Ranking Queens

In case you'd wondered what we'd been working up to for the weekend, well this for one is what we've been working up to, one of the things we had to tell you about before our imminent hibernation. It kind of goes back to when we mentioned Zipper the other week: how sometimes the secret of great music, of music that puts a smile on your face, is absurdly simple. So the skinny on this one is this.

Imam T.H.U.G, the Iron Sheik who teamed with the P Brothers to deliver "Across The Planet" on Heavy Bronx in day, knows how to drop rhymes: grizzly, filmic, props-to-Queensbridge street stories. Leicester's Ed 209, who wowed us with the "Stay Ex Static" collaborations with some of our favourite UK emcees last year, knows how to concoct block-trembling, back-to-basics beats. Put those ingredients together - connect the chemistry, if you like - and the result, in this case a 12" on VRD called "Karma 360", is mighty. It's as brooding a collabo as you might expect, the Imam patrolling the streets of his home borough surrounded by the dislocated smog of 209's gently crackling breaks, all shot through with a grimy, "Hell On Earth"-style piano sample.

Hey, it won't ever be a hit. *Sigh*. But "Karma" is a treat for you and I, at least: a transatlantic nod to the rawer sound from when hip-hop felt more like it mattered, when rapping was righteous, and the producer's role was the realisation, not emasculation, of those skills. Crucially, though, records like this, or Cee-Rock 'The Fury's newie, aren't merely sops to a listener's weary nostalgia: whatever side of the ocean you're on, they serve as a reminder that real street music can still be both created in, and rooted in, the present. And they give us more reasons, however incessant the barrage of depressingly lowest common denominator "hip-hop", not to give up on the genre that's maybe given us the very mostest over the past 25 years.

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