After re-issuing memorable back-in-the-day homegrown albums from the likes of Blade and MC Duke, the latest Brit rap classic to be dusted off by the Original Dope crew is MC Mell’O”s accomplished 1990 long-player “Thoughts Released (Revelation 1)”.
A product of London’s early-80s Covent Garden scene, Battersea-bred Mell’O”s debut album stands as another vital piece of UK rap history, with all of those involved ensuring the sound and feel of the record was another step forward for a British scene that even in 1990 was still finding its own voice amidst the overwhelming amount of musical influences coming from the States.
With the likes of London Posse and Demon Boyz drawing on reggae for creative inspiration, Hijack carving out their own militant niche, and the aforementioned Duke presenting himself as UK rap aristocracy, Mell’O’ took his musical cue from the funky old-school soul grooves found in the record collections of both his own parents and those of
collaborators Sparki and DJ Pogo.
Fine-tuning the raw, youthful exuberance heard on 1989′s “Comin’ Correct” EP (included here) into a more focused, polished sound, “Thoughts Released” found Mell’O’ effectively balancing energetic b-boy bravado with an insightful maturity beyond his young age, going so far as to split the release into two distinct halves – “Side For The Physically Stable” and “Side For The Mentally Stable”.
If Mell’O’ felt any pressure throughout the recording of “Thoughts Revealed” due to the impressive reputation his crew DETT Inc. had built- up during the late-80s, it only helped, rather than hindered, his ability to bring his sonic visions to life.
Kicking off with the bass-heavy confidence of the self-explanatory “Our Time”, Mell’O’ proudly shouts out his allegiance to the DETT collective, perfectly encapsulating the crew’s full moniker Determination Endeavour Total Triumph via his forthright flow and boasts of microphone supremacy. The aggressive “A Total Eclipse Of The Art” (built around the same infectious James Brown guitar lick utilised later on Das EFX’ “They Want EFX”) is proof that even in its relatively early days the UK rap scene was still plagued by the same politics and crabs-in-a-barrel short-sightedness that many feel has prevented homegrown rap from reaching its full potential in more recent times –
“Ease with the fighting, munching and biting,” rhymes a passionate Mell’O’, ”Time for uniting, make the whole scene exciting.”
“Voodoo Khan” is an upbeat dancefloor-friendly banger with a killer b-line showcasing the turntable talents of living legend DJ Pogo, whilst the brilliantly titled “All Terrain M.C.s” is a chunky, organ-driven back-and-forth between Mell’O’ and the album’s main producer Sparki, with the pair exchanging good-natured battle-ready rhymes that prompt visions of the two friends smiling widely at each other in the recording studio, revelling in the warm glow of their mutual appreciation and love of Hip-Hop.
Yet as enjoyable as the first half of “Thoughts Released” was and still is, it’s the album’s second side that really ups the ante, with Mell’O’ swapping boastful wordplay for social commentary and and a quest for spiritual nourishment.
The sublime Blacksmith-produced “Open Up Your Mind” remains one of the greatest 12″ singles to be released in the 90s from anywhere on Planet Rock, meshing rare groove influences with a sophisticated UK street soul sound and motivational rhymes (“Your slumber holds your mind in a grip, Now let rip while your spirit’s dancing…”).
The “Black Caesar” soundtrack sampling “Subtraction” finds Mell’O’ encouraging his peers to reach personal goals and remain on a righteous path, whilst the head-nodding “Acknowledge Yourself” mixes street swagger with history lessons as the South London lyricist urges Black youth to learn more about their culture and heritage in response to the racism that was still rampant at the time on British streets.
The more commercially-viable ”From The Heart” goes some way to embracing the New Jack Swing sound of the time popularised by the likes of Heavy D and Redhead Kingpin, with its positive message of personal upliftment given a soulful, organic feel thanks to a flawless live saxophone solo and infamous UK engineer No Sleep Nigel turning in a
vibes performance that jazz legend Roy Ayers would’ve been proud of.
Over twenty years since it originally dropped, “Thoughts Released” has definitely stood the test of time. With the all-too-familiar story of industry politics and label woes preventing Mell’O’ from fully capitalising off the momentum of this great collection of beats and rhymes, it’s hard to listen to the album now without wondering what could’ve been for one of the UK’s most charismatic emcees.
But that said, if you’re only going to record one album in your lifetime, it may as well be one as memorable and satisfying as this