Categories
Uncategorized

Read This First: An Introduction

70header2020x

Where does hip-hop music truly live and thrive? On which continents? In which languages?

Since the music industry spotlight is still mainly aimed at the most shallow, narcissistic and destructive manifestations of the rap genre, I felt I had to play my part in drawing attention to rappers who are elevating the art form.

Of course I could have written one single blog post with a list of 70 rappers with copious links and videos, but I wanted 70elevators to be a celebration of one brilliant lyricist at a time. I never reveal everything I like about a particular artist. I’d rather introduce [or reintroduce] you to the rapper and let you forge your own relationship with the music.

I think we’re living in a new golden age of hip-hop music right now. Look past the pop-rap buffoonery. There’s a world of mesmerizing, brutally honest, sharp-witted, prophetic and activating rap songs out there. Let’s enjoy AND share these songs!

If you enjoy the blog, why not subscribe to it by hitting the FOLLOW button at the top of the sidebar over here >>> and please comment about the elevators that stand out to you. Which rapper do you really connect with?

Take your time. Don’t speed through the blog entries. Some raps are incredibly well crafted and deserve to breathe a little.

I’m inviting you to a fine rhyme tasting session.

Categories
Uncategorized

Elevator 34: Akala

34AkalaheaderThe hip-hop culture that formed in the 1970’s has splintered. There are arguments and counter-arguments about the sorry state of the culture and it’s future.

One piece of evidence for this fragmentation in my city and in many cities around the UK is the gulf between rap artists born before 1985 and those born after 1990. Somewhere along the way the so-called old-schoolers stopped interacting with and mentoring young, up-and-coming ambitious artists. This has meant that many young rappers are creatively standing on the shoulders of giant ghosts; ghosts they can’t even name check, because they don’t know their hip-hop history.

We need people who have the ability to bridge generation gaps and deep cultural rifts, to help people listen to each other and at times to force people, especially privileged people, to hear inconvenient truths. One man who does all this using extraordinary lyrical skill, clarity, wisdom, forcefulness and grace is London rapper Akala. He is Elevator 34.

Akala’s ability to fuse storytelling, social commentary, fiery satire and highly entertaining rap verses is evident in his famous 2011 radio performance on Fire In The Booth.

Akala is vocal about the power of reading and a part of his role as bridge builder is because he is such an avid reader, constantly seeing things from different points of view, constantly striving to see the bigger, more nuanced picture. You can hear his theories develop and beliefs strengthen over his last four albums. He’s also candid about his failings.

There are literally hours of Akala lectures and interviews on youtube, perhaps more hours of him speaking than him rapping. He’s an anthropologist, sociologist and historian. He recently spoke to the Oxford Union about, among many things, the problems of Victorian Egyptology.  In 2013 he asserted: “This country (the UK) is not comfortable with the idea of young, intelligent black people – especially men. They’re treated as the exception to the rule.”

His album ‘Knowledge is Power Vol. 2’ released in 2015 is about resistance and empowerment. “Every journey begins with just one step,” he says as he beckons young black people to explore their own explosive ideas, not just his.

The album includes this heavy hitter:

The lyrically potent ‘Murder Runs the Globe’ is followed by the track ‘Urge to Kill’. Played back-to-back they make a brilliant foundation for a sobering debate about violence and war.

Bigoted, racist powers won’t be able to stop Akala’s young listeners from feeling invigorated to go and do further research on his confrontational, anti-establishment assertions.

Akala also stands between cultures and makes them hold hands. In 2008 he founded the Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company, which performs adaptations of Shakespeare’s work and provides workshops for teens and 20somethings. Akala is keen to show that there are more than superficial links between the bard of the past and the rappers of the present.

There will be a new wave of rappers who will not only name check Akala as an influence but will also be able to wax lyrical about what they learnt from brilliant people who names are left out of school history books. Akala: relentless educator, bridge-builder, firebrand, lyrical elevator.

Categories
Uncategorized

Elevator 33: Anton Serra

33AntonSerraheader

Here are four definitions of the term cipher or cypher:

  1. A code often created by an encryption algorithm
  2. A secret language
  3. A zero
  4. A circle made by a group of hip-hop performers especially rappers, in which each member is given time to rap, beatbox, break, etc.

The density of slang within a lot of North American rap for years served a strong, poignant purpose. It excluded most people. It included just a few. This encrypted conversation was for and by poor mainly young African-Americans.

It was made up of generations of regional slang terms and cultural references layered on top of each other, making the cyphers different in each area. Now thanks to online slang dictionaries the code has been broken. This secret language is no longer a secret. Something that was special and exclusive has been dissected and fed to white pop stars for cultural appropriation. However in many other parts of the world, rap has retained its protective slang barrier where the overworked and underprivileged can speak freely to each other.

Anton Serra is part of Lyon hip-hop collective L’Animalerie. His lyrics are strewn with ‘argot’ slang; something Victor Hugo called ‘the language of misery’ in his 1862 book Les Miserables.

‘We can hardly recognize it,’ Hugo exclaims. ‘Is it really the French tongue, the great human tongue?…The words are uncouth, and marked by an indescribably fantastic beastliness.’

Anton Serra’s words are uncouth AND brilliant and dexterous. His intense, wide-eyed delivery is absolutely captivating. I think his vocal inflections and phrasing are amongst the punchiest and most beguiling in rap music history, despite me understanding only a fraction of the poetry.

In the early 90s Anton wrote on the walls of Lyon, before moving from graffiti to rap lyrics. His four solo releases are: Frandjos, Antoster Lapwasserra, Sales Gones and his 2010 Bootleg

I love Serra’s confidence and wit. To me, he’s the most accomplished rapper within L’Animalerie by a country mile. In the various music videos featuring the whole crew though he doesn’t showboat. He seems content to play his part and enjoy the fraternal energy.

On this song ‘The Lions Are Solitary’, which Serra shares with Lucio Bukowski, he talks about his past failures, adversaries made out of plaster, his wolf-like eyebrows and questioning himself on who the real pillars in his life are.

This example of Serra’s awesome delivery features the lines: ‘Even my psychiatrist had a hard time following me – He thinks he knows everything, but doesn’t know his own future’

Here he starts his verse: ‘I go Piano Piano and this without Herbie Hancock – You’re listening but missing an ear like Van Gogh – You won’t find a booty-call in Bangkok’

‘Zairo’ is an ode to his graf friends and his city

This acoustic version of ‘Love Kills’ retains all of its melancholic bite

Here he contemplates old age, hoping to spend time with family and friends but fearing incontinence and arthritis and Scrabble games alone:

I get the feeling that Serra and his L’Animalerie team don’t care what’s going on in Paris or Marseille or New York for that matter. They have carved out their own niche and speak in their own cipher. We as outsiders have the opportunity to look in on a master in the craft of rap, despite most of Serra’s lingo going over most of our heads.

Only those who fully immerse themselves in argot, who fully enter this special cypher, get to experience the full impact of our 33rd Elevator and that’s the way it should be.

Thanks to Nathan Kellum for helping me dig into the lyrics
Categories
Uncategorized

Elevator 32: George the Poet

32Georgeheader

For the first time in a long time it’s cool to be poet in the UK. You have the license to speak a six-minute stream-of-consciousness verse and people will actually listen intently. There are now 12 regular poetry and spoken word events in my city alone and most of them are packed.

George Mpanga started rapping at 15, but a few years later discovered what various rappers discover: if you rap acapella in certain settings and your material is labelled poetry, a wider group of people will taste, ingest and digest your rap lyrics. You’ve gained a whole new audience.

Mpanga aka George the Poet grew up on the Stonebridge Park estate in north-west London and some of his most memorable work picks apart London life with humor, affection and stark clarity.

George makes the most complex multi-syllable rhymes sound natural – like they were hanging for centuries in the ether somewhere just waiting to be spoken.

Evidence: ‘Baby Mother’

and ‘Estate of Mind’

His trademarks are vulnerability, confidence, beautifully weighted flows and uncomfortable calls for personal transformation.

