Two Fingers is a hugely impressive collaborative album.
Lou Thomas 2009
Derek Safo, aka Sway, may have used Alexander O’Neal and Cherrelle’s Saturday Love for his most popular tune but his latest work with Brazilian electronica pioneer Amon Tobin and Brigton cohort Joe ‘Doubleclick’ Chapman is far more challenging. Tobin already has a healthy reputation for moody soundscapes and trip-hop invention but this collaboration with the north London rapper is intriguing.
What You Know is typically unsettling. Musically, it’s sparse and scary like a minimal baile funk crossed with Burial-type dubstep. It’s as disquieting as a night in darkened cell.Sway’s accompanying rhymes mock wannabe gangsters living vicariously in blunt fashion: “What you know about gangster life? Them boys them boys got guns and knives, them boys them boys sell drugs at night.”
That Girl is sonically captivating with its syncopated carnival drums and old-skool rave synths. But here the subject matter is one many can relate to: a girl who parties too hard.“She’s going off the rails and now everything for thrills/ she’s got multicoloured alcopops and multicoloured pills.”
High Life is another tremendous effort with Sway tearing out rhymes like a London Busta Rhymes. Dirty breakbeats and the sound of WALL-E being soldered to a toaster accompany in electrifying fashion.
Although he appears on seven of its twelve tracks, the album is not simply about Sway. Two ominous, malevolent instrumentals share the remaining space with Missy Elliot protégé Ms Jade and dancehall favourite Cecile.
Bad Girl is the most notable of the three female-sung tracks. By turns sweet and dangerous, Cecile’s lyrics ride an astonishing bed of warped throbs, tinkling riffs and thudding kick drums. Imagine The Qemists and Timbaland fighting over a mixing desk while Stanton Warriors skanked in the background.
Two Fingers is a hugely impressive collaborative album but one that will definitely be hard-going for sensitive ears. Yet, for brave lovers of electronic music and rap unconcerned with genre boundaries or obvious pop melody, it’s a must.