This is a very tasty EP which is delivered to us by the 7 MC Hoodz Underground crew from Steel City - Sheffield. Each side of the EP concentrates on a different set of artists, the A side being taken up with three tracks from
Big Critz & Menace, which feature the rest of Hoodz Underground produced by
JC and the B side is for the rest of the
Hoodz Underground MCs to step to the forefront.
The first track,
Bag Of Rawness is just that. This is the sort of hard smacking you about the head, impactful type of track that you need to grab your attention. It opens with a large orchestral sample and there is nothing like the right sample to make a track. Big Critz who stands strong with his own style is joined by Hoodz's Mr Menace and they continue to rip lines from the first one, "We take flight in this lyrical dogfight / and like police choppers I make the darkness bright", right through to the last one.
The Hard Copy is just as heavy, but is more subtle with its guitar / banjo loop and more skippy beat pattern, but the lyrics are just as hard hitting, with both MCs coming off well and shamelessly using their own native accents which sound real good. Throughout they refer to their home town and in the chorus state, "Big up the mans on lock down / Mr Menace, Big Critz, Hoodz Underground / You dun know its that Sheffield Steel City sound / You Cant stop it, The Hard Copy, The Hard Copy!"
Rounding up the Big Critz and Mr Menace collaboration is
Times Out, apparently a freestyle, which if it is totally off the dome is pretty impressive as Big Critz hardly misses any beats and only loses it one time at about 2 minutes in, but he is quick to get back on it after a quick beat drop and restart. Mr Menace does even better and kicks it for his full verse without tripping up once. These MCs certainly have skills for days, and I don't think many would survive a battle with these two. The production is more laid back than the previous two tracks which just shows JC's versatility as each beat has something different to offer and a distinct, but somehow consistent vibe. This last tune features a fast, but relaxing piano riff, which for variation is played backwards occasionally.
Now on the purely Hoodz Underground side entitled
Wanted - Has Anyone Heard These Men, we are first off treated to something rather different.
Steel City Elite is a fast paced track that harks back to the days of Hijack and Gunshot and 120 bpm plus beats. This one ain't that fast, but you can see where the origins of Drum & Bass are, and if you have a few years on the clock you'll remember this style. The melody is simply made up from a series of long tones and this includes the bass line, (if you really wanna call it that). Rhymes are delivered in an angry semi shouted way as all of the 7 MCs get a chance on the mic. Not sure which order they all come in, but the breakdown of the Hoodz Underground crew breaks down like this: B Plate, Jonni Atcha, Raw Deal, J Poet, Mr Menace, D Damadge and finally Coroner.
Bloody Hell has more experimental production immediately launching into the lyrics before the track has got going. The beat builds up slowly over the first series of short verses, which each MC ends Bloody Hell. Then we get a sudden burst of a fat drum break, and almost immediately we're back into the melange of distorted rock guitars and synthesiser riffs. The sequence leaves you guessing how they are going to run the track. Quite different, but then again, it is also quite listenable.
Last Man Standing rounds off the whole EP and features a mad battling banjo over what could be the same beat that Stetsa used for Talking All That Jazz, or another track of that era - can't remember now what it is, could have been LL's bonus beats on one of the Ultimate Breaks and Beats. Anyway, I'm not sure if this is the high point the EP should end on. As ever the MCs bust with a lot of energy, but the track could have been laced up a little differently for maximum benefit. Never the less, you have to give props for the crazyness of the banjo.
This is a strong and foreboding piece of work that definitely needs your attention. You certainly get value for money with 6 heavy as fuck tracks and a veritable plethora of MCs all encapsulated in a variety of beats. Due to the limited distribution of
Trackshicker Records you'll need to grab it when you see it, but it should be available all over Sheffield in shops like HMV, Fopp, Store and Reflex. Both Big Critz and Hoodz Underground are currently working on LPs slated for release in 2003, with singles due to drop around February or March.