Monday, April 21, 2008

What Do I Ghett

"They say grime won't get man a mortgage / That's because you cunts don't support it..."

What next ? Ghetto, perhaps. 2007's "Ghetto Gospel" was not quite all that it could have been - the first 5 tracks were dazzling but, a little like Scorcher or Wretch's tapes from last year, there was a sense of trying a little too hard to touch all the bases, and not enough to truly hit the heights. Now, "Freedom of Speech" sees him more focussed, a mixtape of crunchy, more hip-hop flavoured beats over which his trademark raspy flow sounds more kinda minatory and Sticky Fingaz-ish by the day (the way he exclaims "I don't give a fuck" during an Onyx-like rant on "Buss 1" almost sounds like the real Sticky has dropped into Bow to take over the mic).

In common with Trim, he has the sense to kick off proceedings with a pulsating, dynamic duo, "Commandments" and "The Ghetto", and there's also some commendable picking and choosing of guest spots, so on "Threats" he teams up with Griminal (whose "Dance" on Scorcher's "Thunder Power" compilation last year was a kind of '07 equivalent to Tinchy's seminal "Move") and Brutal for something rather rougher and tougher; the nervous energy of "Ghost Town" is pristinely marshalled by Smasher; and Chipmunk turns up again, part-rescuing a perfunctory remix of "I'm Ghetts". We also get excellent tracks like "Mountain", just out on white label 12", which keeps up the pace and tension without overspilling into unnecessary gangster stereotypes. A tad galling, then, that some of the later tracks suddenly trail off nearly as badly as "Ghetto Gospel" did.

But in all, "Freedom of Speech" works far better than "Ghetto Gospel". In places it may seem more of a competent hip-hop album than a grime landmark, sounding formulaic almost in the same breadth as it excites: similarly, the lyrical edginess jumps awkwardly between sounding forced and genuinely zestful. But these, we guess, are just the contradictions of a genre that even now is skittishly betraying and then rediscovering itself at every turn.