MC-ing has long been a ubiquitous part of club drum ‘n’ bass and whilst DJs spin, and MCs twist and turn with lyrical raps and chats over tunes, the debate continues as to the musical merits of this. Moreover, vocals on d ‘n’ b records tend to be sampled repetitions rather than actual songs, and so it comes as welcome when a d ‘n’ b album appears that is primarily song-based.
New Zealand born MC Tali is one of few female MCs within the scene. There are others but certainly the majority are male. So, to train as a classical singer, blag MC spots at clubs, move to Australia to build a name and fan base, then move to the UK, and become a member of Bristol’s Full Cycle collective is highly admirable.
Talis’ debut album, Lyric On My Lip, is produced by Full Cycle maestro Roni Size and also guests other d ‘n’ b heavyweights such as Krust, Die and Ms Dynamite. Although Lyric On My Lip could never be termed unadulterated, purist d ‘n’ b, it is intentionally broader and must be listened to as such.
However, the first track on the LP, Blazin’ is a beaut of a tune. It starts lushly, with intriguing harmonies and simple piano, and the listener is propelled pleasurably as it builds into a humdinger bass-driven dance track. Tali’s rhymes tell the story of her rise to Full Cycle membership, and although the lyrics are simply narrative, they move with the beat and catch in this way.
The hook in Gonna Catch Ya is strong and again holds immediately. The bass and synth lines are dirty and this tune rams as a dance floor banger. Tali’s vocal flows effortlessly and the chorus really moves to a high as the listener glides joyously with her.
The mid-section of this LP, with its slower pace, lacks spark however and hits a down. The songs do not have the hooks or interest and Airport Lounge is one of the least appealing songs on the LP. The beat is too light and the tune overly poppy. The orchestrated string samples add another frothiness to it and the mid-way MC-ing feels stilted.
Grey Dayz is the only slower tune on the LP that really works. The trumpet sample is a cool hook and the vocals caress with a gentle, soulful pace. However, the album really hits the throttle with full-firing MC-ing on Satiric Stylez. Tali’s double-time rhymes are moving as she fluently flits between MC-ing and singing and the vocals mesh with the bass line to produce a peach of a dance tune.
Lyrically this album only speaks about the beauty of d ‘n’ b, or love found or lost. There is always a feeling that although singing about musical passion and romance are worthy subjects, there is so much more to be explored and write about. These lyrics ebb and flow, and often, their simplicity works but occasionally there is a distinct lack of poetic depth. Rather, it is the melodical musical hooks that really absorb the listener during this album; those in Blazin’, Gonna Catch Ya, and Soul Star are divine and hugely danceable.
Tali is being touted as a Roni Size protégé; however, this LP could and should never be misconstrued as a Size album. Tali has taken full control of her debut. It isn’t groundbreaking, but one of the beauties of drum ‘n’ bass is that it encompasses so many different genres and this album is, in its small way, progressive.
There are always further steps to take, but this LP is a feel-good celebration of drum ‘n’ bass and an enjoyable, sometimes exciting, narrative on Tali’s journey from New Zealand to Bristol. I’m so glad she made it.