Brixton's latest hotly-tipped MC mixes it up with his crew...
Alex Forster 2007
With a series of successful mixtapes and a 1Xtra newcomer award under his belt, Brixton boy, L. Man, is stepping up a gear. His last release before a debut album drops on LoveDough, New Age Army is an ‘album-slash-mixtape’ that showcases the skills of an MC who's been putting in the groundwork.
With support from Radio 1’s Tim Westwood, 1Xtra’s Semtex and Rodney P and Skitz - not to mention over 1500 daily Myspace hits - others are starting to sit up and take notice. Sharing the same name as his South London crew N Double A, New Age Army displays L’s sound, dubbed as “mix breed”; the rawness and energy of grime with the lyricism and narratives of hip hop: ‘This ain’t rap or grime this is true stories’ (“Fright Night”).
“Pushin” and “Fly With Me” sum up L’s reflective side; melancholy yet soulful with enough optimism to keep the listener from feeling too lost in L’s occasionally bleak world. On Ruff Squad’s “Xtra (Remix)” and “Rep Your Endz”, L switches from articulate rapper to grime hype M.C. with ease. Further proof of his live credentials come from an appearance on DJ Cameo’s 1Xtra show and a freestyle in Newcastle where he rides impressively over Plastician’s “Japan” riddim and Justin Timberlake’s “My Love”.
Weaker tracks like “Crazy Demons” find L’s lyrics too muddled and incoherent, the production in these cases isn’t diverting or interesting enough to carry the song. “Rep The Block”, featuring Infamous and Solo of N Double A, is also a lowpoint. Not only predictable but ruined by Infamous’ lame opening bars. It’s refreshing to see L going easy on the gun talk in favour of more socially aware material – once the domain of hip hop but now adopted by some grime M.C’s (JME, Little Dee) – even if at times it misfires. The endorsement of giving blood (“Bread And Roses”) featuring current hot tips Mr Hudson and The Library doesn’t really provoke much thought beyond slight bafflement. When he gets it right - “Children In Need” paints a picture of the despair of addiction - it makes for intense and poignant listening.
If his forthcoming debut album is to meet the high expectations placed on this promising MC, L. Man needs to iron out some of the lukewarm moments of New Age Army and play to his strengths.