Rap

Professor Elemental - School Of Whimsy

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Review by Liam Taylor. This month sees the release of School Of Whimsy from Chap-Hop MC extrordinaire, Professor Elemental. Along with guests, frequent collaborators and Mighty Boosh-esque comedy skits, the Professor guides new students through the finer points of being whimsical.

In the opening rap of the opening track, Words from the Headmaster, what strikes me the most is the Professor's flow. He's never been a slow or unskilled rapper, by any means, but the skill with which these vocals are performed makes an impact very early on. A short track, but impressive nonetheless.

Downside Up is a summer romp in which Ella Jeans's vocals put me in mind of Lily Allen / early Sia -style pop. Especially in the vocal harmonies, skanky guitars and horn section, all of which contribute to the summer vibe. The Professor is great at creating lyrics that make you think for a moment: "like Clark in a crisis, time to go change" (really now, I can't spell it out for you).

Now we're on to my favourite track from School of Whimsy - One Too Many. The combination of humorous concept, catchy chorus and deft vocal performance make this track for me. Lyrically the track is about the trials of being on tour, the logical solution is to clone oneself. In a whimsical twist, the Professor ends up dueting himself. The pacing of the chorus is particularly fun - it feels like it's on the cusp of going too fast, but that's most likely intentional to suit the mood of the track.

Track 7 is essentially the British, more accurate version of Macklemore's hit - especially given The Spoken Herd's similarity to Macklemore's vocal style. Jumble Sale features a jaunty piano loop, horns, organ and lyrics that imply this lyricist has actually attended a jumle sale, (or been in a Thrift Shop), at some point. Our guest rapper's flow is particularly impressive and entertaining.

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It's become a fad in recent times to embrace your anxieties, or at least to publicly declare them, (or maybe that's just my snowflakie echochamber?) It can get a bit gross after a while, but the subject is elequently handled in track 8, Nervous. A swinging romp through the Professor's apprehensions, which could be a nascent theme on this album.

Make Good Art pt2, (the follow-up to a track on the most recent Menagerie album, which we also reviewed), is similar in tone and rhythm to it's predecessor, but is more of the timid, younger brother. Timid isn't a bad thing, it's still "Good Art".

SQRL is a down-tempo whodunnit, (well, it would be if the title wasn't a massive clue), where the Professor awakens to find one of his shoes missing and his cuppa spoilt. Storytelling is one of Professor Elemental's strengths and this is a track in which he's able to create an immersive and engaging world in only a few minutes.

Tom's House is a sweet track, ostensibly dedicaed to Tom Caruana. Sabira Jade's simple but catchy chorus elegantly compliments Elemental's descriptive rap and the summer reggae vibe of the track.

Track 16, (and the final vocal track of the album), Good Morning is another example of Professor Elemental's rapping ability and punneriffic lyrics are certainly enough to get me out of bed in the.... well, maybe not the morning. Equally skillful is frequent collaborator, turntablist Nick Maxwell, who lends his aid to close the track - no baby scratching here though, these skills demonstrate precisely why Maxwell is on the Professor's roster. Good Morning got it's own video as well, embedded below for your viewing pleasure.

Sunskip, is an instrumental number by Tom Caruana featuring sampled vocals that get inside your head despite being hard to decipher, along with a driving rhythm, subtle but acid-like synths and charming flute, (or clarinet?), loop.

Overall, School of Whimsy is a fun, witty and unique album, which you can stick on repeat and still find engaging. Trust me, I have tried. The timing of the release is impecable, being as this is the first sunshine I've seen in months and the album perfectly matches my current mood. This will be my 2018 summer album, I'm sure it'll be yours too.

You can enroll in the School of Whimsy yourself through Elemental's website,

Links


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The Menagerie - Odd Beast

Odd Beast album cover by The Menagerie

Odd Beast album cover by The Menagerie

Review by Liam Taylor. Quintessentially British rap super-group, The Menagerie, have returned with a new album on Tea Sea Records. Crickey. Their 4th album, Odd Beast, contains witty lyrics, dizzying turntable, and odd beats, (oddness is to be embraced, as we'll learn whilst listening). The Menagerie comprises of MCs Professor Elemental, Dr Syntax, producer Tom Caruana and DJ Nick Maxwell, who have all met with success in their own right. We also have some guests along for the ride, including Al, the Native of Rizzle Kicks fame, Clev Cleverly and vocalist Sabira Jade. Odd Beast opens with a short but jaunty track, Walking With Canes. It's hard to listen to without imagining our MCs already walking with said canes. We learn of their adventures between this release and the previous, Irregular Spirits back in 2013, before progressing to the 2nd track. Dr Syntax's lilting flow, reminiscent of Aesop Rock and Gorillaz-era Del TFH, takes centre-stage for Make Good Art. Syntax leads by example here, as does DJ Nick with his exemplary scratching.

Stand-out jauntiness by producer Tom Caruana in Stampede, which may be a more familiar tone to Elemental fans out there. Syntax takes over at a mid-track tempo change, which descending into a minor quarrel between our MCs - an actual laugh-out-loud moment, even the 7th time listening to the album. It's a bit soon for Brexit references though chaps, some of us are still a bit sore.

An old school horn loop signals the start of Come On, (featuring Clev Cleverly). A jovial and energetic number, with a Goldie Lookin' Chain feel, references to dad dancing and H.P. Lovecraft. Seriously though, if you're not sold on the album with that sentence alone I don't know if we'd really get along.

Image of Dr Syntax & Tom Caruana

Image of Dr Syntax & Tom Caruana

Rappers Don't Want To Be Our Friend is softer, much more solemn, which puts me in mind of some of the more serious Scroobius Pip / Dan Le Sac numbers. The track itself is "LeSacian", (new term, I hope it catches on), opening with an oddly endearing glissando synth melody, (like a robin swallowed an elastic band), and gritty drum loop. It's evident that our MCs have, many times, faced the dichotomy of wanting to "fit in" whilst not wanting to conform to uncomfortable social norms. I feel like we have some shared experiences. I'd like readers to remember it's possible to be a hip-hop fan without being a prick. The same goes for rock subcultures by the way... and jazz...

Track 7, She's Gone, explores our MC's relationship difficulties, and opens with a drunken sing-along refrain. If I take nothing else away from this album, I'll certainly never shift the mental image of the Professor throwing up on himself, Rick Sanchez style.

I've tried to understand football. I swear, I really have, but I just don't get it. Luckily, I can always count on nerd-core and steampunk subcultures to back me up. There's a lot of talk about "echochambers" these days, so perhaps I should be more open to opposing views... No, no... It's the footballers who are wrong. Anyway... Only A Game, is a Madness-esque dig at football, hooligan culture, and the questionable behaviours of sportspeople. This is a hugely enjoyable tune, especially if you enjoy certain episodes of The IT Crowd.

Image of Prof. Elemental

Image of Prof. Elemental

TheRain,stands out with it's pleasantly sung chorus from guest vocalist Sabira Jade, which is in contrast to the bulk of the vocals present on this disk. We're not actually talking about the weather here are we chaps? If you're the kind of person who can't handle politics in music, feel free to skip Track 11. Accompanied by repetitious piano and a haunting horn sample, our hosts point their fingers directly towards British politics and make their problems clear.

I have no words to describe Bears, the closing track. "But Liam, you're writing a review, why would you tell about a track you're not going to tell us about?" Because I want you to buy the album.

I don't want to re-open any old hip-hop wounds, but I always felt that Professor Elemental had the lyrical edge over his chap-hop contemporaries. Odd Beast "professorie" enough to keep chap fans engaged, whilst embracing that part of the rap fan's brain that wants to hear some harsher language. Syntax, on form as ever, stands out with his skillful flow, catchy rhymes and sing-along choruses. There's elements of Britpop and British Big Beat to my ear, along with the humour, groove and social commentary we've come to expect from The MenagerieOdd Beast is funny, intelligent, and worthy of your attention.

The Menagerie elsewhere:


Oh, hi! Still reading? Well, that's helpful actually, because we have something to tell you: Stabbed Panda is an independent music blog, run by a handful of people for whatever trickle of ad money we can get. We hope we can keep uploading stuff here for a long time, and keep access to it free without resorting to hideous, intrusive adverts. If you'd like to show some support and help us do that, please take a look at our Patreon Page and unlock some rewards. Ta.

Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer - There's A Rumpus Going On Review

Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer review Review by Liam Taylor. I'm only 10 seconds in to There's A Rumpus Going On, new album from chap-hop superstar Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, and I'm reminded what a pitiless worm Michael Gove is. How many albums released this year can claim to do the same? Spineless politicians aside, there is most assuredly a rumpus going on. If you're unfamiliar with the concept of chap-hop I'm going to let you take a moment to get up to speed, then I'll meet you back here shortly, yes? Finished? Grand.

13782189_10157116335000307_7066975891992065892_nSo Many Reggie Perrins In The Arse End Of Space has the kind of chorus you find yourself humming without fully understanding. It also includes the kind of jaunty bass-line and "rom-bom, bobbity-bom" hook you'd anticipate from a Chap-Hop L.P. with the seamless addition of an almost psychedelic bridge.

I get the impression that track 4, Hitler Gifs, was composed with the express purpose of having a a crowd chant "I love Hitler...  ...  ... gifs." You will find yourself chanting it as well after a sherry or five, so best be sure the curtains are drawn before striking that play button. Broadly these lyrics are about relaxation, and the inevitability that some will spend the small hours stuck in that part of the internet with all the memes.

Ollie And Stan opens with a Tom & Jerry-esque bombardment of sampled effects, beats and piano. Ostensibly, this is a track about Laurel & Hardie, (Ollie and Stan being their forenames), and even includes some sampling of their arguments, which makes the sound designer in me turgid with joy. This is a fast-paced stomper with a squishy bassline - can you imagine acid-dancehall-chap-hop? Well you don't have to anymore, because this is it.

We Need To Talk About Kanye is a tune which needs to be played from the highest rooftops, from the loudest of boomboxes. Aside from being a daringly accurate re-creation of a well-known Queen harmony, it also makes a necessary point about those creating "art" in the 21st century.  Is it art, or did they simply misspell "ego"?

National Trust is about as punk as a chap can get, whilst maintaining dignity. It also demonstrated that Mr. B isn't afraid of getting political, and displaying his vocal flow whilst doing so. Is that a distortion pedal on the banjolele? Well, why not.

Mr B the gentleman rhymer reviewTrack 9, Still Can't Play The Trombone, is a reminder that we shouldn't let lack of skill be a barrier to personal enjoyment. It's also at this point that I realised this album hasn't relied so exclusively on the banjolele. We have the occasional visitations from upright piano and double bass as we've come to expect, but they're now complemented with trombone, and a greater variety of  synths, basses, beats and effects.

I don't mind confessing that Last Of The Unknown International Flâneurs forced me to Google a phrase or two. Here we have an endearingly sloppy bassline, which reflects the wandering,  sauntering nature of the tune.

The Happy Song is scantily-clad compared to others on this track, comprising of double bass, banjolele and a simple beat behind Mr. B's vocal, later joined by piano. This allows for a bit of a light-hearted breather between other tracks which are a tad dense at times. It's much the same for this song's lyrics which suggest we should reflect on what we have rather than what we think we need and that maybe life isn't as terrible as it seems to be at the moment. It's possible that I'm putting my own feelings onto this song's meaning, but good music is supposed to make you think, dammit!

Ennui seems to be a reoccurring theme withing this album, but takes centre stage with Boredom. The track isn't boring however, spurred on by Mr. B's fast-paced vocals and compelling backing track.

The Secret Ingredient, as it turns out is "giving up" at least, that's what this self-proclaimed "defeatist anthem" declares. Although it's a perfectly satisfactory and entertaining tune, the simple rhythms and sparse sections seem to reflect the subject matter. This is a pleasant sway-along breather many seem to employ towards the end of albums.

The album closes with Youth, Truth, Gin, Vermouth and yes, I'm sure there are parts of the planet in which that title won't rhyme. Dark at times, this has a bit more movement to it than the previous track. You might still find yourself swaying, but you might also find yourself really fancying a Martini.

Mr B the gentleman rhymer review

I suppose you want some kind of summary now, don't you? Well, fine.

For a while, I'd not enthused about Mr. B as much as I had with the release of 2011's O.G. Original Gentleman. In my mind, the musical quality of 2012's The Tweed Album and 2013's Can't Stop, Shan't Stop was greatly improved, but at the expense of humour. There's A Rumpus Going On, you'll be glad to hear, is a great comedy album which doesn't, as they often do, sacrifice musicality. My advice is that if you've ever enjoyed Mr. B, for any reason, you should give this album a ruddy good try.

Links and that: