Taz is a South London rapper with a lot going for him on his CV. Heavily involved in Dizzee Rascal‘s debut album and signed to Def Jam in a remarkably short time, he now unleashes Analyse This, a powerful debut full of social commentary and personal references, not to mention some imaginative musical hooks and samples.
Given his upbringing, it would be easy for Taz to wallow in the squalor of life on the dole, or to go the other way and use the arrogant cliches found on so many hip hop records. While it’s clear he isn’t short on self confidence, the album sounds remarkably fresh and the rhymes interesting, sharp and well observed. It sounds so obvious but it’s a relief to be able to hear all the lyrics clearly, delivered in a style that makes the many moods of Taz easy to relate to.
The album opens with a grand, quasi-orchestral statement that suggests Adam F but immediately moves into the drunken stagger of Only God Can Judge Me. A tricky one this, since the title has a chequered history in its use by Tupac and Mark Morrison, but with Taz the feeling is more of anguish, violence and regret rather than an over inflated ego.
The following Fast Talk is a different story, a string led dirge with an urgent vocal from the rapper, taking in drugs, firearms and a virtuoso guest vocal from Skorpian. It’s one of the stand out tracks on the album. Wish Me Luck is an emotional look back at the rapper’s life on benefits, with the revealing chorus line “when I feel like not goin’ on, my real friends give me the strength to keep goin’ on”.
A complete change of tack follows with Cowboy Film, featuring the toasting sounds of Kardinal Official. Fair to say that pretty much every hip hop album has its track on sex, and this is Taz’s contribution, funny and mischievous. He insists that if a girl spend the night with him acting out a cowboy film her boyfriend won’t mind – yeah, right!
The single release Can’t Contain Me is probably the most original track on the album, its beat blundering forward like a train out of control. Taz just about keeps it in check with his words cutting reviewers and A&R men down to size, while the chorus is hurled out by his cohorts over a frantic bass.
Taz refers a lot to the ignorance of music bods, people who “want me to sound like Mase“, and it’s clear this subject is one of his pet hates. Several times the line “taking kindness for a weakness” also crops up, as if he’s been burnt in the past. Clearly a soul laid bare in his rapping, a medium in which Taz feels he can express himself completely.
“You’re old like analogue, I’m fresh like digital” he says in Flow Pro. Well maybe not that much head and shoulders above the rest, but you can rest assured this is pretty much as good as Dizzee’s debut and makes another addition to Britain’s expanding canon of good hip hop albums.