Things have changed dramatically since the release of the first Wordlab album. Wordplay's Mark B and Blade are getting regular radio play on the indomitable Radio One, getting to 23 in the charts and even appearing on Top Of The Pops. Skitz, Ty and The Nextmen all put out great albums. Now even major labels have started looking back at our shores for talented Hip Hop artists. Expect a signing frenzy to start soon.
Compiled by Wordplay's head honcho, Dr Laub, Word Lab 2 is a perfect statement of Wordplay's ambition and intent. Focussing on the domestic Hip Hop scene this album includes new and exclusive tracks from such talents as Ty, Taskforce and Plus One.
There's also tracks from new artists such as Estelle, Scorsayzee and the Champions Of Nature. Word Lab 2 clearly shows that the UK has never had a more varied and exciting range of Hip Hop artists hungry to get their music out there.
The second in a series of compilations, Word Lab 2 was preceded by the release of the Karl Hinds single 'Don Gramma' on July 16.
Now for the tracklisting and lowdown on each of the artists...
1. Braintax & Mystro - Free The Walls
Braintax As one of the original Leeds-based founders (and now sole owner) of Low Life Records, Braintax' vinyl history dates back to the birth of the label in 1992, since then what was originally a duo has become a one-man-team with added production credits and guest appearances along the way. Now in 2001 with the label and the artist firmly entrenched in a studio in West London it seems he finally has an album ready to drop. Braintax beats cover a wide range of Hip Hop styles but his lyrics reflect not just Hip Hop but life in general with emphasis on the issues and experiences that bind us all together, the point being that we benefit more from music we relate to than from that we just listen to.
Mystro: There are a few new kids on the block that sound promising for the future, and this is most definitely one of them. The West London representative goes by the name of Mystro, this is an MC who got on the circuit through various mix-tape and open mic appearances leading to him releasing a debut single on the DealReal record label entitled "Kiss That Arse Goodnight" b/w "The Word's Out" featuring Skinnyman and Jargon. After the release of this single Mystro was given the opportunity of performing at various show cases such as The Apricot Jam, Undisclosed records launch party and Choice FM's Flava of the month to name a few - proving to his audience that he can also keep it live on stage as well as in the studio. Mystro also has a track on the Raw Materials 2 compilation entitled "The Last Days" which addresses more serious issues than his previous release ensuring this is a diverse MC we have representing our shores. He has a rugged straight up in your face type of style with erythematic flows consisting of deep thoughts and wacky punchlines for the young and old, the type of MC that can get a party going. Still we are yet to hear more from the one they call Mys-diggi who has currently hooked up with the Low-Life camp to work on another project that could live up to the labels reputation for putting out simply the best. Watch this space!
2. Scorzayzee - We Don't Care
Scorz-zay-zee is a member of Out Da Ville Crew from Notts and one of the UK's most slept on lyricists. Based at Big Trev's community recording studio in St Annes he has been guided and schooled well by Lee Ramsay and the rest of the crew. He is also getting a name for himself as a solo artist in his own right, but still remains part of the OutDa Ville crew which includes: Lee Ramsay, Tempa, C-mone, Karizma and Big Trev. Scor-zay-zee is an essential member in the studio or on stage delivering the best he has at all times. His rhyme skills bring out the reality of Notts and life itself.
3. Extremists and Skeme - Fire Blaze
Fresh from East London's gentlemens clubs & Brixtonian bond nights comes a dirty lowrider from the Titan Sounds camp - you know the Extremists are blazing fire right now. Sub Zero & Shooting Star come like heavy hitters with lyrical dexterity & sharp delivery. The two brothers have been tearing up microphones every place they go, they've paid their dues and are ready to get theirs. Dirty boy Skeme returns with verbal murder. After tearing the place apart with his London classic 'UK Bubblers' (ft. Rodney p) Skeme commits more lyrical murder on this track, the home-grown raw don't get no better than this. Mickle steps up the programme with a tight rim shot, dub funk killer, if you ain't feeling this you ain't ready.....
