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From The Crates: Cappo LIVE

February 22, 2011

Cappo, Ruddington’s MC extraordinaire, dropped in to the Maze this Tuesday to continue promotion of his latest release, the Directors Commentary mixtape. Mixed, scratched and cut up by the legendary Styly Cee, the album charts a strong rap career, with production spanning from the late 90s to brand new exclusives and freestyles.

The Ruby Kid, a young Notts rapper who has recently relocated to the Steel City, got things underway. Having never seen him perform before, he proved to be something of a revelation; shame that a mix-up on the door times didn’t ensure the crowd he deserved. His confident delivery and clever wordplay with the dynamic of a live bassist show why his gig diary is filling up.

Second on the bill were the always captivating Ill Citizen. Rhythmically monikered MCs Canni B, Tom G and Allergy made sure the floor filled, with their up-tempo, infectious beats, rhymes and commanding stage presence. Well-established tunes such as Brainwash Policy and newer cuts like Respect thy Neighbour were run through at break-neck speed, with no pause for breath. Due to time constraints their set was limited, but this only enhanced the party vibe and good-time feel that is the original hip-hop ethos – a quality that Ill Citizen maintain with every performance. They finished with the excellent Now What. Its refrain of ‘I don’t wanna work right now / I don’t wanna hurt right now / Now what?’ certainly resonated with the midweek crowd.

By now, even the prospect of an early rise could not dim the atmosphere, and the audience were in the mood for more. Luckily, one of Nottingham’s finest was on hand to give them just that. The ‘self-styled one-man industry’ delivered a solid set of new and old material, showing that all the hard work pays off. Favourites from the brilliant Spaz the World LP from 2003 like Learn to be Strong, a Cappo classic, brought the Heavy Bronx sound of the P Brothers’ production, with its deep bassline testing the Maze’s sound system. On the ones and twos was DJ/producer/rapper and epitome of Notts hip-hop, Styly Cee. Styly has left his alter ego behind for some time to concentrate on producing quality hip-hop such as One in a Million from Directors Commentary, the tune from which the above and below quotes were taken.

Capps also spat a couple of verses over The Format by AZ (Nas’s mate) and his gruff yet clear and visceral articulation demonstrated how he can easily hold it down over the finest quality New York beats, such as this one from the king, DJ Premier. The behatted one was also joined on stage by his crew, Midnyte and Rukus Regardless, who ably coped but frustratingly never quite managed to produce much of a spark. On wax their flow is assured and exciting, flecked with accent and cheeky puns, but they never quite seem to transfer this energy to a live performance. The headliner, who by now had definitely fulfilled his promise to ‘for better or worse leave my clamp on proceedings’ then finished with a trio of new tracks from his upcoming album, leaving me eager for the date it drops.

Cappo played The Maze on March 11 2008

Originally published at LeftLion.co.uk, March 14, 2008.

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Skiman Interview

February 18, 2011

Skiman - photo by David Baird

Daniel Waithe – otherwise known as Skiman – is a prodigy of Notts superproducers The Elementz, the latest in a long line of bar-spitting behemoths from the NG and the man behind dancefloor-destroying mixtape Afterdark. And he’s still only 18…

When did you first start rapping?
I used to rap in my bedroom with my brother to Mike Shinoda, the rapper in Linkin Park. I grew up with a lot of UK garage and grime; there’s always been people like Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Pay As You Go on my stereo. I also used to watch Channel U a lot, or Channel AKA as it’s called now, so I would always see a lot of homegrown MCs.

How did the name Skiman come about?
It’s a bit of a boring story, really. It was more of a joke, going on my nickname Danski – like the Russian for Dan. Then my dad, who doesn’t even know why, just instinctively called me Skiman. So when I started rapping and I was looking for a name, I thought I might as well use that. I’ve never actually been skiing, but I’ve been water-skiing once in Turkey when I was twelve.

Tell us about Afterdark. Does it have a darker vibe than your earlier stuff?
The cover’s a bit scary, but I wouldn’t say it was dark, because there are uplifting songs on there. It’s for the club scene, more like dubstep for when the lights go down. If my previous mixtape Top of the World was me in the daytime, this is what happens at night. The beat on my new track Darkside was made by a good friend of mine called Fable. I heard the tune and thought: “I’m going to take that beat and do a dub to it.” It wasn’t supposed to be a big thing, but we really liked it and did a video with Faolan Jones, of Jungewire video. It got just under 5,000 YouTube views in its first week. There’s also a tune called Too Hard which is more grime. We got the beat from a guy called NAT, the producer from a group called Black Ops. Again, I dubbed that and did a video with Anthony Hopwood that’s also gone down really well on YouTube.

Read more…

Skiman – Afterdark (Mixtape, Elementz Productions)

February 15, 2011

Skiman’s second mixtape set steps into the realms of dubstep and grime. He sets out his stall with opening track Walk On, leading into the warning beeps of Star Wars-sampling single Darkside’s intro. This gives way to a bassline crushing enough to turn the Death Star into an Imperial trifle.

Skiman’s versatility really shines on this sophomore release; Too Hard sounds like Boy In Da Corner-era Dizzee. There are also hard, angsty bars over Lil Wayne’s Drop the World beat, which contrasts with the party-time punchlines he drops on club tune Mine. It’s like  listening to a track by Devlin followed by a Chipmunk chart hit – except Skiman makes these songs specifically his own. Sorry sees a guest turn from fellow Elementz collaborator and all-round Nottingham legend, Karizma, with Starkey’s dubby bassline and relentless string sample providing a beat different to Karizma’s usual offerings.

