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Various Artists This is UK Rap, Volume 1 Review

Compilation. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

The freshest artists of the UK's contemporary rap generation demand to be heard.

Noel Gardner 2012

Circa 2012, it’s probably harder than ever to get a handle on the UK rap of this release’s title. Its compilers have attempted to do so, in part, by being as comprehensive as possible: This is UK Rap features more than 150 minutes of music.

For this reason, it doesn’t feel like it crystallises a scene in the same way as British beats’n’rhymes collections of old – 2000’s Word Lab, which featured UK hip hop icons like Roots Manuva and Blak Twang, or Run the Road, a snapshot of grime royalty from 2005.

Nevertheless, there’s a lot to like about this collection, and many pointers as to where the current scene is heading. Save for a few elder statesmen – Scorcher and guests including Wretch 32 offer the so-so It’s All Love; Skepta appears on Blade Brown’s menacing crawl In Your Dreams – everyone on here emerged in the last few years, as grime hit a creative impasse but provided pop-chart bounty for its proverbial one percent.

The MCs and crews that have emerged in the meantime (‘road rap’ is the preferred descriptor for some, although it hasn’t caught on commercially) are just as combative, territorial and self-regarding as grime’s mid-00s wave, but the production style is leagues apart. Maximalist and unsubtle, it comes off like a British answer to US producers like Lex Luger and Drumma Boy – Cashtastic’s Gassed in the Rave and Put it in a Bag by Fem Fel are primed to cause considerable dancefloor ruckus.

Peckham’s infamous Giggs, perhaps the most prominent link between grime and road rap, makes a showing on Margs’ F**k Feds. It’s a clutch of significant things inside five minutes: an explicitly police-loathing, Gucci Mane-ish banger with a dancehall influence and some Auto-Tune.

For all the firearms chat and post-watershed language on This is UK Rap, there’s a softer underbelly that comes out in things like Young Mad B’s Hennessy Flowing or (the often good) Princess Nyah’s Take Control. But it's when the MCs are at their fiercest that attentions are truly pricked; then, in full, furious flow, this latest UK rap generation demands to be heard.

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