When you think of music you associate with Scotland, hip-hop is not the first thing that comes to mind. It probably isn’t the fifth or sixth thing that comes to mind. However, there are a few exceptions, with Young Fathers probably being the most prominent. Not far behind them in the Scottish hip-hop heavyweights stakes who have been flying the flag for the local rap game for over a decade and return with their first record in over six years.
Clearly it was not an easy record for the group with the album being recorded over a four-year period in various studios in various parts of Scotland. Like all things, it also got pushed back by, well you know pandemic stuff. The good news for fans of the group is this record was worth the wait. Typically laced with the social commentary, quirky sense of humour and throwback hip-hop beats audiences expect from the collective.
Not that everything works. There are the odd clanger scattered throughout, such as Where They Lie. Which as satire goes feels toothless. Pointing out that our political masters lie seems more than a little hackneyed, and telling us repeatedly the myriad ways they do is simply tedious rather than clarion call it wants to be.
Similarly, Killswitch seems too broad in it is politics firing off, as it does, missives about climate change, Brexit, Palestine, fake news etc. making for an overly heady stew of political commentary that feels like a jumble. The backbeat which sounds like the music in a particularly boring level of an old Sega Mega Drive game does not help it.
Conversely though, some of Odd’s political invective absolutely nails it. Particularly on Invisible Woman, which provocatively illustrates how female rebels are often cast aside or forgotten about in the media as soon as they are no longer young and photogenic.
Many of the best tracks though are the ones that could be dubbed “slice of life” tracks. Like Recycling and Undo Redo. The former is almost certainly the best song ever recorded about the life cycle of a BMX; the latter an absolute banger about the highs and lows of wild clubbing nights out.
Equally excellent are the tracks shot through with the group’s trademark humour such as the gloriously surreal Bill Oddy which is probably the only hip-hop to sample clips from Springwatch. The opening track FUWSH is also hilarious. Sure, a track taking aim at all their “haters” unsurprisingly comes off a little childish, but it’s done with such verve and wit it is easy to forgive. It’s dark, propulsive beat also make its one of the albums catchiest efforts.
As mentioned at the beginning of the review Scottish hip-hop scene is hardly a crowded scene but with the like of Odd at the helm (alongside Young Fathers, Loki etc) it is one that one finds itself in rude health. Let’s just hope it’s not another six years before their next record drops.