Music and politics have traditionally gone hand in hand, whether it’s Bono trying to feed the world or Green Day‘s punk critique of post-9/11 America. However, no musical genre is as heavily politicised as Hip Hop, which had been given a powerful voice from its genesis.
UK rapper Braintax’s second LP is a heavily political zeitgeist-friendly snapshot of the way we live today. The album’s title Panorama is highly appropriate, serving literally as a wide view on the world, but also bizarrely conjuring up images of the BBCs traditional documentary slot. Like the TV show the album’s documentary style covers most of the subject matter at the heart of the populace, including the war on terror and binge drinking apathy.
The album’s opener All I Need is a plea to the hip hop scene to lay aside petty macho squabbles in favour of talking about things that actually matter to people. It’s a gospel tinged call to arms that sets the agenda for the rest of the LP.
Syriana Style is a full on rant about the state of the world in which no-one is safe. However, its attacks on everyone from George andTony to 4×4 drivers is a little scattershot, but is held up by some great lyrics blasting all in sight. There are plenty of samples here, and most of them are culled from political speeches from the likes of Tony Blair and George Galloway along with the much missed genius of Bill Hicks.
Last Tenner is one of the album’s standout tracks with it’s ‘Fuck it- Let’s go and get drunk’ motif conjuring up a night on the town with Arctic Monkey‘s style genius. Decade tears apart the Tory nightmare of the ’80s to presumably show us how we all got in this mess. Words are not minced.
Amazingly the album succeeds in not boring you with the constant rhetoric, and there are also a couple of tracks here to release the pressure: Good Or Bad is a comical look at the ladies and Braintax’s alter ego from the classic Riviera Hustle returns to continue his grifting adventures in Cannes.
Lyrically, Braintax is in a class of his own, and this is the album’s major strength. The background beats never feel like they’re going to take centre stage which gives you time to concentrate on the album’s messages. However, this also means that in places the album lacks some of the melodic welly it really needs to be truly great. This is a grower that improves with several listens, but doesn’t grab you immediately in the way it should.
However, if David “Call me Dave” Cameron insists on inviting little known US rappers to the House of Commons for a cuppa, next time he should look to share his custard creams with someone closer to home.