George explains that his profound new EP ‘The Chicken and The Egg’ is about premature parenthood. “Through the story of a rocky relationship, it outlines the cycle of fatherlessness in seven tracks.”

Listen to it here.

George has a vision, which it appears he’s pursuing with sincerity and zeal: helping the next generation of inner-city youth discover their talents and grow their confidence and self-esteem. George’s words aren’t merely aspirational. He’s not weaving a tapestry of fanciful dreams – no, his words are a bulldozer to the lies and self-doubt of young people across the UK.

I’d go as far as to say George the Poet has a prophetic core. We need more artists brave enough to stand up to ego, empire, slavery and community dysfunction and say, ‘This ain’t working. There’s another way of living’.

Over the last decade we’ve seen a new wave of performance poets building their skills, pouring out their guts, confessing their inner demons and telling compelling stories of joy or misfortune. However George the Poet’s work stands out. With every measured pause, every mournful smile, every subtle internal rhyme you sense just how devoted he is to his craft and his mission. His poems cut through the fog of hegemonic disinformation with samurai ease and hopefully he’ll school some heads and unhead some spin doctors while he’s at it.

Here’s one of his no bull interviews

Categories
Uncategorized

Elevator 31: Michael Stork

31MStorkheader

Michael Stork is arguably one of the most sophisticated, versatile and imaginative rappers to have ever grabbed a mic and he’s been my favourite rapper for years.

I’ve been anticipating writing that sentence since I started 70elevators. Yes, he’s one of my best friends. Yes, I was in a rap group with him. Yes, I’m the godfather to his daughter. But his inclusion in 70elevators is not favouritism, but rather an inevitability.

On the night I met Michael at a hip-hop night called Substance in 1998 he played the melody of Jeru’s ‘Come Clean’ by blowing across the top of a collection of whisky bottles, which had different water levels in each. This was not your average rapper or emcee.

In his university days it was clear he had an uncontainable imagination, an untamed musicality, great stage presence, an arsenal of killer flows and an unusual level of dedication to his craft. On his 5-verse epic ‘Trophies’ [about the difference in quality of life between a lioness in the wild and in captivity], verses 1 & 4 have identical syllabic patterns. The biggest hint of this is when, in both verses, in exactly the same spot there are twinned sound effects: in the former an electric fence zapping, in the latter a lioness licking.

We released two albums together as part of the rap group Michaelis Constant labelled in a Big Issue review as ‘the UK’s most unusual hip-hop team’. Mike’s verses make up many of the highlights of those two albums, ‘Foreign Correspondence’ [1999] and ‘Gondwanaland’ [2002]. Sometimes as we wrote or recited lyrics to each other he’d give me this look which said, ‘I’m just getting started – You have no idea what I’m actually capable of.’

Indeed, I had no idea he would go on to create a large series of refined-by-fire paintings, teach himself the squeeze box, the guitar and how to sing, write a hefty sci-fi novel, become an actor and a science teacher or front an indie rock band.

I asked him to name his lyrical influences. Mike responds: ‘For me it started with Goodie Mob, Del the Funky Homosapien, the Roots then moved on to David Bowie, Nick Cave and the Decemberists.’ That mile-a-minute, acrobatic, funk-tinged rap foundation is evident even when he’s messing with dubby rock, industrial, trancey electronic music, soul, folk or spoken word.

His newest release ‘The Crux’ (which you can buy here) is the perfect storm of sounds and ideas. Michael teamed up with London-based producer/guitarist/songwriter Ebenezer (the founder of Minor Artists Records). Whether electronic and acoustic these finely balanced songs grow and mutate with every listen; what initially sounds like misty pastoral ambience might on a second listen reveal itself to be the smoke-stained morning after the apocalypse.

‘The Crux’ is blind-siding beauty. Amongst Ebenezer’s dexterous synths, palpitating electronic beats and guitar scribbles, Michael Stork’s lyrics pour out with an unmistakable brightness and gravitas. When I heard the demo version of ‘Rapman Canchop’ I thought, ‘The landscape of hip-hop lyricism has just been expanded.’

