A fresh sound in UK hip hop, Dels’ debut LP is an off-kilter winner.
Ele Beattie 2011-04-28
Despite the best efforts of us Brits, hip hop has predominantly been a US thing. That doesn't mean to say we haven't had our fair share of terrific MCs: Roots Manuva, Jehst and Skinnyman have been representing for years now, and Dizzee and Wiley introduced audiences to grime, but the scene has threatened to lapse into stagnation. But just when that seemed likely, along come new talents to refresh the domestic rap game: first Ghostpoet, and now his friend and cohort Dels. The most successful British MCs stay true to what they do and know, and Dels is in this mould. There’s no mention of sipping Cristal, only of hangovers; no objectification of women, just heartbreak; no boasting about cars and cribs, just fears of finding (or not finding, rather) the right path in life.
As more music is being synthetically produced, with only vocal samples offering a hint of humanity, Gob, by comparison, is an honest, living and breathing being of an album. Opening track Hydronenburg has the man born Kieren Dickens suggest that we "open up (his) brain with a can opener" – seems someone beat us to it, as his grey matter’s all over these musings. Some are cool, some insecure; most are fragmented. "Feeling hungover, my boss needs to get lost / I'm day-dreaming, I need to fix up." Isn't that true for us all? This is Dels voicing our version of Biggie's Everyday Struggle. The title-track looks beyond the daily grind to the holy grail of a universal truth: "Am I dreaming in colour or black in white? Is it truth that I’m living or am I living a lie?"
Amongst the retrospective lyrics of childhood track Shapeshift, it appears Dels has found his calling as an MC. He morphs between cheetah, car and super hero, "…before I picked up a mic and started writing rhymes / I could alter my form at any given time". Honest lyrics backed by off-kilter and unexpected production from Kwes, Micachu and Joe Goddard of Hot Chip give this album this album a rough, unique edge. An impressive statement of a debut, Gob is just as good as the moment we first witnessed the fitness.