Album Reviews

Shystie – Diamond In The Dirt

(Polydor) UK release date: 12 July 2004

Shystie - Diamond In The Dirt

Chanelle Calica a.k.a Shystie isn’t one of those artists with a claim to having been involved in rap from the year dot. She openly admits it wasn’t until Sixth Form college that she started rapping, slaving over a notepad just to compete with the boys around her. To stand out Shystie figured the faster she rhymed the more notice people would take – she’s now so fast that she lays claim to the title of the UK’s fastest M.C.

On his song Many Men, 50 Cent claimed to be “the diamond in the dirt that aint been found”. Well, with Shystie Polydor seem to have unearthed a rough diamond of their own. The freestyle that opens the album leads you to suspect this one may be a diamond that De Beers would be proud of. The first few bars of the album’s lead single One Wish are enticing to say the least.

Ignoring the rapping, which is akin to a female Dizzee Rascal, the longer you listen to One Wish the stronger the feeling of familiarity with the beat becomes. Hmmm, slow down Eminem‘s Under The Influence and there’s the reason. Okay, it isn’t identical but the resemblance is unequivocal. I suppose what they say about imitation and flattery holds true as Shystie cites Em as one of her many influences.

The problem with having such a stomping opener is that it’s hard to follow, and Gutter pulls the album down a peg or two. Sticking a very average track in has its benefits though, as Step Bac raises the bar which is continued with Woman’s World (Gurlz Stand Up). Despite the unashamedly feminist lyrics, the speedy and infectious beat combines well with the whiney delivery to create one of the best U.K. hip-hop tracks I’ve heard in a while.

The roller coaster ride of an album takes another dip with Questions which is a disorientating track, directionless but with a circus-like beat more suited to Big Brovas – where’s the skip button? Make It Easy is evidence for the inevitable comparisons with Estelle, essentially a ballad which borrows the chorus of Burt Bacharach‘s Make It Easy On Yourself. Still, it isn’t quite as poignant as Jay-Z borrowing Frank Sinatra‘s voice on I Did It My Way.

Unfinished Bizzness is another slow number but is significantly more mellow, imagine Outlandish with a female vocalist and you’re somewhere closer to understanding this track. Bank Robbery is to the previous two tracks what chalk is to cheese, the beat literally sounding like it’s stabbing the speakers. Added to the gunshot beat, this is quite a violent song, it’s a good job we’re all mature enough to distinguish between real life and music.

Can’t Play has an eerie introduction and the male voice that opens the song draws instant comparisons to So Solid Crew and for some reason Justin Timberlake‘s Cry Me A River springs to mind with the classical vocals. Which is fortunate given that the rest of Diamond In The Dirt fades into the realms of the average.

While Diamond In The Dirt glimmers in parts, over 15 tracks it doesn’t really hold its own in the grand scale of things. However keeping it in the context of U.K hip hop the album is every bit as important as anything coming from the Roll Deep Crew.

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Shystie – Diamond In The Dirt