For the closing track Try Me, Skiman flips genres and goes straight hip-hop. This gem from producer Onra sounds like a fight between a mariachi band, the Trojan back catalogue and a Vietnamese phrase book. Awesome! Then, after just 25 minutes, your time’s up. Fast, fun, and definitely not forgettable, you’ll be left reeling from a mixtape crammed with finely chosen beats and even finer raps.

Available to download for free from The Elementz website, or check Skiman on MySpace.

Originally published in LeftLion magazine, Feb-Mar 2011.


All The Way LIVE: Scorzayzee

February 9, 2011

A lot to get covered from CRS Entertainment and Dealmaker Records latest showcase, so we’ll get the ball rolling…

Inkrument set the precedent for quality hip-hop with their usual variety box of Samwise’s deft bars, Foz’s sharp beatboxing and some mouth-watering cuts by the man on the ones and twos, Dan Rattomatic. After recent viewings, I’m in danger of sounding like Inkrument’s PR man/super-fan, but these guys are a group who definitely deserve the hype. Check debut album Rrrare for fresh sounds informed by rap’s Golden Age or see their live show for a vibe that’s straight out of the parks in 1990s Queens.

A hip-hop show in Nottingham just wouldn’t feel right without the sight of the mighty Cappo. Luckily, this was one of those nights and Sir Capps delivered an unexpected one-two punch of visceral rhymes and mixtapes by DJ Donnie Propa, flung forth from the stage.

Then it was time for Luton rap legends Phi Life Cypher to show us how they hold it down in one of the UK’s biggest airport towns. Material from their seminal 2000 album Millennium Metaphors like THC ode Herbaholics as well as tunes from an upcoming LP combined to give the audience a musical feast of patois-infused rhymes. They closed with a good 15 minutes of freestyling, with their on-point spitting really getting the tentative audience going for the first time in the evening.

The stage then erupted with red lights and a montage of movie clips, signalling the arrival of Nottingham rap scene legend and film star in his own right, Scorzayzee. A blockbusting opening for what would be a mammoth set.

The crowd lapped up Don’t F*** With My High, before a marathon 100-odd bars with Scorz going acapella. The former OutdaVille man then showed off his lyrical dexterity on the cheeky cover versions Casio Sweep and Diss Me Through The Phone as well as classics Luv Me, Great Britain and a compendium of Big Pun beats.

Scorzayzee is a man clearly loved by his Nottingham fans and he repaid their adoration by smashing it like Richard Keys (get it circulated, kids). The only criticism to level at his set was the sheer length. After guest spots from, among others, MC Juga-Naut, a soulful turn from Notts lovely Nina Smith and the return of female rapper Tempa (“yagetmeh, yagetmeh”) the night ran to well over two hours longer than billed. But this is less looking a gift horse in the mouth than asking for its employer references and mortgage details.

Scorzayzee, Phi Life Cypher, Cappo and Inkrument played at the Rescue Rooms on Friday 4 February 2011. The night was put on by Dealmaker Records and CRS Entertainment.

Originally published at LeftLion.co.uk, February 7, 2011.

Keep it Steel vs. Say Nada

February 2, 2011

If you’re up Sheffield way around Valentine’s Day and you’re into your dubstep and DnB, be sure to check out the local Keep it Steel guys going head to head with Say Nada’s DJs at SAWA for a bass-filled pie of a night…

Actual Proof – The Talented Tenth (Mixtape, The Academy/IWWM)

February 1, 2011

There just aren’t enough double albums in hip-hop these days. Luckily, Actual Proof – North Carolina emcees Sundown and Enigma – attempt to redress the balance with their latest mixtape-cum-LP, The Talented Tenth. Named after a theoretical essay on African American education, the album’s supposed theme is also evident in the titles of each half, The Martin Luther King Jr Experience and Malcolm X Experience, respectively. But do a couple of linked headers constitute a consistent concept album?

Well, no, this is essentially just a collection of 20 hip-hop tunes split down the middle with not much correlation aside from that the production is classy and the rhymes tight across the board. The standout beats generally come from Grammy winner and mentor 9th Wonder, as with MLK- and Biggie-sampling opener Dream. Showcasing the same swirling strings and old-school drum track that made Little Brother’s early material classic, 9th also opens Part 2 of the album with Super Genius, an extended version of last year’s brilliant Good Will Hunting homage, Genius. Featuring guest spots from rappers including Kendrick Lamar, LAWS and Brittany Street, the track’s near-ten-minute playing time is just long enough not to grow tiresome. Just.

Other highlights include Coast 2, a ZZ Hill-hooked soul number which almost but not quite matches the sheer awe of Madvillain’s Fancy Clown version, then another soulful number produced by Khrysis and featuring Bird and the Midnight Falcons in Letta’ to Coretta, as well as the dreamily-paced In Your Mind (another 9th Wonder gem).

Had Super Genius appeared on the MLK side of the album, The Talented Tenth could have been good enough to warrant shedding much of the Malcolm X half and releasing this as a proper album. Still, this is as good a mixtape you’re going to get for the discount price of nada.

Cop it for yourself from the 9th Wonder website.

MONDAY – FRIDAY

January 24, 2011

A sweet short directed by Hal Arnold and starring Rob Lloyd, both Nottingham exports. This is the perfect film to watch on Monday or Friday. Or any of the days in between those. Enjoy.