Nostalgia is a funny one. Spend too long trying to recapture the past and you miss the future. Forget the past and you’ll never know how far you’ve come. Just ask Cuban Pete, a veteran of UK hip hop who knows all about walking the line between staying true to yourself and still pushing the scene forward.
For new listeners, the gruff midlands accent might not evoke the golden age of hip hop, but his latest mixtape Renaissance Man is littered with nods to the scene he’s been cultivating for nearly 30 years. The note-perfect instrumentals take in everything from classic soul to original ‘80s boom bap, while the razor-tight production (from the likes of BDvine, Eazy and MEZ) keeps the 21 tracks flowing like a river of liquid silk.
With a style all of his own and a sound bathed in the glow of old-school US productions, Renaissance Man is a fitting reminder to the new generation that you don’t need a mouthful of Xanax and a series of regrettable face tattoos to get noticed.
Numbers like ‘In the Jungle’ and ‘One Way Street’ give Renaissance Man more than a hint of the early ‘90s US underground scene. ‘Kingz UTD’, meanwhile, (with a collab list too long to list here) gives a platform to some of the freshest new emcees coming out of the UK.
Spoils Of War produced by B.Dvine
That’s not to detract from the skill on show from the main act. Pete’s laid-back flow can be misleading, lulling you into a false sense of security then dismantling your preconceptions with lyrical dexterity. Despite more than 30 years in the scene, the Midlands-born rapper is only just coming into his own as a rapper. Tracks like ‘Spoils of War’ and ‘Enough is Enough’ capture the emcee at his most reflective and prove he can hold his own among the current wave of world-weary, self-aware UK rappers.
So maybe nostalgia isn’t such a bad thing. After all, if the golden age of hip hop spawned acts like Cuban Pete, it’s mixtapes like this that can usher in a new era, or better yet, a renaissance, for the UK scene.
Renaissance Man is out now on C75 Live and FNBG Records. To check out the individual designs for each track, head on over to the C75 Bandcamp page.
Check out the links below to stream or download Renaissance Man: