2005 was a good year for Derek Dasafo, aka Sway, as the unsigned act hada Brit Award added to his Mobo Award for best hip-hop. Since shooting toprominence the British urban music world has been waiting for the polishedproduct to be unleashed. The result is the rather aptly titled This Is My Demo,12 tracks fighting against Dizzee Rascal and Kano for thethrone of the UK’s urban scene.
Those who haven’t heard any of the product behind the hype can be eased intothe album with the title track and intro. The grimey vibe and Sway’s gunshotrhyme delivery soon become almost mesmerising with lyrics combining bothEnglish and Arabic. It’s certainly a good start.
It’s let down by the more lackadaisical Products, but Hype Boys pulls it back with a fly on the wall look at the world of ‘studiogangsters’, bad attitudes and a closer look at reality. “Some places inBritain ain’t the place to raise your child/ ‘Cause even the royal family ain’tall smiles/ ‘Cause everybody knows Harry doesn’t look like Charles” may be alittle controversial, but it’s a refreshing outlook.
Little Derek slows things down a bit with a look at the results of the USdominated hip-hop industry: “‘Cause when you do UK rap you’re number two/’Cause the USA ain’t giving us space to break through.” Baby Blue adds afemale perspective with enough to presence to suggest she could be up tocompeting with Lady Sovereign. Flo Fashion was the track that won Swayhis Urban Music Award and it is fitting that his breakthrough sits comfortablyalongside his newer, more polished work.
The anthemic Up Your Speed is a bit of a cheesy shout out to the whole of theUK with the moral content provided with the line “but please don’t killanybody”. It would be sincere if it wasn’t so out of place in the track,but it’s a proper headbanger. Download is a hilarious condemning lookat illegal MP3 download with the personification of Kazaa, coupled with more seriousquestions of how artists can make money with people getting their musicfree.
Unfortunately the tail end of the album disappoints, with only Still On MyOwn standing out from the other tracks which switch to an awkward UK Garage/R&B hybrid. But the probing lyrics of Still On My Own give an in depth lookinto Sway’s early days of hustling CDs and of battles of faith. Month in theSummer might well be a success later this year – but it will quickly grind youdown to your last nerve.
It’s a disappointing way to end what started off with some touches ofbrilliance in the content and production. Which is testament to Sway’s talentsin front of the mic and at the production table. But there’s a feeling thatThis Is My Demo is just geared too much towards the commercial audience. That’ssomething the aforementioned Kano and Dizzee can’t be accused of.