Friday, December 27, 2002
What pushes Roll Deep Crew as far along from So Solid Crew as So Solid Crew were from "Bound For Da Reload", apart from the even more bizarre and psychotic grooves they employ, is the endlessly involving element of personality that each MC brings to their tracks. With So Solid Crew you can distinguish between each MC based on their voice and rapping style - Asher D does narrative, Megaman and Romeo do gruff nonsense etc. - but thematically and psychologically they present a largely united front. In contrast Roll Deep use differing vocal styles to create radically different and fundamentally unbalanced individual personas within a broader, sketchily cohesive crew-unit. It's not quite so easy to spot on their single "Terrible" (more of a vehicle for Wiley Kat than anything else) but you can readily and viscerally hear it on the Roll Deep Remix of The Streets' "Let's Push Things Forward" or their own "Bounce", both of which move through Wiley Kat's straightforward hyperspeed agression, Flo Dan's mysterious baritone menace and Dizzy Rascal's cracked warble with crisp efficiency, simultaneously highlighting their radical distinction from each other and yet presenting them as single manifestations of a single core idea.

I guess that core idea is a sort of grimey hard-knocks persistence. In his great article about Clispe, Michaelangelo Matos says that the duo "sound unnervingly comfortable occupying the life they describe," and that they "never sound like they're posing for anything." None of the Roll Deep crew approach the bored professionalism of Pusha T in particular, and in fact some of them seem to never be anything but hyper, but like Clipse there's a level of accepting familiarity to their grim tales that the hyper-aware self-reflexiveness of So Solid Crew avoids - whereas the latter started rapping about rising above their station almost as soon as they appeared, Roll Deep can envision no way to escape their lot. "You know I wouldn't hurt you on purpose" Wiley assures his girl on the almost comical "Everything Happens For A Reason", and his disavowal of responsibility is a telling example of his crew's "shit happens" philosophy. For Roll Deep, violence and betrayal are a fact of life, not unremarkable but not really avoidable either, and certainly not glamorous.

Roll Deep Crew also trump So Solid Crew in the Wu-Tang Clan-comparisons department, chiefly because they seem much more suited to a succession of spin-off solo careers. In fact I'm tempted to say that the crewmembers work better on their own, if only because there's more time to digest each MC's qualities on solo joints than on the whirlwind rush of their collaborative efforts (the latter can pay off brilliantly though - see the no-nonsense party track "Bounce", which rivals Pay As U Go's "Champagne Dance" for great thugs on the dancefloor action). Wiley Kat always seems a trifle conservative on Roll Deep tracks, but on his own track "I Will Not Lose" he sounds awesomely agile, rapping with a perfect precision over the stomping and stuttering beat like he's riding a bucking bronco at a rodeo. In isolation, it's clear that Wiley is the team's best technical performer, a garage MC in the traditional sense, impressing with the sheer audacious complexity of his aural pyrotechnics rather than with the realness of his stories or a flashy persona.

Dizzy Rascal's "I Love You" is probably the biggest hit the crew have produced so far (though oddly I only heard the full version for the first time a few days ago), and you can understand why: Dizzy is just so brimming with outlandish personality that he's almost irresistible. "I Love You" of course boasts insanely addictive, punishing, turgidly booming bass riffs and harsh, reticular snare snaps, but the show belongs to Dizzy. The callous chorus reminds me of Destiny's Child's "Bugaboo": "That girl's some bitch y'know, she keep callin' my phone, she don't leave me alone, she just moan and groan, she keep ringin' me at home, these days I don't answer my phone." But whereas Destiny's Child perversely employed hyper-emotive melisma to convey a fundamental emotionlessness (as much as a mixture of contempt, indifference and annoyance can equal emotionlessness), Dizzy finds good currency in perpetual emotional excess, exploiting his voice's tendency to land on unpredictable notes. He whines the chorus with such a thrilling tone of injured frustration that you almost pity him; whatever he feels, he feels it intensely. The song reaches its peak in the terse, accusatory call-and-response between Dizzy and his MC girlfriend: their game of twenty questions is so aggressive and tense that I half expect to hear plates crashing against the wall. "I Love You" is the opposite of the irrepressible giddiness of Nelly's "Hot In Herre", with Dizzy finding it impossible to keep down his festering resentment at a world that's never done him any favours.

It's quite a shock to go from "I Love You" to Flo Dan's "Big Mic Man", which swaps Dizzy's no-holds-barred impact for sly, prowling dancehall-garage. The dry, pounding 4/4 beat tapers off at the end of each bar, diffused or evasive, mired in a tremors of quivering military snares, and the resulting swampy groove is suggestive of a patrol in the Vietnam jungle, interrupted and delayed by the sudden intrusion of snipers and (ahem) snares. In stark opposition to Dizzy, Flo Dan's flow is all restraint, a stark monotone basso profundo that's ultimately just as close to the edge of all-out violence as Dizzy's explosiveness, if not more so. "Bun dat with da fire!" he mutters, and warns that "I'm gonna leave this place in a mess!" What's fascinating about "Big Mic Man" is how unequivocally an MC tune it is: there's definitely a groove there, but it's as compromised and enfeebled as those on Original Pirate Material, not so much stop-start as surge-slip. It forces all of your attention onto Flo Dan, makes you listen to the steady implacability of his rapping and puzzle over his enigmatic blankness. It's an odd approach for someone unlikely to win the crossover attention of a Mike Skinner, but it's surely a positive sign that I've returned to "Big Mic Man" more than any other tune for the past six weeks or so.


Post a Comment


everything here is by tim finney



mail me... here



Jamesy P

Patrick Cowley

It's About (Lopazz & Casio Casino's Maxi Mix)

Glass Candy
Sugar & Whitebread

Beats International
Dub Be Good To Me (Smith & Mighty Remix)

Depeche Mode
A Pain That I'm Used To (Jacques Lu Cont Remix)

Girls Aloud
Wild Horses


Bobby Valentino
Gimmie A Chance

Freeform Five
No More Conversation (Richard X Remix)


House Is A Feeling


A Wild Young Under Whimsy

And So This Is Christmas

Anthony Is Right




Bowling Ball

Breaking Ranks

Chantelle Fiddy's World of Grime

The Church Of Me

Cis Don't Like It Easy

Clap Clap Blog

Country Glamour

Cucina Povera

DJ Martian

Doubt Beat

Everything's Usable



Freaky Trigger

Freelance Mentalists

Freezing to Death in the Nuclear Bunker

Gel & Weave




The House at World's End


I'm So Sinsurr


Josh Blog


">Lex Scripta

Home of Matos

Must Try Harder

New York London Paris Munich

Orbis Quintus

The Original Soundtrack

Pearls that are his Eyes

Pearsall's Tunes

Philip Sherburne

Pop Life




Quicksilver Shapeshifter

Radio Free Narnia

Sasha Frere-Jones

Shards, Fragments & Totems

Silver Dollar Circle





Spliiiish (Atommick Brane)



Vain Selfish and Lazy

Why I Stopped Smoking


Words, Words (??????): A Catalogue of Errors

Worlds of Possibility



February 2004

January 2004

December 2003

November 2003

October 2003

September 2003

August 2003

July 2003

June 2003

May 2003

April 2003

March 2003

February 2003

January 2003

December 2002

November 2002

October 2002

September 2002

August 2002

July 2002

June 2002

May 2002

April 2002

March 2002

February 2002

January 2002

December 2001

November 2001

October 2001

September 2001

August 2001

July 2001

June 2001

May 2001

April 2001

March 2001

February 2001

January 2001

July 2000

June 2000

May 2000



Daft Punk


Ian Pooley


Artful Dodger

The Loft