Thematically Mike is unafraid to tackle innocence and guilt, the everyman and the deviant, science and folklore, spirit and flesh, the Renaissance and the drizzle-defying British BBQ, all with a delight in language and outlaw charm. ‘The Crux’ has a narrative though and it’s wise to listen to it all the way through as an EP.

‘The Abyss’ drags us into a hungry ocean of emotional and spiritual conundrums. He says: “My concepts chop and change, but rap is hard to hide in. It shows our true colours.”

There’s an unquenchable belief in Michael Stork’s eyes. He believes that we humans, fuelled by God’s Spirit, can be a force for good in the universe, that through our lives, through our words and melodies, through joviality and wonder and through whole-hearted stubborn affection we can destroy monsters and redeem empires.

Mike concludes: “Soul-aching hope for true love within time; that would be how I sum up my art.”

And here’s that incredible ‘Trophies’ track from 1999

Listen further and buy MStork material here: http://michaelstork.bandcamp.com/album/the-crux-ep

Like him and keep up to date with his latest capers here: https://www.facebook.com/mST0RK

Categories
Uncategorized

Elevator 30: Emicida

30Emicidaheader

Leandro Roque de Oliveira was born into a poor São Paulo family in the summer of 1985. He is now one of Brazil’s most popular rappers. Leandro aka Emicida is Elevator 30.

What kickstarted Emicida’s popularity was his ability as a freestyler. In São Paulo rap battles don’t just take place under the glare of the spotlight, but also under the glow of the streetlight. Emicida always emphasizes the importance of knowing the roots of the hip-hop movement and his street battle reputation proved that when he speaks of the struggle of the ordinary man he speaks from experience. In 2006 he won a battle in Rio and his fame spread.

In 2008 he released “Triunfo” his first single. “Triunfo” struck a chord. As well as the intensity and honesty of the rhyming and the head-bopping beat, the chorus had a catchphrase that injected self-respect and determination into the heart of the average slum kid: “A rua é nóis” (We are the streets!). The music video has almost 5 millions youtube views.

Early in the track he raps: ‘The forgotten remember me because I remember the forgotten’

‘Since the king will not become humble, I will become the humble King’ 
and

‘I came not to betray my beliefs on behalf of ambitions’

Once he started to gain momentum as an artist Emicida poured all his energy and the very little money he had into his music. After burning, designing and hand-labeling his first mixtape he and his brother sold 1000 copies of them in just two days. Within a year they had sold 10,000 units.

His follow-up mixtape and EPs are full of hard-hitting gems like the very angry ‘Dedo na Ferida’ and ‘Rua Augusta’, a prostitute’s lament:

The ‘Zica vai lá’ video features Brazilian football star Neymar as Emicida’s martial arts master!

Musically Emicida incorporates an ever-widening list of styles. Funk, samba, rock, soul all play a regular part on his records and in his gigs.

“This isn’t a fad”, he asserts, “it’s in the roots – rap was created from funk loops – James Brown, a sampler, that’s it. Songs are born out of other songs, we’ve always drunk from other fountains. Somewhere along the way the misconception arose that rap is oblivious to the rest of the musical map, but we’re open to every genre.”

He clearly respects Brazil’s musical legacies recording with musicians from other generations including formidable samba singer Elza Soares

His 2013 full-length album: ‘The Glorious Return of Who Never Was Here’ has all the anger and hope of his earlier work, but with a lusher, more varied musical backdrop.

The stories of depravation are never far from Emicida’s lips. On ‘Arise and Walk’ (the video of which he released in readiness the 2014 World Cup), he talks about a kid becoming the man of the house at age 6 and describes his environment as ‘dirty as a komodo dragon’.

Another belter from his newest album is ‘Earlier Today’.

Listen to those vocals. They have a gravity, a vulnerability, a soulfulness, a passion that you don’t need to understand Portuguese to be struck by. Translate it and grasp the full weight of the sadness.

