The environment in which a select few began back spinning breaks and lacing them with rhythmic rhyme patterns was one of movement; a place that looked both inward and outward, drawing influence and inspiration from faraway places and providing an expressive escapism for those trapped within their locality, both spatially and socially. It is maybe this environment – the foundational essence of this art form – that has paved the way for Hip Hop to spread across the globe, not only in its tainted commercial manifestation but more importantly in its raw, inclusive, expressive, true form. With this in mind then, we might do well to see Lewis Parkers move across the pond some years ago as simple proof (like we needed any) of his dedication to, love for, and propagation of, that golden sound! Those few who are left moaning about a change in accent from Mr Parker will be, quite simply, DE-RAILED by the long awaited second instalment of The Puzzle – The Glass Ceiling. A dizzying release, some 30 tracks deep and chock full of tough drums and panoramic sounds, The Glass Ceiling is the product of many years spent perfecting the craft and negotiating the rocky terrain of the music industry. The album plays out through the strong conceptual framework of an espionage crime thriller which Lewis has been fine tuning since his coming up days. Here though, the concept seems to have solidified and strengthened resulting in his most coherent and thematic release to date, which is astonishing given the length of the album. The concept of the glass ceiling is the invisible boundary which inhibits many from realising any sort of upward economic mobility and offers the top rungs of the corporate ladder only to an elite minority. It is inherent in the capitalist world system and Parker embarks on an exploration of life beneath the glass ceiling, relaying tales of betrayal, sabotage, love, strife and graft.
The title track opens the album with a panoramic vista of entwining string and horn arrangements – the kind that have become characteristic of Mr Parkers sound. From the get go the level of lyricism displayed far surpasses any of his work since It`s all Happening Now (2002) with rich imagery evoking the day to day negotiation of the city-scape. Summer with Asakala tells a tale of lost love and shows Parker reflecting on a relationship strained under the weight of distance. As pensive strings punctuate sorrowful flutes it`s easy to forget your listening to LP`s arrangements on the SP1200 and not a live orchestra; such is the skill with which he`s reworked a patchwork of sound from vinyl into hard hitting movements! John Robinson enters the frame on Excursions; a cosmic, Rhodes infused track which sees them both laying out nostalgic life histories, tales of movement and migration. Vibrato Illusions sees Parker joined by Mista Spyce from the legendary UK group The Brotherhood for a sinister discussion on the illusory nature of reality. As the album draws towards a close it’s Game of survival which jumps out; a reflective meditation on a life long struggle laid upon a canvas of spiralling flutes. The whole project is intersected by a number of skits, often returning to the original string motif from the title track, giving the release the feel of a soundtrack or library record.
Parkers beats are tough as ever throughout and the fact the whole album – all 30 tracks of it – plays coherently from beginning to end is indicative of the longevity of Lewis Parker`s time in the game. The Glass Ceiling does what any great film soundtrack or thematic score was supposed to do in the 70s; evoke moods, paint a picture and transport the listener. The 2xLP album comes in a gatefold sleeve with ill Blaxploitation style/Schifrin-esque artwork. For both long-time fans of Lewis Parker and new listeners this certainly won’t disappoint, beat-heads and lay people alike will appreciate the time and effort that`s gone into both the beats and the overall sound of the project. No doubt this will be one of the best Hip Hop albums of the year and sees Lewis Parker setting the bar ever higher…NO ONE makes beats this good!
The 2xLP is available from kingunderground.com
CD Pre-Order suspect-packages.com
Matt Smith @MRVILLAGELIVE