It’s safe to say that the last few years have been a period of ‘musical re-invention’. We’ve had the Grime artists that built a reputation for being the knife-wielding little herbert that wouldn’t hesitate to get acquainted with your spleen, who suddenly sign on the dotted line and become Casanova behind the microphone. Then there’s the blue flag waving, Hip Hop legend who on a trip to its spiritual home, smoked so much of that ‘Jamaican Old Holborn’, he decides he’s now a re-incarnation of the late, great Bob Marley and turns to Reggae (despite being born nearly 10 years prior to his passing).
Enter stage right, Foreign Beggars. A lot has changed since Orifice Vulgatraon, Metropolis and DJ Nonames dropped their, dare I say, classic debut LP back in 2003. A blend of dope beats, intricate wordplay and a stellar guest list, “Asylum Speakers” set the precedent and it’s follow up “Stray Point Agenda” further cemented the team’s status as UK stalwarts. Their 2009 offering “United Colours Of Beggatron” formed the beginning of a musical transition, mixing their trademark sound with an added electronic/ dubstep vibe courtesy of the likes of Noisia. With the EPs and remixes that followed, FB became a lot more experimental with their output, teaming up with heads like Skrillex, Excision, Flux Pavillion and Vato Gonzalez to deliver a sound that completely differed from their early material.
With the metamorphosis from “…underground UK Hip Hop dons to international dance/rap phenomena” seemingly complete, their fourth full length project “The Uprising” is an interesting listen to say the least. Boasting production credits from Knife Party, Alix Perez, Kidkanevil, Starkey amongst others, it is distinctly Foreign Beggars 2.0 and a reflection of their new approach to making music.
By throwing together a blend of electronic genres with their Hip Hop background, the Beggars have created somewhat of a clash of musical policies. A Hip Hop record in essence (ignoring the glaring exceptions) is a meeting of two parties; the “producer” who creates the beat and the “artist” who makes the track identifiable as theirs through the vocals. With, let’s say Dubstep, the “producer” and “artist” are normally one and the same; using certain styles and sounds as their ‘identifier”. Personally, in some places on “The Uprising”, this meeting of cultures doesn’t really come in to fruition. With “We Does This”, the beat is a mash-up of tweaks, beeps, bass and squeaks. It’s an eclectic listen but with OV and Metropolis’ vocals over the top, it doesn’t always fit and gets a little awkward in places. Similarly, the backdrop for “Working Angles” is a little too hectic to host equally as energetic verses. With the Knife Party produced “Apex”, it’s almost a matter of vocalist versus producer. That’s not to say that the production is anyway off-point; the instrumental is crazy in its own right but with the Beggars’ relentless flows over the top, it’s almost as if neither really get the recognition they both deserve.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. As the album progresses from the middle, the more ‘simple’ tracks are the definite winners. One of the lead singles, “Anywhere” finds the Beggars assisted by Terra Firma affiliate D.ablo’s airy tones on the hook, as the duo’s rapid-fire verbals compliment Eddie Jeffrys bass heavy, beast of a track. The pounding drum and 8-Bit tones of “Palm Of My Hand” spawn an infectious head-nodder and the raw, quirkiness of tracks like “Crep Hype” and “Never Stop” appeal to the inner Grime- fuelled teenager that still rears his head. The finale, “See The Light” almost contradicts my earlier gripes as the Beggars strike up a winning combination with Bare Noize to deliver a concoction of positive, thoughtful wordplay and frantic Dubstep vibes.
Ultimately, what you take away from “The Uprising” depends entirely upon what wave of Foreign Beggars fan you are. Without alienating any of our audience, I’d imagine that the bulk of the people reading this hold the first couple of albums in high regard and would prefer that sound to be the mainstay. On the flipside, for those that have only clocked the Beggars on their radar since the likes of “Badman Riddim” got airplay, this isn’t going to sound too dissimilar to what they know and expect. Personally, I’d much rather be bumping “Hold On” full whack than say “Amen” but I guess making music is somewhat of a journey and progression (however different) is inevitable. Being stagnant and irrelevant is just as much a chore for the artist as it is for the listener. The FB fam have developed their sound over a number of years and their new LP is the latest embodiment of their lyrical charisma and energy, regardless of the soundscape. Definite Marmite business; you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it…
“The Uprising” is due for release on 1st October on Deadmau5’ Mau5trap imprint.
Review by Mike Pattemore @beats_n_pieces