Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ugly Duckling / Jim Screech / Unfriendly Neighbours @ The Rainbow (selecta), Wednesday 14th January 2009

Wave your hands in the air, like you just don’t care…yo, yo, yo…check it out ya mofos…yes, tonight I went all urban, street, fly - call it what you will. I don’t make it to many hip hop nights, which is a shame, 'cos most of the ones I've heaved my aging carcass to have been pretty 'rad'. Okay. I’ll drop the vernacular now and get on with the serious business of the 'r' to the 'e' to the 'v' to the 'i' to the 'e' to the 'w'…oh good grief.

Anyway, first up rising stars of the Birmingham rap scene, Unfriendly Neighbours! Actually I’m sure they’d make lovely neighbours as they both seemed like thoroughly likeable chaps. Watching ‘em I was reminded of just how hard it must be to do the rap thing. The fact that they made it look effortless must be down to some serious practice. Of course, to me at least, the joy of rap is lyrics that mean something (which is why the rise and rise of 50 Cent amazes me), UN had some crackers. Loved the one about being a kid growing up….even though it did point out that one of them was born in 1987. I have underwear older than that. Kelis' Milkshake inspired 'Famous' was another set highlight. Rap's got a long history of taking other stuff and giving it a new spin and UN have got this skill nailed. Kudos to the White Stripe’s beatboxer too. Niiiiice. Check out their Myspace for a few tracks or hunt 'em down for a copy of their Starvin Artist Movement mixtape and show some love.

After UN well and truly got the party started next up was, king of dubstep, bashment and loads of other words that I don’t fully understand - Jim Screech. Brilliant reggae ska fusion here (I guess that's the bashment bit?) and full on, 187mph clear as a bell lyrical spitting. Is he the only rapper to namecheck Nietzsche (do you know how many times it took me to spell that?). Could be. I'd not heard of Screech before...which is criminal really and points (once again) to what's both good and bad about the music biz in 2K + 9. There are so many great artists out there but tracking 'em down is all a bit it and miss. I guess, as the music press dies a slow death, that's where blogs come in (athough if the future of music relies on this blog I guess we're all buggered). As a bit of a reggae fan I got Screech 100%. Recent single Wood For The Trees was just lush...nice laid back bassy beats and rapid fire meaningful lyrics. People who don't like reggae should be beaten to death with a copy of Jimmy Cliff's 'The Harder They Come' soundtrack (vinyl, naturally). Harsh but fair. Stick on the Scandelous Jim Screech Mix and if you don't start tapping your feet you are medically dead.

Finally, all the way from LA, Ugly Duckling. Full on from the start, throwing a single mic between the two of them they kept up the flow without missing a beat, setting the tone of the whole show. It’s impossible to watch them for very long without doing the whole hands in the air thing...middle age be damned. It’s all just soooo infectious. Turntablist Young Einstein was beatastic, rappers Dizzy and Andy kept the crowd hyped from start to finish and the whole thing just felt like the coolest party in the world. If you like J5 (who doesn't?), DJ Yoda, Soul, Disco or just the feel of the sun on the back of your neck, the sand between your toes and a large brandy n'coke, Ugly Duckling are (last hip hop reference here...I promise) the bomb. Check out their new album Audacity (out this week), then work your way back through the last 12 years or so of material (FYI Samba is a classic)

A great, friendly crowd, a decent turnout and oodles of energy...hip hop hooray.

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