UK Hip Hop: International
Mark B & Blade - Ya Don't See The Signs 20/04/01
Mark B and Blade - Ya Don't See The Signs

It might seem like it, but this site is not becoming a Mark B and Blade fan appreciation site. It can't be denied that they have certainly been receiving a lot of press coverage and praise within that coverage, that is one of the benefits of being signed to a subsidiary of a major label. The rub can be seen with the current direction the band are taking. The band are certainly working hard to get their name out there and after a previous successful support slot Mark B & Blade now kick off their second UK tour in two months by supporting indie rock act Feeder at London's Astoria on Saturday 21st April. The Astoria date is the last on Feeder's current sold out tour - and the first on Mark B & Blade's own nine dates which culminate at Homelands on May 25.

After forming a relationship at the previous gigs Mark B and Blade have collaborated with Feeder frontman Grant Nicholas for the re-releasing of 'Ya Donít See The Signs', on May 7th. (It was previously a single off the Word Lab UK Hip Hop compilation album). Many people have remarked that this is one release too many off the 'Unknown' album and I would be tempted to agree and would like to see some new material, but Mark B and Blade need to maintain their profile to ensure their album sales remain buoyant. I would imagine that most Hip Hop fans have been aware of Mark B and Blade for some time and would have purchased the album by now, but after their recent favourable exposure to a larger audience, Mark B and Blade and their label would be keen to stoke up sales and let the record have a second wind with a fresh set of buyers.

'Ya Don't See The Signs' is the follow up to 'The Unknown' Ė which entered the charts at no.49. It is already receiving heavy airplay on the radio, but there has been a fair amount of disparaging comment about this remix amongst Hip Hop circles. However, this remix is not aimed at them. Instead it is aimed to tap into feeder's fan base and suck in all those potential purchasers who wouldn't necessarily buy a straight up Hip Hop record. As such I think they have probably succeeded. To my un-trained ear it seems quite a competent track for this 'Kid Rock' crossover type genre. 

Although for many the Hip Hop/Feeder collaboration may appear odd it is something the marketing men are keen on and has worked well in the past as far back as Run DMC and others in that era. Those that know Blade are well aware that in his days before hooking up with Mark B he would frequently have considerably harder production behind him (not to say that for 'hard' production you need to go down the Rock route). You can tell that this remix comes from the non-Hip Hop artist, due to the prominence of the mids and the almost non-existent kick drum, but because of this it will appear authentic to Feeder fans and hopefully make Blade a bit of dosh - he deserves a bit of shine. With re-recorded vocals Blade changes the emphasis and feeling of each bar, although the flow remains essentially the same. Added to this are Grant Nicholas' trademark live guitar riffs and basslines - a full on assault on the senses. 

After this wall of noise the original mix which follows seems dull and mildly lack lustre, maybe it just seems old to me. It has however just been voted no. 3 in the 'Single of the Year' poll by readers of Hip-Hop Connection magazine. In this mix Mark B knits a simple piano riff with punchy beats, bongos and gunshots whilst Blade does some of the nimblest rapping I have heard from him. As with so many of the tracks on the album the main topics are frustrations with the plight of UK based Hip-Hop. Personally I don't have a problem with this because I can identify with what he is saying and feel the story of under exposure and un-rewarded work needs to be told over and over until someone listens, but some other listeners require more varied subject matter. Cuts are by the turntable wizard himself: Mr. Thing. It is certainly a tremendous track and shows both Mark B and Blade in a good light.

To placate all the numerous Hip Hop and Blade fans the release also includes another remix of 'Ya Donít See The Signs', this time by Nappa of Phi-Life Cypher. This is back to the real stuff. Nappa adds a trumpet break and extra production to flip the original and the track is banging. Blade opens up on the first verse, but this track sees vocal contributions from MCs Si Philli and Life who as usual totally rip it up with deep lyrics continuing the topic blade started. In this they even make references to Blade's recent stage diving antics. The addition of Phi Life Cypher is a nice touch and hopefully shows where Mark B and Blade's hearts lie.

Mark B and Blade are doing all they can to make that jump to making it big and with recent support slots for Eminem (February) and Feeder (March) in the UK I hope it is only a matter of time before we see Mark B and Blade frequenting Top of the Pops, but in reality I'll remain more circumspect. If this does happen though, hopefully those who pull the strings will open the doors to other acts and let them do the music they want to without the contrived collaborations we have seen for business purposes.

Way To Blue



Mark B & Blade will be playing live at the following dates:
21 London, Astoria (Supporting Feeder) 

2 Barnsley 
4 Leeds, Funky Mule at the Warehouse 
5 Sheffield, Po Na Na 
9 London, Mean Fiddler 
10 Belfast 
11 Dublin 
12 Nottingham, Rock City 
25 Homelands

Visit Mark B & Blade on the web: www.markbandblade.com :: Email: info@markbandblade.com

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