If hip-hop to you means Jay-Z or 50 Cent, you should be pleased to know that beneath a commerecial superficiality dominated by clothing ranges and magazine interviews lies the likes of Dangermouse and Jemini.
Their second collaboration offers depth and a sense of purpose that belies the normally off-putting lyrical transgressions of their less able peers. Ghetto Pop Life, despite the title, is a record that’s at once intense and accessible.
Like One Minute Silence, who release their album One Lie Fits All, DM & Jemini are outspoken critics of George W Bush – Bush Boys is particularly biting satire with an atmospheric that wouldn’t be out of place on an Asian Dub Foundation album. And then they follow that up with the relatively benign Here We Go Again, which takes criticisms of the president on to a critique of the American political system and its effect on her people.
But this is not a straightforward political record by any means. Jemini’s choice of lyrics are only part of the thrill – DM’s harnessing of orchestral samples fits beautifully around, filling in the scenery with lush sweeps of strings and backing choirs as well as infectious beats. Born-A-MC is a scene setter of impressive proportions, coming on musically like a mix of Inner City and Portishead. Ghetto Pop Life Intro is even more startling – a church choir piece which gives way to a loose-limbed beat for Ghetto Pop Life proper and you have something truly show-starting. And there aren’t many hip-hop records that the same could be said about.
A crack bunch of guests include The Pharcyde on Medieval and The Liks on What U Sittin’ On (the album’s tongue-in-cheek rudest moment) and Prince Po on Copy Cats. Oh – and of course, Dubya The Republican himself on Bush Boys, jibbering on about Iraq.
Ghetto Pop Life is a record that should impress even listeners not normally known to listen to hip-hop. It combines elements of genius into one jaw-dropping whole. It demands repeat play. But it doesn’t come with a clothing range, so don’t expect to see it advertised on billboards.