Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Two Fingers - Two Fingers (Big Dada 2009)

Two Fingers are electronica whizzkid AmoN Tobin and Joe 'Doubleclick' Chapman, working in Montreal, trying to make hip-hop with drum'n'bass production techniques. The result is a bunch of beats that sound like brewing storms, glitching and erupting in short sharp bursts like stoccato pieces of gunfire, pushing the boundaries of electronica forward. Where it gets interesting is the vocal guests they've chosen. Dancehall legend Ce'Cile laces some riddims with her patois class. Miss Jade, a Missy Elliot affiliate, joins in for some feminine attitude. I remember drunkenly watching her on Ricki Lake about 6 years ago, singing 'bling-bling-ching-ching' over a Gloria Estefan sample. It turns out that in spite of that ill-advised sample journey, she has got lyrics.

Then there's Sway.

I once gave Sway Dasafo (as he was a while back) one of his first interviews, so taken was I with his humour, delivery, charisma and ease of phrase and metaphor, his ability to turn stutters, ticks and repetitions into rhythmical surfing, riding difficult beats with difficult intricate tricky flows, always clear and razor-sharp, always keeping you engaged. When I interviewed him, he expressed his preference for making beats than rapping, which is a shame because ever since, through all his releases, his production (very accessible, very poppy, very mainstream) I felt his production let down a truly magnetic vocalist. Everytime he laced a beat by Secondson or The Last Skeptik or Blufoot, he sounded above everyone else. So to hear that he was working with Amon Tobin, a renowned beatmaker, was exciting. The seven tracks he appears on are all highlights, brimming with class and humour; this time though, he's harder, fresher, harsher, more serious, almost gallows-black with his turns of phrase. Opener 'Straw Men' always sounding like the moment before take-off, sees Sway becoming a machine-gun with his lyrics, gunning down any takers, completely mercenary with everyone. 'What You Know' dissects the perceptions of black men, flipping stereotypes through wry social commentary; 'That Girl' is about the nightmare girl on a night out who overindulges in chemical romances, causing no end of stress for Sway, over a booming defiant club banger. 'Two Fingers' is a punky squelch and swell of fat basslines and thick synths, Sway is defiant sticking two fingers in the air making other rappers turn nightmare. 'Jewels and Gems' is the one to seek out though, with its Arabic mandolin processed thickly, flanging from ear to ear, the menace is thick in the air, always threatening to spill over, always threatening to punch you in the face, before tricking you and adding some funk-flutes into the mix. Miss Jade and Ce'Cille weigh in with some impressive turns, but Sway saves this from lesser rappers, destroying every beat, almost taking the shine completely off the intricate meticulous beat production. This is essential hip-hop. Forget N.A.S.A., the real stars are here.


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