December saw the release of the Modern Warfare EP from our brothers in arms Screaming Soul. The EP contains various remixes of their classic track Warfare, including a mix from DDF’s very own Bill Daggs, featuring verses from himself as well as Uncle Jazza alongside the Screaming Soul mandem. Keeping the DefDFires presence strong on the release there is also a banging Electro remix from Key Skills (of O:ZN fame) and our boy JJ Mumbles of WotNot Music has got a couple banging mixes on there too.
Screaming Soul is the collaborative effort of MC and producer Sandman (a respected figure in the UK Hip Hop scene for the last decade or so), and singer/songwriter Ghetto Priest (a UK reggae veteran, currently on Adrian Sherwood’s label, On-U Sound). Between the two of them they have worked with everyone from Sinead O’Connor to Skinnyman, so when two minds of this calibre come together you can bet results will be pretty interesting. The outcome is debut LP ‘Ghost In the Shell’, 47 minutes of spicy beats and relentless rhymes. Taking it’s title from Masamune Shirow’s Manga sci-fi epic, and citing the project’s inspiration as “a fusion ofLee “Scratch” Perry and The Wu-Tang Clan”, this sounds right up my alley already. Very excited…
Their self-dubbed genre “Dub-Hop” is a good description of the Screaming Soul sound; I guess that’s a direct result of the group’s respective musical histories. But there are more genres at work here, touching elements of jazz (A Cat Among The Pigeons), soul (Rusty Cage), and an almost eastern atmosphere brought to the tracks through the steady use of percussion (The Furnace) and occasional arabesque scales (Deep Beneath The Streets). All of this is brought together in a generally warm sounding, relatively up-tempo balance of live instrumentation and occasional samples, sowed by Sandman’s smooth, spacious production.
But it would be wrong to discuss the albums atmosphere without bringing up the lyrics.
Firstly you have Sandman’s perspective; a personal account of a young man trying to get to grips with the dysfunctional capitalist dictatorship around him… I know what you’re thinking – what’s new? But don’t be fooled, the man is a master of his trade; he delivers his socio-political insights with an almost effortless flare and watertight flow (The Furnace, Warfare). He does this with enough tension, wit, punch lines and pop culture references to satisfy the snobbiest golden-era Hip Hop head, and enough intelligence and understanding of the system to please your average university campus backpactivist.
Then you have the second perspective, that of the group’s singer Ghetto Priest. He takes a much more broad, collective viewpoint, offering motivational wisdom to our young protagonist and the understanding of longevity that only comes with age. He ushers his meditative message though lush, sometimes eerily discordant harmonies (Warfare), inspiring the listener’s courage in a surprisingly calming fashion. The result is a sort of conversation between the troubled disciple and the tribe elder, as Sandman illustrates the darkness and difficulties we all face, Ghetto Priest reassures us with his rays of optimism.
The overall effect is a sort of musical yin-yang, the murky Hip Hop low-end, balanced with the warm dub horn lines, all paralleling the lyrical back and forth. Perhaps 1984 meets Taxi Driver, or maybe Network vs. Ghost Dog. From it’s sci-fi intro to it’s sound-clash finale the album keeps moving, knowing when to pick up the pace and when to drop it. It feels like a guided tour through a city on the verge of social collapse, with our streetwise hosts translating the different aspects of the rat race.
It’s rare that I hear any new Hip Hop with real character these days, and Ghost In The Shell definitely stands out, not only that, but it (just) manages to avoid being too repetitive in it’s formula, which is also scarce. Motivational rebel music with enough simple groove and charisma to catch attention on a first listen, and just enough intricacy to keep you coming back – a strong recommendation for any open-minded music lover.
DEFDFIRES will be performing at Brixton Jamm 1st May. With an absolutly heavyweight line up, this won’t be one to miss!! (All profits raised from the event will go to THE BIG ISSUE)