Never mind the developments British guitar music is currently enjoying – where it really seems to be happening is in the hip hop world. Just consider who has invaded the public consciousness over the last couple of years – Roots Manuva, Ty, Dizzee Rascal and, more loosely, Ms Dynamite. Of course the most notable of all is Mike Skinner and The Streets. It’s his lead that Evil Ed looks to follow.
Not that I’m comparing the two for an instant – Evil Ed has a totally different way with words and deals with weighty subjects such as oppression, finding resilience in some keenly felt lyrics. Skinner of course has spun ditties about fry-ups, raucous nights in the pub and an altogether more English way of emoting. On this evidence there’s plenty of room for both of them.
There are no less than twenty MCs and four DJs on The Enthusiast. Rather like the recent Roni Size album of similar dimensions, this can lead to a confusion of identity. What it does secure, however, is a rich tapestry of different rapping and musical styles. Voices range from rich to thin, the latter being found in the weedy, nasal tones of Lost Souls, the closest this record comes to Skinner’s variety.
The record was two years in the making and it shows in the intricate rhyming patterns and thoughtful lyrics. Some of the insights are brilliant – The Cavalry complains of “talking of bling as if you’re Lord Of The Rings” and The Ed Zone talks of “being in the slipstream, thirsting for Jim Beam”. On the dark side is Playin’ The Game, where Asaviour raps emotively about hanging in there in the face of vulnerability, or Life’s A Struggle, a deeply felt track.
Short skits punctuate the album to great effect, and Evil Ed must have had loads of fun putting these together. None more so than Sweeney Todd, where a cod disco beat is the background to a hilarious spoof DJ announcement, bigging up the South Coast massive with their crap hairdos. It leads into the album’s best section, the big sound of the Colony guesting on Branded, a mighty chorus line.
Musically the album is hugely varied, but most of the time Ed goes easy on the production – not for him the big, symphonic sounds currently permeating US hip hop. His touches are more subtle, the lines woven carefully. The lazy sax on the strangely forlorn Playing The Game is the perfect example.
The artwork to The Enthusiast suggests a cartoon world along the lines of Kid Koala, and while the occasional scratching session evokes animated characters, the album is close to real life as you can get – gritty, humourous and touching, with an inner resolve to assure any listener. Top stuff.