I approached this release with a fair amount of trepidation. Firstly because the guy had spammed up my mailbox with his mailing list, (note to all crews, don't subscribe people to your mailing lists without asking and don't subscribe the same person more than once!), and secondly because of the unusual hook up with an American label from West Coast whose imagery struck me of gangsterism. MC Unique is a 23 yr old who hails from the North East, and has come up against many of the usual barriers artists starting out in the UK come across. However, he has not let them get in his way and has forged his own connections, both locally and worldwide via the internet. He cites classic influences such as early NWA, De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers as well as the Juice Crew. Having turned his hand to radio presenting in the past, MC Unique is leaving that behind to concentrate on production and rhyming, and in 1997 was taken under the wing of North London MC Ad Infinite who helped refine many of his skills. By 2000 MC Unique had built up to the release of his debut Long Player, Baptizm Of Fire, which he recorded and distributed himself . On the back of this he hooked up with B Down's Rap Junkie Records and as well as donating tracks to their Independent Game compilations, it is with them that he is dropping his sophomore effort - The King Of Linguistics.
So, enough of the background, what can we actually get from the music its self? Well, initially my heart dropped and I thought my worst assumptions were coming true. The music for the opening skit is smooth, but the characters employ US accents. It is funny enough though, with Unique getting mistaken for a black American, but with that accent, why wouldn't he? Supaman - Superstar brings things back on track though. The production is clear and as soon as Unique starts rapping over the pianos and high synths I'm relieved that the American persona is not perpetuated, although he doesn't rap in a fully North East accent, and there are definitely mid Atlantic tendencies on occasion. On Keep It Real Unique drops more laid back rhymes over some vibesome production which B Down has help out on throughout. It is a bit of a played out topic, and although Unique obviously imparts his own spin on the topic, but none the less the same topic, but he does demonstrate how hard it is to really keep it real.
100% From England is where Unique and LeEO, one of the few guest appearances get down and represent where they are from. Some lines are obviously written to be heard from an American listeners perspective, and there are plenty of rhymes to get the American's backs up so it remains to be seen how well this one will go down well. The plinky music box backing does become a little tired by the end of the tune, but it is solid enough with its "100% of my lyrics imported from England" sample. The vibe changes up radically for the Searching 4 A Peace Of Mind track which features Blackwolff singing the soulful hook, which relaxes you away along with the mellow floaty backing which could be mixed a little higher, a downside being the static drum machine sounding beat.
The title track, The King Of Linguistics is an altogether harder affair with its horns, bowed string stabs and Unique's more aggy attitude and delivery. I would expect the feature track to have more impact and so I'm not disappointed. Each individual track is good in its own right, however the LP doesn't appear to have a central theme or development, and the abrupt switching of vibe track by track adds to this. Unstoppable has a very skippy beat and an almost Hip House piano riff. Featuring a soulful singing guest, this time its Ed Soul who lay down the calming vocals as this track tells the tale of Unique's determination to make a success of himself and the hard work he has put in as well as noting the support he has had from others. Other tracks like Inner City Blues, Verbally Muderous are not stand out tracks and after a few plays could get the fast forward treatment.
B Down as the owner of Rap Junkie records makes a couple of appearances on Remember That and Lyrics Perfected and adds different vocal tones, but effects me with indifference and is perhaps outshone by Unique. Love Letter and I Need To Know featuring Ed Soul again are the token soft tracks in the vein of LL's \I Need Love, or MC Shan's Left Me Lonely in which Unique tells about how he still feels for an ex-girlfriend.
At the end of the LP there is a UK Reality Check which doesn't entirely ring true, but whist Unique mentions UK Pioneers in passing, he gives most of the credit to the Likes of Tommy Boy. His sentiments that UK Hip Hop has had its head up its own arse for too long and other observations should e addressed. There are a few home truths told here which many people don't want to face up to.
So to sum up the LP is pretty good and has a variety of styles covered. It is certainly of sufficient quality to put out and hopefully will open up the US a little more. We need more pioneers who are prepared to try their thing on over there, and for the amount of effort Unique has put in I hope that he attains some success. It may not be particularly experimental or groundbreaking, but it is solid and consistent. So don't have pre-conceptions.