4. Champions Of Nature - Salsa Smurf
The Champions Of Nature are Apollo, Jehst, Lewis Parker, Profound, Super T, L.Dolo, A.M. They first met up around 1995 and together they freestyled and perfected their beat making skills. Lewis famously secured his deal with Virgin's offshoot Melankolic, but it was left to Low Life Records to have the foresight to put this group of MCs and producers together alongside Braintax for the critically acclaimed Vol.s 1 & 2 of the 92 Series EPs. After being knocked into shape and learning the game they were free to persue their own projects and left with a bunch of contacts and industry tips. Following two years of hard graft the first manifestation of their work was the independently released 'Fuck Off' EP which dropped early 2000. They subsequently followed that up with the 'Finalisation' EP and finally the Salsa Smurf 12" which has been licensed to Wordplay. Their press says, "They've come to save us from the clutches of the fools who don't believe..."
5. Taskforce - It's Us We're Back
Task Force are The Brothers McBain, Chester P and Farma G. Could perhaps be labeled as one of the UK Hip Hop's most respected groups. They are undoubtedly one of the most talented and inspiring crews we have heard come from these shores for years. Not to mention the fact that they are extremely hard-working, much in demand and well revered. If you've heard of an open-mic event chances are that Chester P was there, ripped up the mic and won it.
Task Force shot to the forefront of UK Hip Hop in 1999 with the release of their ridiculously good 'New Mic Order' EP which broke boundaries for independently released UK Hip Hop being supported by a nationwide tour alongside DJ Vadim and the Jazz Fudge crew.
In 2000 the duo returned on Low Life Records with their splendid, eclectic and original EP: "The Voice of the Great Outdoors" which brings new depths to the music and shows off the duo's own beat-making skills easily expanding and improving on those ppreviously provided by Mark B. Voice Of the Great Outdoors is a record that should, if listened to properly, break pre-conceptions of what British MCs can talk about and what is sellable to a market which traditionally looks to the States for inspiration...
Also to promote this release, Task Force took it back to the days of the answer-back record with UK versions of both Black Rob's "Like Whoa!" and Pharoahe Monch's "Simon Says". "Wha Blow?!" and "Grafdabusup", both limited promos causing a stir on both sides of the water, across the web and throughout the city.
6. Estelle - Hands Up
Est'elle first came to be known from lacing lyrics up and down the 'Big Smoke' at shows such as DJ Pogo's Lyrical Lounge, Choice FM's 'Flava Of Da Month' and rap jams such as The Hop, Scratch and Paris-London Connexion.
It wasn't long before she made her vinyl debut and laced some unforgettable lyrics on the track "Who Am I?" from the Social Misfits album. Since that debut Est'elle's skills have been featured on tracks by 57th Dynasty and PSI, as well as the recent collabo on Skitz's "Domestic Science" alongside Tempa and Wildflower.
Est'elle collaborates again with Skitz on "Hands Up", and she says of him "He only works with people if there's a connection, a vibe. It's all about basslines for me, and Skitz has basslines."
This west London born and raised sister, not only 'spits' deadly venom with the illest rappers, but also has smooth vocal singing capabilities as part of her arsenal.
7. Stylee Cee feat. Karizma & Midnyte - All Stylz Anthem
Stylee Cee Having made his mark as one of the funkiest beat-makers out there with his finesse production as one half of Notts crew, Lost Island, Stylee Cee is ready to step up on his own, and comes all-rounder style on this double-pack of straight-up funky Hip Hop bizniss. Featuring a pair of Nottingham's premier emcees, Stylee drops plenty of styles with 'All Stylz Anthem' (featuring KARIZMA & MIDNYTE) We ain't touched on the lyrics yet - if you thought everyone in Hip Hop had lost their sense of humour, smell this. And if you ain't feeling it, like the man says: 'Kiss my arse'.
Karizma: "I am a 19 year old M.C from Nottingham. I started working with Big Trev and Nick Dimes from the age of 15. I first started mc'ing at the age of 12. I would class it as a natural progression from poetry at primary school and a basic fascination for syntax and the way words are formed. I am a lyricist that focuses on the scientific side of knowledge, not to the point of acting like Einstein or anything but just hard factual raps that leave the mind thinking about why my words have been put there! My speciality is the two week rap, which basically means that you listen to the rap and it will take you about two weeks to realise exactly what I said and why I said it in that way.
I haven't worked with a multitude of people outside the Out Da Ville circle. Nevertheless I am quite willing to work with anyone that is musically making sense to me! I never gave up this Hip Hop game for the simple fact that I love it too much - money makes the world go round and is also the root of all evil, so my love for music is stronger than the money factor of the game that confused Hip Hop heads class as the main goal, recognize!
In terms of progression my state is at a point where I can still go further. I'm not brain dry and I never will be with the Ville behind me, the alliance is fire. Feel the heat!"
