This Is My Demo
way. He started off his solo career by entering Sony UK's “win the chance to rhyme alongside Nas” contest with a freestyle that saw him abduct Kelis, insult every single American rapper, and discuss the current US/UK exchange rate. Then he effectively kills off The Mitchell Brothers' career on their second single by showing them up as the one-dimensional Mike Skinner-minstrels they are, with an eight-bar career maker (and, come on, “Mum: is this how you spell Lemar?” was the finest one-liner of 2005). While all this is going on, he's peddling his mixtapes: 10,000 sold without a record deal or mainstream radio play. Oh. And solely off his own back, his own touring, and his own hustle, he’s went and merked both Fiddy and The Game to win “Best Hip-Hop Act” at the MOBOs (Music of Black Origin). Remember, this is before he's actually released an album.
So, now he actually has released an album. Sure, it's not fair to him (and to Klashnekoff, really) that he's viewed as the sole saviour and messiah of the British rap movement, but This Is My Demo is a total Palm Sunday moment for the 1Xtra/Channel U/RWD crowd. Seriously, UK hip-hop hasn't had this much commercial upside since wedding DJs were spinning “Doin' The Doo.”
The key line comes on the “Hate It Or Love It”/”It Was A Good Day”-echoing single “Little Derek”: “Got to keep the punters happy, to tango it takes two / And it seems like I'm the rapper that people take to.” It's hard to imagine a more likeable rapper, nay, musician than ol' Sway Dasafo. Not just for his “underdog” status (he's releasing this through his own label rather than taking one of the major deals that was thrown at him post-MOBO), but he exudes a level of charisma matched only by Ludacris on a global scale.
And, you know, he hasn't just got presence and hustle. He's got some awesome songs as well, which he demonstrates on This Is My Demo. Indeed, tracks 6, 7, and 8 are as good a three-tune run you'll hear all year. Admittedly, they've already been on his mixtapes, but “Flo Fashion,” with it's inbuilt Visa/Mastercard dance, Dizzee-if-his-educational-therapist-had-succeeded beats, and yet more proof that, as the blogkids say, “Sway got jokes” (“Ten red letters in my name but I don't mind / If they phone I'll just tell them that I'm colourblind”), never gets old. Similarly, “Up Your Speed,” (here in its original two MC mix, rather than the posse cut that flew into the upper echelons of Stylus' Singles of 2005 list) is a hands-in-the-air-shit-put-them-back-on-the-wheel driving anthem, which uses one hand to pat the UK scene on the back for its previous successes, and uses the other to smack it repeatedly across the chops for not doing more. And “Download” may be strictly stutter-style goof, but as far as anti-P2P screeds go it knocks the “Without Me” video into a cocked hat.
Then there's the newness. Strangely, very little of it sounds like the standard UK rap output (no Mobb Depp piano loops here). “Hype Boys” is what the scene would sound like today if Fallacy's career hadn't been seemingly managed by Luke Rhinehart, whilst “Loose Woose” does the usual rap/grime roll call shout-out disguised as a list of the women Sway's current beau has slept with. It also features the first, and hopefully last, namecheck for MTV News irritant Tim Kash on a rap album.
Indeed, Sway's muse for the entire effort appears to be late 90s rap, a 1997 afternoon spent listening to the lower reaches of Trevor Nelson's R&B chart. “Products” even features a crooning ragga hook, just to rub the point in. “Month in the Summer” comes across like a hip-hop Hallmark Card, but Sway is the only person in the world who can carry this off, and really you have no choice than to throw yourself onto the bandwagon now. Unless, of course, you hate fun.
The killer here though is “Pretty Ugly Husband.” Music hasn't disturbed me as much as this since V/Vm's heyday. Accompanied by a slick R&B chorus, Sway roleplays as an abusive husband, and proceeds to beat, smash, threaten to kill, and rape his wife for nearly four minutes, ending with him being shot dead. It then goes straight into “Flo Fashion” before you have chance to take in what's just happened. It’s preachy, sure, but it’s done with just the right level of horror to leave one with the feeling of an adrenalin shot of pure righteousness.
But you probably came for the jokes. Luckily, the skits don’t disappoint: Sway’s Ghanian immigrant alter-ago Charlie-Boy Achampong starts off by escaping from his village (“I'm going to get in the river and swim, and I'm not going to stop until I see white people”), and later on he drops his own album, I Swam All The Way From Ghana, featuring the hits “Buss Shoot At The Immigration” and “Why Is Bird Always Shitting On Me?” To be honest, it might be the only chance the British urban scene has of putting out a better album in 2006.
Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2006-02-17