When Common released his widely revered album Be, it seemed that Hip Hop had at last found a voice that actually said something. The bling and bitches of recent times has dragged Hip Hop’s name through the mud. Originally a genre that once defined a youth culture, it gave a voice to the streets of America. Hip Hop has long since left behind the harsh realities of life that were laid bare in the likes of NWA’s Dope Man, or Public Enemy’s Night of The Living Baseheads; now if it ain’t about cash flow then it worth recording.
There are of course exceptions to this rule. Cannibal Ox, El-p and Aesop Rock all showed that Hip Hop didn’t have to be self indulgent, while the likes of Spank Rock gave it a harsher edge that had been lacking in the softened production of many Hip Hop releases.
Nefew are an American/Swiss duo that is trying to give their take on Hip Hop some kind of conscience. Their sound is hugely reminiscent of Common’s album, to such a degree that it is something of a distraction. There’s a laid back groove that runs throughout the album that does such a great job of hypnotising the listener that it’s practically impossible to concentrate on what’s being said. Nefew are obviously trying to tread a similar path to the Daisy Age sound of De La Soul and perhaps Kanye West but manage to fail in emulating either.
Perhaps more tellingly is that more often than not many of these tracks sound like they’ve used samples from low budget 80′s movie soundtracks: it’s all weak keyboards and clunky chimes. It’s so tacky in places you need to wipe your speakers clean in case they start to attract ants. Oh, and one more thing, if I hear those pitch shifted vocals on one more record then there will have to be consequences.
In addition to the poor backing tracks, you tend to suspect however that Nefew don�t really have very much to say either. There are a few nuggets of humility scattered here and there (Find A Way), but generally there’s far too much in the way of posturing. When Polemikk announces “If you’re fed up with this rap shit – holla”, you feel like screaming back at him.
It’s not that Hip Hop hasn’t got anything left to say, it’s just that there are far too many imitators and not enough innovators at the moment. This of course is not a problem that lies purely within the Hip Hop genre, but when Nas stated that Hip Hop is dead, you have to wonder if he had a point.
Nefew and Off The Cuff are doing little to suggest that Hip Hop is likely to rise Lazarus like from the perpetual funk it seems to be in at the moment.