from the trees. Delicate, swooping melodies will ensure you can whistle along to it at work, while the drums and sharp, square wave bursts give it the weight to stand up in the club.

Newcomer Lloyd SB is next up on the outrageous ‘X Out’, one of the instrumental records of the year all things considered. Colossal bass zaps trip like detonator switches from the off, all punctuated by razor sharp claps designed to shake, rattle and roll - it’s a simple formula, but executed like this, is brutally effective. Low-end maestro Trends, another Boxed favourite, then gives Geeneus’ ‘Old Skool 2’ a dread makeover on the flip, kitting it out to sound a bit like an anti-aircraft battery in training, before Spokes comes through to cleanse all before him.

The beautiful, calming ‘Tragedy In The Jasmine Garden’ flows like a waterfall, and acts like its own digestif for the ears, as well as reminding everyone how rich and varied the Boxed sound has grown to become.

JT The Goon - King Triton

On an album front, JT The Goon, a quiet, diminutive figure for the most part, is a producer who’s developed his own, immediately identifiable sound under Oil Gang’s tutelage. His vision for his own music, so often praised for matching hypnotic, earworm melodies with his own brand of ‘gunman’ influenced grime sounds, feels fully realised on debut album, King Triton, too.

The record itself, illustrated with the face of a pitbull terrier wrapped in text simply emblazoned with the words ‘JT The Goon’, says everything you need to know. He prides himself on his humble background, but lets his music do the talking. In true JT style too, it’s an LP that casts rulebooks to the side, making a mockery of the traditional album format to present 12 tracks that neither intro or outro.

It all starts with the startling immediacy of title-track ‘King Triton’, which takes a little over 25 seconds to get into the groove, as textbook machine gun splatters and gun-cocking FX slice through the fluttery, trickling melodies like hot knife through butter. Some tracks do offer more emotional depth - check the gorgeous ‘Broken Silence’ and the quirky, bubblegum romance of ’50 Days Of May’ - while others, like the scorching pressure of ‘Day One’, go straight for the neck.

This is by no means a conceptual album but what JT manages to accomplish with King Triton isn’t necessarily conventional. As well as presenting himself as an artist in his own right, he’s given us an album that proves grime can be hard and gritty, but also light and undeniably listenable at the same time. If that wasn’t all, it’s left to Rabit to sign off with his stunning, dreamscape remix of JT’s first Oil Gang release, ‘Twin Warriors’ - a track that took on near-mythical status after first surfacing well over a 18 months ago.

Elf Kid - 'Golden Boy' (Hilts Remix)

Circling back towards grime’s vocal side, Elf Kid - a prominent member of influential, now semi-disbanded crew The Square - always seemed likely to go it alone at some point, and his debut single ‘Golden Boy’ certainly suggests it was a good decision.

Animated and frenetic in part, his lyrical style smacks of an MC still in love with the music he’s making, rather than viewing it as a means to an end - something often overlooked at this level, especially considering he’s still just 18 years old. The lyrics to ‘Golden Boy’, a single with considerable momentum on the underground circuit already, is typically Lewisham-centric too, an aspect of The Square’s music that made them such a force over the last year.

“Lewisham High Street’s Golden Boy”, he shouts on the hook, “With a pretty little lighty, Golden Boy, straight outta the nineties, Golden Boy!” - standout lyrics from countless radio shows that The Square performed on as a crew. Without wanting to regress to the school playground, there’s certainly an infectious quality to it too. Maybe it’s Elf’s smiley, happy-go-lucky energy or simply the fact that he’s still so passionately bound to Lewisham - whatever it is, it’s undeniably good.

With that in mind, ahead of it’s official release on No Hats No Hoods later this month, we’re premiering fellow Square member Hilts’ thumping, platform-game studded ‘Golden Boy’ flip, which incidentally follows Boylan’s recent, nightmarish edit of killer Elf Kid freestyle, ‘Oh Gosh’. Enjoy!