Joe Buhdha Presents Klashnekoff
Lionheart: Tussle with the Beast
2007
B+



lionheart: Tussle with the Beast, track two: “The Revolution (Will Not Be Televised on Channel U).” That’s the title of it, at least. And Klash is right. All that tedious burning of the flag and forcing the enemies of the state to line up against the wall would take away valuable screen time from ringtone adverts. Yeah, Channel U is probably Britain’s most entertaining music TV channel, but at the end of the day it’s just a lot of malnourished looking teens in bootleg BAPE hoodies shouting “endz,” “rep,” and “man dem” at random.

The route taken to this album could politely be described as “scenic.” Let’s dismiss social niceties: Klashenkoff makes Saigon look like an MC operating on a tight schedule. His stone-cold classic breakthrough, “Murda,” dropped four years ago. He did a mixtape full of “coming soon” warnings seventeen months ago. Amazon first had this listed for sale last March. There’s been a lot of thumb twiddling here, but amongst those of us who’ve still not gotten over the idea of British rap anticipation for an album has arguably never been higher. Indeed, my original review of this was the word “brrrap” written 700 times.

Kiss the cross around your neck though, because it’s been worth the wait. Klashnekoff is never going to make lists as the most quotable or charismatic of MCs, but what he does do (angry, powerful spitting over jet black—what we used to call pre-Blood Money “Mobb Deepish”—beats), he does perfectly. The beats are supplied by hip-hop’s most misspelled, Joe Buhdha. And while he takes joint credit on the title, he’s sensible enough not to turn the whole affair into a producer’s album. Even when the instrumental is the hottest thing going, like the steel drum carnival float of “Bun Dem,” the Black Russian steps his game up accordingly, coming with the album’s best line (“Man who set trends like West End dress codes”), and providing a caffeinated counterpart to the hook supplied by a tranced Capelton.

He’s not the only guest star here though. Someone apparently bid enough on eBay to get Kool G Rap on board, blowing his cobwebs off before letting him drop a verse on “Terrorise the City” (he’s not needed; Klash and his recently estranged posse member Kyza kill it alone). “Sayonara” is how Klash has done it since the start: emphasized rhymes, pianos ’n’ bass, and lyrics indecipherable to those born outside of the south of England.

The only time the endeavour comes off the rails is when he makes a play for the heartstrings rather than the trigger finger. “Rest of Our Lives (Black Rose Part 2)” which, as the title suggests, is the, umm, third song in his “Black Rose” trilogy, features a beat that kinda sounds like it samples a Carla Lane sitcom. Over the top of that, we get the usual teen pregnancy, broken family, missing parent, struggle on road, “and then everything worked out fine so that’s just great then” tale that he really should have saved for the LiveJournal or an issue of Pick Me Up. They pay £500 a story, y’know.

Minor faults—faults that ensure that it land a few steps short of the benchmark of Roots Manuva’s coked-up classic Awfully DeepLionheart: Tussle with the Beast is the best straight-up, straight-spat British rap album of the 2000s to date. This is the kind of album that vaults people from Channel U to MTV Base. Fine—as long as he doesn’t take screen time off Yo Momma. That’s some funny shit, that program.



Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2007-03-05
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