Hard-working, optimistic and realistic: Emicida, our 30th Elevator.

Watch a 3-part 30-minute Emicida documentary HERE. http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/emicida/emicidas-rise-to-fame-part-1

Categories
Uncategorized

Elevator 29: Andre 3000

29Andre3000header

Andre Benjamin aka Andre 3000 is hard to ignore. It’s very likely you’ve already heard this rap master as part of the hip hop duo Outkast, but is there more behind the flair and panache of Southern rap’s most convivial voice?

After the perfect drum fill 24 seconds into Outkast’s debut single ‘Player’s Ball’ Andre was unleashed on the world and he’s been charming listeners ever since. Break down the lyrics to that song and you’re confronted with a slang fest describing Christmas in the ghettos of Atlanta, Georgia. From the start Outkast and their crew the Dungeon Family broke the mold.

When they wrote their first album Andre and Big Boi were teenagers. ‘Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik’ is a coming of age album, awkward and weed-fueled, full of cars, contradicting desires and sharp-witted straight-talk. The lush live musical backdrop perfectly complimented Andre’s Southern drawl. The content was insightful yet immature.

Outkast’s follow up album ‘ATLiens’ really made people sit up and take notice. It’s one of the most brilliant follow-up albums in hip-hop history. Andre was on fire. Every verse he recorded had a witty punch line or pithy proverb or both. His rhyme schemes were graceful and acrobatic.

The wide spectrum of colours that ‘ATLiens’, ‘Aquemini’ and ‘Stankonia’ conjure up is arguably unique. Ranging from Day-Glo yellow to deep umber every listen becomes this disheveling journey to a dusty street corner to the planet Venus to a crude chat-up line in a nightclub to a warzone to a family BBQ to that leaky house in the ‘Ms. Jackson’ music video and back again. As the NME’s Derek Bardowell points out Outkast “hit that rare balance of creative eccentricity and mass appeal”.

Andre’s verse starts around 1.40:

Andre has been involved in writing songs with obvious mass appeal. In iTunes’ first year in existence, Outkast’s single ‘Hey Ya’ was the most downloaded song. ‘Roses’ is another poppy ear-worm – once it’s in your head it’s difficult to shake. But who could have predicted how much acclaim Outkast would receive for  ‘B.O.B.’, their turn-of-the-century anthem: a charging rhino of bass and zeitgeist bad news?

Andre’s career is built on contrast: reality and mysticism, cheery 3 minute pop songs and lengthy rap tirades, vulgarity and vulnerability, silk scarves and combat boots, exhibitionism and shyness, social commentary and syrupy sweet ballads, apparent misogyny and philogyny, youthfulness and memento mori. There’s a whole essay to be written about Andre’s impact on perceptions of African-American beauty, sexuality and sensuality, but not here.

This autobiographical track traces his on-going transformation:

Andre is a showman, a sweet talker, a whimsical lyricist with a conscience, a romantic, a storyteller, a street philosopher, a gentlemen rebel and an ice-cold realist. It’s this irresistible combination that has made his work stand out. For many people Andre is a flamboyant Prince-esque pop singer. But for many 20 and 30-somethings worldwide regardless of their background there’s solace and inspiration in the rap verses of the man with the convivial voice.

Recently Andre’s been involved in other art-forms: acting and fashion designing and he’s in no hurry to record a solo record. It would be difficult to predict what he’ll do next. You can see him play Jimi Hendrix in a new biopic.

In a 2012 Vibe interview he said: “I write lyrics every day…sometimes they turn into raps, they turn into melodic songs, or they just turn into song titles. But I haven’t said ‘Okay, I’m putting this album out right now.’ I’m not at that place. I just have to find something that I’m super excited about and right now I’m just chasing that feeling, man.” 

He does regularly guests on others rap songs, so I’m sure soon someone will ask me with wide-eyed anticipation: ‘Hey, did you hear that new Andre verse?!?

Here’s a solid interview with Andre from 2005.

