The London MC aims to bridge the gap between underground UK hip hop and the mainstream.
Adam Kennedy 2010-05-04
While British MCs from Dizzee Rascal to Professor Green have hijacked the singles chart by crossing over into pop-brushed domains, the traditional sound of UK hip hop has been left behind to flounder rather, increasingly detached from the mainstream.
Enter Rudyard Kipling-tastic London mic fiend Mowgli – apparently his actual name, unlikely fact fans – to bridge that aforementioned gap, condensing his life to date and a good deal of homeland pop culture into a mighty promising debut.
Imbued with an almost impenetrable wall of riddle-loving lines and evocative imagery, it’s quickly apparent that Mowgli boasts lyrics to burn. That’s a surprisingly important facet in an arena often overrun with rappers more interested in filling releases with idle boasts of rhyming agility over actually articulating worthwhile insight.
The craftsmanship is evident as atmospheric intro 0 travels right back to the feel of Wu-Tang Clan’s revelatory Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Something then jamming us firmly through the keyhole of Mowgli’s world. And there’s more than a passing resemblance to Roots Manuva’s weighty delivery as Mowgli utters opening wisdom “Spoon-deep in the porridge bowl…” with considerable gravitas.
Subsequent verses reveal tougher outer plating – or, as Mowgli puts it, “speckles of gold action packed with meaning” – whether spitting from street level about social inequality or, less salubriously on Six Stages, sexual misdemeanours including dogging.
Elsewhere, he eschews constrictions observed by many compatriots in his chosen scene without totally abandoning a defiantly British standpoint, claustrophobic production on highs like Grit bolstered by a refusal to follow stylistic fads. The greatest impact comes when Mowgli’s sensitive side peeps above the parapet, though, most tangibly via the heartfelt ruminations, intelligent sampling and Commodore 64-worthy melodies within She.
UK hip hop won’t arise from its ashes on the strength of 93 alone, not least as, at 76 minutes, it’s a tad lengthy to avoid occasional flickers of filler material. But without need for misguided patriotic exaggeration, if this is indicative of the life rustling in the country’s rap undergrowth then all hope might not be lost just yet.