8. Mark B & Blade - Ya Don't See The Signs (Phi Life Cypher remix)
Phi Life's mix was part of the package that saw Mark B & Blade's single "Ya Don't See The Signs" reach 23 in the UK charts. And remember it all started with Wordlab 1. This mix sees vocal contributions from Si Phillie and Life, who deserve major respect for suffering from grim flu during their quality support performance at the Mark B & Blade Mean Fiddler show back in February.
9. Ricochet Klashnekoff - Dago Mentality
Little is known about this young talent, but rumours have it he hails from the East End of London - Hackney being the name most often tossed about. His influences are gained from many cultural sources. This can be felt and heard in the unique deliverance of his new age urban folk tales. Storyteller, social, political, environmental observer and above all entertainer, hold on tight and enjoy the white knuckle ride that his music and personality will take you on.
10. DJ Plus One and Killa Kela are the Proservas
Kela, formerly a Scratch Pervert, illustrationist (Message, Sabotage, Vapours and countless Internet sites), An MC with Prime, Kela has had a meteoric rise to fame in the last two years. Arguably one of, if not the best, beatboxers in the world, his immeasurable vocal talent earned him a place in the legendary Rock Steady Crew, earlier this year. He uses two mics simultaneously, one to the mouth and the other to the throat, creating human 808 bass sounds. Promoting himself as a host for showcases, as well as a beatboxer, Kela has performed with The Jungle brothers, Jurassic 5, Fatboy Slim, Arsonists and Coldcut at venues such as Glastonbury festival, Creamfields and even a slot on the 1999 World DMC Final in NYC. As part of The Russian Percussion, Kela co-writes the music, as a one man drum machine, spluttering oral funk, spitting stupendous mouth-rhythm skills, and providing a solid fatback for the group.
DJ Plus One has been on turntables now for some five and a half years, during which he has moved from his home town of Edinburgh to fully establish a new base in London. Within the last three years DJ plus One has been competing in many events, in which he has one numerous titles: 1998/99 Scottish DMC Champion, U.K DMC runner-up 1999/2000, U.K ITF Champion and World 2nd Place 2000, and most importantly Vestax World Champion 2000. Furthermore he has been part of the Scratch Perverts, formed the Proservas crew with Killa Kela, has worked as the tour DJ for Mark B and Blade, and has featured on many other artists material such as The Creators and Arthur Baker. In addition to this, DJ Plus One has been working on various other projects including mix CD's for magazines such as NME and Hip Hop Connection. He now also has his own production and remix projects, the first of which due for release later this summer!
11. Karl Hinds feat. Da Rottenous Blak Twang and Seannie T - Don Gramma (Remix)
If Hip Hop was a religion, then Karl Hinds would be the Messiah, with his mission to change the face of UK Hip Hop. Karl has the image and personality of a role model for anyone who is trying to follow a dream. As a 12 year old boy, Karl was introduced into Hip Hop by his uncle. By the age of 13 he had produced his first demo and had created the formula that would improve with every song he made. At the time he was inspired by the likes of KRS-one, Public Enemy and LL Cool J. He loved the vibe of Hip Hop and the crowds reaction to it. Today, Karl takes the vibe of the street and throws it into his music, commenting on a popular youth culture we can all relate to.
12. Skillion Grimes - Hot Gal
This is the eagerly anticipated appearance of Mr S Grimes, last seen on The Operation street burner 'Jack Horner' in 1999. Grimes and his partner 'Barndingo', the founding members of The Operation, collaborate here again to conjure up another hypnotic rendition. 'Hot Gal' is the first spin off of Skillions solo project, 'D.A.A.M: Duty As A Man'. Hailing from the big smoke and beyond, watch out for this new force.
13. TY feat. Shortee Blitz - I can't Hear You
Overall this is a very noteworthy LP and showcases some of the best UK Hip Hop produced to date. It is a great vehicle for the furtherment of the UK Hip Hop cause and with the backing of Virgin will hopefully get the promotion and distribution it needs to be a success and open the eyes of a wider audience to that music genre we love and care for: UK Hip Hop. This is a recommended purchase for several reasons. Firstly the selection of tracks is top notch, the better tracks for me are packed at the front of the LP, but really there isn't a weak track. Secondly many of the tracks are exclusive to the album so you will not be purchasing something you have already splashed out your hard earned sheckles on.
So help UK artists eat and support the cause when Word Lab 2 is released through Wordplay on August 13 2001.