This week someone from my home city of Birmingham released a 41-track Dante-inspired hip-hop jazz concept album called ‘The Legend of Mike Smith’.
Read that opening sentence again if you need to.
Yes, you’ve read that right and Soweto Kinch is that someone.
Soweto Kinch is an unstoppable force in UK hip-hop with an insatiable desire to experiment and explore. Since 2001 he’s been sparking off projects and drawing collaborators to his bubbling cauldron of jazz, rap and dramatic narrative.
Perhaps more than most artists featured in 70 Elevators, Soweto has received high profile awards and nominations for his music. He is a respected jazz alto saxophonist and he plays at jazz events around the globe.
But he is also a formidable storyteller, rap lyricist, freestyler and hip-hop beat maker. His debut album ‘Conversations With The Unseen’ was released in 2003 followed by ‘A Life In The Day Of B19 – Tales Of The Tower Block’ three years later. Increasingly Soweto proved that proper rap and serious jazz could not just co-exist on an album but could actually compliment each other. Listen to Ridez off ‘A Life In The Day…’
As well as recording and touring, Kinch curates The Flyover Show, an inspiring and community unifying music festival which takes place under a dual carriageway bridge in Birmingham. Here he is back in 2008 trying to visualize it.
In 2012 he took The Flyover Show concept to Freedom Square, Johannesburg, South Africa. 3000 came to the show.
But let’s listen to more of Soweto the rapper. Here he takes on the persona of the tyrant controlling the tyrant and tears up ‘Axis of Evil’. Awesome delivery.
This track ‘Head For the Hills’ from his 2009 EP ‘War in a Rack’ also showcases Soweto’s unrestrained flow.
The great thing is knowing that after this impressive, complex piece of work Soweto Kinch will produce even more unusual and beautiful music. His well has not run dry. In fact he’s still warming up to make a genre-defying magnum opus. Mic in one hand, sax in the other Soweto has dug deep and found a rich seam of soul-searching narrative hip-hop and feisty lyricism.
Birmingham is the city of a thousand styles and Soweto has mastered more than a few of them.