Album Reviews

YT – Straight Outta Britain

(Hiptones) UK release date: 26 June 2006

It wasn’t so long ago that white hip hop acts were widely ridiculed in all quarters. Rightly so, for in the majority of cases they were beyond awful. What is the point of someone like Snow, or Vanilla Ice, when you have the likes of Public Enemy or Ice Cube?

This all changed of course, just as soon as Mr Mathers appeared on the scene. Suddenly, white rappers were no longer the target of massed hooting. Of course much of this had to do with authenticity and a no bullshit stance on behalf of the performer rather than whether a performer was viewed on the colour of their skin. In this regard; it is safe to assume that Spiral bloke from Big Brother will never find himself getting props from hip hop’s cr�me de la cr�me. Finding themselves in a similar predicament, white reggae acts and in particular white MC’s and Toasters, have never really done too well in finding critical success (with perhaps the two-tone movement the honourable exception).

YT may well be the one to buck this trend. Unashamedly British, YT is obviously well versed in the history of reggae culture and sound. Quite how YT (aka Mark Hull) has managed to attain a fairly thick Jamaican accent when he currently resides in Ipswich is anyone’s guess. That said, I’ve met a few people who read the first few pages of Bass Culture, and subsequently adopted a heavily accented patois.

The tunes on Straight Outta Britain skip across reggae genres at will. There’s straightforward, laid back roots reggae; there’s a hefty dose of dancehall and jungle, as well as dollops of hip hop all over this album. None of the tracks sound contrived or anything less that a performer in love with his art form, and there some inspired moments of genius here and there.

Innit is a sneaky dancehall piss take of the word that seems to have obtained a weird kind of status in a country that can’t quite decide whether Ali G was a comedy character, or straight outta documentary. Wicked Act is a bass heavy, skanked up musing on the 7/7 suicide bombings. Songs on current affairs are often clunky affairs, not so here; it’s almost like hearing The Specials for the first time.

Had this album been released in the winter, the chances are you’d be more sceptical. As it is, the sun is melting roads, and the political climate is distinctly set to ‘hot’: we need an album like this right now. With the exception of the lovers vibe Special Delivery (which isn’t quite as special as it should be) every song here should have you whinin’ and grinin’ on your way booking flights to Jamaica. Either that or firing up your tractor with the GPS set to Ipswich.

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YT – Straight Outta Britain