[1] Tinie Tempah, ‘Pass Out’

Tinie Tempah

British rappers. They’re such nice young men, aren’t they? No bitches, hoes and bullet holes for them, no sir. No, they want to spit rhymes about beans on toast, making sure you get a decent feed even when you’re raving in Ibiza, and solving their personal clothes mountain by stashing some at their aunt’s house. I just wonder how often Tinie Tempah visits his aunt – you know, to pick up an outfit he’s just remembered – or whether his threads just gather dust. He’d be as well off handing them over to charity. Maybe that’s a problem for the notorious Difficult Wardrobe Decisions Second Album.

“This is my favourite one,” lies Junior, dashing yesterday’s New Pop Order. Still, she flips out to every on-/off-beat, gamely attempting to pin down Labrinth’s riddims, bumping into the problem we all face: just what is ‘Pass Out’? It’s hip hop, sure, but punctuated by dancehall flavours, smeared with grime and – eventually – exploding into drum’n’bass. That leap into hyperdrive for the final chorus always makes me laugh. It’s the only sane reaction to that kind of balls-out self-assurance. But long before the two-step fallout, ‘Pass Out”s swagger has pulled you in with a hopscotch synth line, a flow peppered with bons mots, and a shameless R&B chorus that kidnaps any lingering waverers.

Bang bang bang, idea after scheme after brainwave, ‘Pass Out’ pushes it all together like Play-Doh, stuffs it in a press and squeezes it out again through a best-single-of-the-year-shaped hole. “It sounds like Batman,” is Junior’s final revelation and while I’ve no clue what she means, I know she’s right.

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[13] Roots Manuva, ‘Witness (1 Hope)’

And at unlucky number 13 we have the UK hip-hop industry. “Britain’s best rapper” – yes, sorry to break it to you, Dizzee Rascal, Lady Sovereign, Derek B, Daz Sampson, Simon Le Bon, Robbie Williams etc, but he just is – was born Rodney Smith; not as silly a name as his US equivalents Calvin and Tracy (here’s looking at you, Snoop and Ice-T), but certainly a moniker designed to undercut any gangsta pretensions. Luckily, Rodders is above all that, preferring hard-nosed social commentary, homegrown grooves, and salt of the earth shout-outs to “ten pints of bitter” and “cheese on toast”.

Junior and I do the giant stomp to the sinister beats, eerie harp samples and menacing yet tinny synths that sound like the march of the Federation soldiers in Blake’s 7. ‘Witness (1 Hope)’ is a chunky, phat-farming bounce.

The fact it reached No.45 on the singles chart shows how UK hip-hop bangs its head off a brick wall. The fact it took the sticky paw of novelty popsmith Calvin Harris to usher Dizzee Rascal to No.1 shows how UK hip-hop holds its hands up in surrender.