I didn’t come from the slums, in fact there’s very little about me that is even remotely ‘urban’. When I was at school we had to do this tracing your family tree thing. There were others in my class where there parents had been involved in exciting jobs, like in the army or merchant navy, or owned toy shops or something. I had managed (thanks to the family Bible of my Grandmothers that detailed all the family members) to trace my family back into the 18th century, something like 5 or 6 generations. As I read it out in class, I realised just how boring and rural, genuinely uninteresting my family had been. Apart from having a pub in the 1700’s every single generation had been farmers, and only one, at some point in the Victorian era, had made it out of Leicestershire, and even then, only to neighbouring Nottinghamshire.
Despite this, I grew to love hip-hop. And, out right about now (well yesterday in the Uk, and today in the US) is the new EP from one of the UK’s best MC’s/Rappers, Ty. Ben Chijioke, a.k.a. London’s Ty, has been making essential Hip-hop records for the best part of a decade, and is perhaps best known for his second album Upwards, which received a Mercury nomination in 2004. More than that though, he has worked with some of the genre’s royalty, such as Scratch Perverts, Talib Kweli, Blak Twang and Arrested Development. Up until now his releases were through Ninja Tune subsidiary Big Dada, but in January he moved over to Brighton’s equally brilliant Tru Thoughts, and this is the first fruits of this relationship.
The new EP leads off with Like You Never, in which Ty immediately demonstrates his languid, listenable style, over layered jazzy and soulful ‘cuts’ (check out the boy from Leicestershire being urban) and hew waxes lyrical about the state of music today and the problems of being an artist therein. It’s an instant head-nodder, Ty’s lyrical style smoothly dragging the track along, and its a mouth-watering opener to the EP.
A track that comments on Barry Manilow’s nose is sure to get the thumbs up with me, and Ty again makes his feelings on modern culture clear, and count (promoters amongst others facing his annoyance), this time over a sort of smooth electro-soul background on the second track, Knock knock.
The third track is Playing with Fire, which features a filthy bass sound throughout, with ambiguous sounding chimes and keys over the top. It features rapper Akala, whom he met on the Nas and Damien Marley tour, and Grime MC Durrty Goodz. All three take turns on the dangers of underestimating, or writing off youth to impressive effect.
Ty’s passion for making music, for talking about music is obvious here, and he has moved to Tru Thoughts as if he has something to prove rather than resting on his (rather large) laurels. What he has created is something that is immediate, classy, interesting and groovy – and it’ll take some beating for the title of UK hip-hop EP of the year. I know this because its making me, someone from the middle of the country, feel………urban. (ahem) Word.