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.
Mark B & Blade - Ya Don't See The
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.
Mark B & Blade will be playing live at the following dates:
21 London, Astoria (Supporting Feeder)
4 Leeds, Funky Mule at the Warehouse
5 Sheffield, Po Na Na
9 London, Mean Fiddler
12 Nottingham, Rock City
Mark B & Blade on the web: www.markbandblade.com
:: Email: email@example.com