Scotland’s been getting a hard rap in the rest of Britain lately. What with the looming independence debate and everyone from Obama to Billy Connelly to rubber-faced cunt-sponge Nigel Farrage wading in and giving their two cents, there’s been a lot of anti-Scottish sentiment floating around. Supporters of independence argue that they don’t want a load of politicians in Westminster deciding what goes on in another country, while those against independence argue that we all need to stick together before Wales, Northern Ireland and Northern England decide to detach themselves politically from the London-centric South. Here with perhaps the strongest argument against independence is Bang Dirty, a Glasgow/ Edinburgh-based three-piece electro-hop collective. It’s not the lyrics or subject matter that implore listeners to reject Alex Salmond et al though, but the fact that if Scotland does succeed in divorcing itself from its southern neighbour, Britain won’t be able to lay claim to one of the most profound and brilliant hip-hop albums of this decade.
While electronic folk-infused hip-hop might sound a tad convoluted, the combination is fantastically realised in the trio’s latest release Tri-Polar. The boys have something of a cult following in Scotland, with several awards under their belt for best Scottish hip-hop. The folk aspect really stems from MOG’s innate ability to weave a story, with his Glaswegian inflection casting each tale in the cold grey light of real experience. The story-telling style comes off as a cross between Mike Skinner of The Streets and Bob Dylan. Opening number Real begins with sparse instrumentals but swells into a lush blues-fuelled soundscape littered with MOG’s wry take on modern life. The song is an ideal litmus test for anyone unsure of the trio’s skill-if anyone doubted that Bang Dirty are one of Britain’s most exciting groups, Real will hit them like a bottle of Buckfast to the back of the head.
Made Better could be one of the best tracks to come out the UK this year. It’s catchier than VD but still so lyrically astute it makes you Prozac-happy just to hear such intelligent words finally put over a track and recorded. The acoustic intro sets the tone for an uplifting salute to turning your life around and making the most of what you have, Holmes’ deep lilting vocals complement MOG’s upbeat flow and the whole thing conjures images of sunny days drinking outside with good friends. Uplifting and inspiring in equal measure, Made Better is almost the best track of the album, but that accolade actually goes to fifth track She. An astonishing aural accomplishment, She touches on the brutal realities of modern Britain with a post-rock backing track that will stir genuine emotion in anyone that understands what working class life is really like.
It’s not all deep inner-reflections though. So Many Mic’s, featuring Glasgow‘s own Gasp, blends Spanish classical guitar with pure hip-hop gold to set your head nodding and even the least eloquent hip-hop fans wanting to grab the mic. Likewise, At Bay shows off the groups instrumental ability, with samples and processed beats rejected in favour of a stripped down, acoustic sound. The entire album screams for some headphone-immersion, with the instrumentals circling your cerebral cortex like a pack of angry sharks while MOG’s razor sharp teeth take a bite out of modern British hypocrisy. Adam Holmes soulful Scottish drawl and the ‘live band’ feel elevates the whole album to a level on par with The Roots circa ‘How I Got Over’ while keeping the whole thing grounded in reality.
Despite a thriving scene, Scotland’s hip-hop is predominantly overlooked by the rest of Britain, with the majority of people jumping straight into a chorus of “I would walk 500 miles” if asked to name some Scottish music. Regardless of the fact that nobody other than The Proclaimers have ever liked this song, people in the South genuinely believe it to be Scotland’s only contribution to British music. Tri-Polar, and indeed Bang Dirty’s first release, Everyone Out, proves not only is there some major talent up North; but you can find intelligent, intricately delivered hip-hop without having to trawl the clubs of London and Bristol. Intelligent, articulate and emotionally genuine, this is the true sound of Scotland, and all without a single mention to walking five hundred fucking miles.
Tri Polar is available as ‘Name your price’ Here