UK Hip Hop: International
Braintax - Biro Funk LP
Braintax - 'Biro Funk' LP
Braintax in the river speaking to pens!!!
Braintax has been keeping his fans waiting for sometime for this gem. The wait has been worth it though and all the time spent producing this has not been wasted. There are 14 varied tracks, across many the many genre's of today's Hip Hop and surprisingly it is all solid. No fillers. Brando Flux has said that he has been working on this LP since the first day he started making music and that in the process he has recorded upwards of 40 tracks and dismissed many of them for not being quite up to par. What is left could be one of the albums of the year, in what has turned out to be quite a special year for UK Hip Hop, i.e., Roots Manuva's sophomore effort, Phi Life Cypher's Millennium Metaphors and Mark B & Blade's Unknown LPs, amongst others, were all milestones. 

There is definitely at least one track on this record for just about any Hip Hop fan, and for people on my level you can just play it all the way through, over and over. And not tire of it. Initially the general quality of the production hits you, from his Shepherds Bush studio, Brain Flaps creates his own distinguishable sound and gets results one would expect from a multi million pound set up. Its not the equipment you have, but the way you use it!! With repeated plays the sheer depth of this record becomes apparent, both in terms of the musical backing, but more importantly in the intelligent lyrics. All topics across relationships, the world's political climate, musing on the future and battle raps are included here and explored with an insight that would be glossed over by many of today's MCs. Although the lyrics are clear the album comes with a useful insert lyric sheet for you to follow along with, considering what the man is saying this is a nice touch.

The LP opens with the current 12" release 'Donít Drag Me In !' for which Joey Brains teams up with Mystro who is always very heavy. The lyrics are up to par with a tale of how one has to raise above peer pressure and make your own mistakes. DJ Harry Love (who first found limelight as the youngest member of the Scratch Perverts) blesses the turntables. The skits on the album mostly amount to the noise of Shepherds Bush traffic, with strange sound effects, the first one being what sounds like a Peruvian pipe band chanting Low Life! 'Opening Titles' says featuring Skinnyman, who disappointingly only spits an intro, but I suppose Skinny did just as much as he did on Blade's track, and strictly he did feature on it, just not heavily!! During the track the Taxman breaks down the history of the label and then goes on to namecheck the people he has worked with to make the LP. Both the Beats and cuts for this track are quality and are provided by Harry Love. 

The last track on side A 'Futureghost' is one of the more serious tracks and has some deep subject matter. The MC raps from the viewpoint of a ghost who has returned to observe the future. Describing a bleak possible reality where people who have run out of credits at the Oxygen shop either suffocate or have to turn to crime. People are living in corrugated iron shanty towns outside Heathrow, politicians need to check this so they can see where their policies are taking us. The track ends with the ghost dying for a second time. Moody Blade Runner type fantasies for which the music has a fittingly emotional string sample and uses sampled beat box sounds for part of the drum kit.

For Godnose Braintax teams up with fellow stable mates Task Force again, for a track that should have been entitled 'We Don't Give A Fuck!' 279 must rate this track because he recently played this and must have spent a good deal of time editing out the f* words in order to be able to do so. Produced by Farma G, the beat is on the edge of cheesy but less so than some of their other recent tunes - Music From The Corner on Wordlab 2 and another one I forget, however they are experimenting and I can allow that, especially when you add the vocals and the flows, it takes the track to another level. Chester's verse on that has some great flow and works on numerous levels - 'Grimlock, megabyte' fucking heavy!!! 'Last Date' and 'Speak Your Mind' follow with 2 personal takes on the wonderful world of relationships. 'Last Date' sees Braintax explore the situation of a relationship in its last throws - complete with bitter recriminations and real life arguments. All over a Ben Grymm beat with a tasty plonky piano sample. 'Speak Your Mind' is like part 2. Now free from a shitty relationship Bran Flakes is in a much more upbeat mood and on the look out for a new girl. Rounding up the first disc Colin Emmanuel aka C-Swing, better known for his hit-work with Jamelia and The Beta Band, provides the musical accompaniment for the title track - 'Biro Funk'. Pure butter. A track for Braintax to go off on one, skatty rhymes and smooth funkdafied ish, this'll bump on any system.

Side C opens with the battle rap 'Cobblestones' aimed in general at weak acts which was first available on the Stonegroove released Raw Materials vol.1 compilation. A few nails are hit right on the head with this track. Next up 'The Grip' featuring a Jehst produced beat, delivers some of the most poignant lyrics out there at the moment. Braintax delves deep into many aspects of governmental foreign policy and how this negatively effects many of the poorest people in society. Many people will pick up the lyrics at the beginning of the second verse, and in the wake of September 11th make Btax seem like a prophet. Listen and learn! Moving on to a more idyllic description of how life could and should be 'Peace' sees the man fishing on a French country estate with his Brazilian mate, or having a barbeque and chilling with a spliff sitting at the top of a cliff. This is how life should be. 'Oceans' continues this theme and sees him imagining all the positive possibilities for the future. All over another mellow, but rocking Ben Grymm beat and cuts by Harry Love.

It is hard to pick out any one side as being better than the others and it is no different for the final side. For those who missed last yearís single, the B-side 'Escuchame' is included here, retouched, but still maintaining the rich depth of the original Ben Grymm beats. For the penultimate track 'Riviera Hustle' imaginations go into overdrive, when Jehst and Braintax describe life as down and out hustlers pretending to be living a high rollers life, rubbing shoulders with the Duke of York and Peter Sellers. It is like a cross between Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and the Pink Panther with a bit of James Bond thrown in. Its all done over a Latin flavoured trumpet break giving the backing a sunny Mediterranean feel. Then, all too soon, to close, we get one of the most personal tracks on the LP, reflecting on life in London circa 2001. 'Exit' is produced by Benny Live-O from Black Market Records store and epitomises the feel of Biro Funk - different, varied, twisted, never generic and, as always, very relative.

Overall, I would recommend this purchase to everyone. You must hear this and keep it in your collection. Joey Brains has created a classic, which showcases his ability as an MC and producer. I feel that he has the skills to hold the whole LP together and therefore does not need the bounteous guest appearances many other lack lustre LPs pack in to boost the appeal. However, those guests who do feature are the cream of UK Hip Hop and add to the tracks they drop. The Album is more than just a collection of tracks, the order has obviously been carefully thought through. It takes the listener on a journey, much like someone growing up, maturing, and evolving their outlook and attitude towards life. Starting with adolescence and peer pressure, through bigging up his crew, to angst worrying about the future. The next topics relate to girlfriends and relationships, I love the way that Last Date runs into Speak Your Mind. The flow continues on through political awakening, to describing his wishes for the future. A truly fulfilling listening experience, with bouncy uplifting party tracks and food for you mind too. Pick it up, pick it up, pick it upÖ.

Visit Braintax on the web: www.lowliferecords.co.uk
Email: info@lowliferecords.co.uk :: Tel: +44 (0) 20 8762 9890

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