The sound of an MC struggling to keep up with the pace.
Adam Kennedy 2009-10-19
Outshone to date by several fellow members of scene-leading London grime crew Roll Deep, Flow Dan’s debut album is largely a throwback to best-forgotten pre-dubstep days when UK garage’s hip hop-minded evolution began to stagnate.
While sometime crewmates Wiley and Dizzee Rascal have graduated to genuine chart contenders, Flow Dan’s finest solo excursions to date arrived via a handful of tunes on avant-dancehall producer The Bug’s landmark 2008 record London Zoo.
In truth, that history betrays Flow Dan’s greatest roles: either as a sparingly used guest or supporting rapper. At a wearying 18 tracks, Original Dan demonstrates that notion all too often, as he is without the necessary charisma to carry such a lengthy project alone.
Both Wiley and The Bug lend production backdrops, as does Roll Deep’s Target, yet Wiley’s contributions in particular suggest respective top-grade beat lockers remained firmly closed for the occasion.
It’s difficult to blame them, either, because Flow Dan’s dancehall-tinged flows drop to pedestrian pace with depressing regularity, lazy weed smoke-infused lyricism over reliant on playground rhymes, idle threats and dubious similes. Perhaps his origins as a jungle MC – a trade notorious for vacuum-empty chat – explain the general lack of deeper content.
Admittedly, it’s not all beyond salvation. Dis Side Bwoy, with a star turn from Roll Deep soldier Riko, is sufficiently cinematic to render content unimportant. The title track’s insistent beat rattles along with head-nodding intent, too.
For every victory, though, there is a Show Dem, clumsily dabbling with autotune, or What You Need, its swish club tempo undone by a selection of embarrassing chat-up lines fit to make even 15-year-old schoolgirls laugh derisorily.
Despite occasional flirtations with dubstep, dancehall and hip house, there’s little here that wasn’t pulled off better three or four years ago on numerous grime compilations and mixtapes. And when Flow Dan watermarks News at Ten with the words “Today’s the 10th of November 2008” even subsequent clever percussive use of Big Ben’s bongs can’t disguise that Original Dan is the sound of an MC struggling to keep up with the pace.