Categories
Uncategorized

Elevator 28: Boots Riley

28BootsRileyheader

For a while Ice Cube’s grimace was a potent symbol of post-Black Panthers, pro-Black, anti-government resistance. Somewhere along the line he traded it in for a Hollywood smile.

There are painfully few sharp-tongued, politically active rappers who are willing to put their community before their own career. Boots Riley seems to be just such a character. He is part of two rap groups: The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club.

My brother and I were mesmerized by The Coup’s ‘Fat Cats, Bigga Fish’ music video when it was shown on Yo! MTV Raps in 1994. Twenty years later The Coup is still going strong.

Boots pulls no punches – his lyrics are peppered with critiques of capitalism, local and global dirty politics, racism and police harassment. On the surface that doesn’t sound like party music, but Boots and his crew have for decades tried to make political dissent funky. Sometimes these musical experiments fall flat, yet frequently they’re brilliantly realized songs like this track from their 2012 album ‘Sorry to Bother You’.

Boots grew up in Oakland, California and his Bay Area summery tone, wit and killer slang inject brilliant colours into his acidic, angry soapbox sermons.

Here’s that ‘Fat Cats, Bigga Fish’ video I was referring to. If you start watching it, watch the WHOLE thing.

Boots formed Street Sweeper Social Club with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine. They’d met at numerous political rallies. Together they’d been “tear-gassed at the barricades while singing songs of mirth and freedom”.

Tom Morello continues: “Boots’ verses are very subtle and they’ve filled with venom and satire. [However] the choruses are really party jams. You don’t have to remember too many words when you’re torching Wall Street: Fight! Smash! Win!

Only Boots could pen both an odd square dance-esque stomper like ‘Promenade’ and a hypnotic political song actually called ‘Show Yo Ass’

Ultimately Boots writes love songs and that’s what’s distinctive about this emcee. He’s willing to be a potentially reviled and derided left-wing lightning rod in a sea of anchorless materialistic rappers. He values community, he has compassion for the streetwalker and the blue-collar worker, and he loves the underdog.

Categories
Uncategorized

Elevator 27: Chuck D

27ChuckDheader

‘Fight the Power’ is arguably the most iconic and important rap song ever made. Public Enemy is arguably the most iconic and important rap group of all time. Right in the centre of the action is rapper Chuck D, a man who has eloquently opened the minds of numerous generations to the true state of the world and our ability to be agents of change. His contribution to rap is immeasurable.

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of playing ‘Welcome to the Terrordome’ to primary school classes, explaining to them the various elements that make Chuck D’s group so unique and giving them Public Enemy illustrations to colour in.

At times while listening to Public Enemy I start to weep. It happened again today. The sonic hurricane, the audacity of the lyrics, the mockery and fury in Chuck’s booming delivery, his belief that change can happen and the sheer ridiculousness that many of the grave injustices Public Enemy have been pointing out for the last 30 years have still never been addressed by those responsible.

Public Enemy isn’t just a clever name. The powers that be have set their media blood hounds on them throughout the years in an attempt to silence the group. They’ve also been an annoyance to other rappers who Chuck D claims have sold their souls away or are paying inadequate respect to their musical forefathers.

‘New Whirl Odor’, ‘There’s a Poison Goin’ On’, ‘Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age’, ‘The Evil Empire of Everything’:  album titles that paint a bleak picture. The strange thing is that despite Chuck being a prophet of doom, he’s approachable, warm and humble. In 2011 after performing a 25-song set at the Institute in Birmingham, I witnessed Chuck’s post-gig activities. This 51-year-old had the time and an astounding reservoir of energy to meet people [fans and others artists], to engage in proper conversations, to encourage and simply listen.

Chuck D’s manner, his lyrics and his cadence are that of a sports coach. He’s putting you through a body-breaking exercise, but he’s there with you, looking you in the eyes, cheering you on. He’s a leader, the kind of leader that is quick to point out others abilities and contributions.

Chuck D is a sage and a 5th columnist, black, proud, crystal-clear, unflinching, honourable, humble, deeply creative, a strategist, a revolutionary voice: in short AmeriKKKa’s real worst nightmare.

It seems impossible to turn earnest messages and discordant, pounding, screaming music into party anthems, but Public Enemy have made it happen over and over again. Because of the sheer magnitude of the PE sound, it was essential to have a primary vocalist whose voice cut through the racket. Chuck at times steamrolls over the beat, with idiosyncratic pauses and cadences more akin to beat poets or preachers.

Are you a long time rap music fan? Try to imagine hip-hop without Public Enemy. Try to imagine hip-hop without Chuck D’s baritone sermons. Imagine hip-hop without the outbursts of the world’s most charismatic jester/hypeman Flavor Flav. What a horrible vision that is!

In a world of easily snappable sapling rappers, Chuck D is a towering Sequoia redwood: steady, unshakeable and inspiring.

More killer tracks: Shut ‘Em Down and Air Hoodlum.

Here’s recent Chuck D interviews with Tavis Smiley and Arsenio Hall

PE’s induction into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame [some profound moments in this 21 minute clip]

Tune into Chuck’s weekly radio show here: www.rapstation.com/BEATSandPLACESTheSOUNDofHistory

Categories
Uncategorized

Elevator 26: Alloysious Massaquoi

26Alloysi2headerWhat’s the thing nowadays? Oh, I remember – it’s making tame pop music but dressing your videos and promo images up to make you look hip, rebellious, intense and sensual. Watch a new pop music video with the sound off – now unmute it. There’s frequently a massive discontinuity between the sound and the visuals.

Not so with Alloysious Massaquoi, one third of the musical team Young Fathers. Young Fathers are punk and afro-futurism and hip-hop and ambient-electro and dub and post-rock all at the same time. Their musical and visual landscape is tender, melancholic, explosive, angry, dissonant, brooding, passionate and creepy.

Alloysious Massaquoi’s lyrics match that landscape perfectly. He interweaves his laments, confessions, chants, battle cries, exorcisms and praises with those of Kayus Bankole and ‘G’ Hastings and the effect is beguiling. Exhibit A: ‘Come to Life’

Alloysious Massaquoi was born in Liberia. His family moved to Scotland when he was four. Alloysious, Kayus and G connected at an under-16s hip-hop night in Edinburgh. “We’d go to open-mics where people would battle and rap for ages, but we’d do three-minute structured songs with our own beats. The ‘real hip hop’ guys didn’t get it. We loved that,” explains G.

They formed Young Fathers in 2008, and recorded the album ‘Inconceivable Child… Conceived’. They’ve been signed to indie-prog-rap label Anticon since 2012, which is opening them up to a much bigger audience, an audience they’re ready to entertain, woo and confront with willful dissonance and wily charisma.

In this Kaltbult magazine interview Alloysious enthuses: “We take it serious. We’re not here to have a laugh, to mess around. We’re doing something that we love, and it means something to us, if we’re on stage and we’re not smiling it’s because we don’t feel like smiling…you can’t tell me when to smile or not, to make you feel more at ease.”

At a recent festival Young Fathers received homophobic heckles when they showed affection for one another on stage. Unsurprisingly this doesn’t faze them one bit.  “With us being really close, rapping to each other close as hell, I enjoy that because it’s more about us, the brotherhood, the brotherly love, the family fuel.”

Alloysious’ more personal lyrics hang like a broken violin on the wall, beautiful yet damaged. ‘Sister’ flashbacks to a tender memory of his sibling.

Whoever ends up the target of his serenade might feel both an empathy and an antipathy well up within him or her.

There’s a raw ‘I think you just read my diary’ vibe in a number of Young Fathers songs. Though Young Fathers embrace the surreal and the experimental, more than anything else you feel like you’re getting a slice of reality on every record.

This track ‘Effigy’ is killer.

To download their E.P.s Tape One, Tape Two and their new album Dead go to the Young Fathers site

Alloysious has a catchphrase or mantra of sorts: “Learn to keep learning.” Most rap acts don’t share this philosophy and consequently rappers are in danger.