For the first time ever you can own the previously unreleased debut album by KAOS Krew ‘Mind Revolution’ on Black Pyramid Records, this 10 track release was originally recorded between 1990-1997 at both Monroe and Abbey Road Studios and is part of a rich UK Hip Hop legacy going back 30 years. The album was a self-funded labour of love that took 7 years to complete and is noteworthy for featuring Blak Twang (before they became Blak Twang), on engineering duty and also features performances from MCM and Diamond J from Caveman. Whilst reading this article you’ll need to cast your mind back to this era, it was a window of time that gave us a multitude of releases, such as The Horns of Jericho by Hijack, Patriot Games by Gunshot, Bring Down The Walls.. by Silver Bullet, Gangster Chronicle by London Posse and other releases from the likes of She Rockers, MCD, Demon Boys, MC Duke, The Brotherhood and Son of Noise (among many, many others!). This was the landscape at the time and it was a sprawling vista of outstanding music for the country, however, ‘Mind Revolution’ never saw the light of day and until now has remained an unheard chapter of 90’s UK Hip Hop, a hidden gem you might say.
KAOS Krew formed in 1985 at Canons High School in Edgware, North West London and consisted of members Jonie D, TJ Chill and Peek A Boo, ‘Mind Revolution’ was the first recording project for the group. Jonie D had previously released music through Positive Beat Records, the Ladbroke Grove label that spawned groups such as Cash Crew, The Mighty Ethnicz and She Rockers. TJ Chill too had done recordings on Darkman’s Vinyl Lab Records which had artists like the Powerlords, the Cash Crew and reggae artist Joe 90. So they set aside these solo projects to concentrate on their collective works by putting out an album which had been specifically made as a label release, but sadly after months of chasing major label promises in ’97 they finally called it a day and it sat collecting dust, until Black Pyramid picked it up in 2020. After being freshly mastered by Fero Media, ahead of the group’s brand new album release (set for early 2021), they decided it seemed right to let the world hear how it all began. It’s also worth mentioning that KAOS Krew were the first Hip Hop act to record in the Beatles Studio at Abbey Road, they continued their work there until the surviving Beatles actually locked it down for the purposes of filming the Beatles Anthology. At this point they returned to Monroe Studios to finish their work and whilst there they rubbed shoulders with Caveman, London Posse, MCD-Silent Eclipse, Scientist Of Sound, Son of Noise, The Brotherhood, PLZ, Nefeteri and Split Decision (who went on to become Blak Twang), so there is a lot of history and nostalgia associated with this passion project.
Right, we’ve covered the history behind this but what was the album actually like? We rewound the cassette (not really) and had a listen..
The album opens with ‘Knowledge in the Hands of a Fool (is Dangerous)’, a track produced by TJ Chill (along with most of the other songs on the release), a dominating bass line is peppered with classic sounding breaks and some solid word play, with a catchy hook. TJ Chill is joined by Roger Benou on production for ‘Racial Treason’, a stand out track featuring cuts from Diamond J (Caveman), some building grooves on tight drum patterns, lovely stuff. ‘Creep’ has an almost parliament-funk-like sound spliced throughout, complete with Ice Cube samples and smooth bars. ‘Inner City Celebrity’ has a nice vocal sample on the chorus, that talks about the old adage of ‘the streets of London, being paved with gold’ some nice back and forth lyrics on this one. The titular ‘Mind Revolution’ is a warm sounding entry with sharp midi strings, light bass and some great solo piano by Stuart Green (former member of 70’s reggae band ‘Revalation’, who now owns 3 Chronicles Studio in Wembley), this is all topped off with hard political narrative, Motion in Transit works the beats with TJ on this one. A side anecdote about this song; the original idea was to write the longest single rap lyric ever recorded, it started by manually tape looping the instrumental break of Derek B’s ‘Bad Young Brother’ across 45 minutes on a TDK90 cassette (I have lost our younger viewers here). It had about 15 verses each made up of 50 bars, putting the world to rights in TJ’s young teenage mind. After arriving at Abbey Road and intending on doing the ‘proper long version’, Darren Godwin (who had just finished working on the soundtrack for Tim Burton’s Batman movie) convinced them that they couldn’t do a song with 15 verses and 50 bars in each verse (!), thus the 4 verses version became the compromise and it was a great end result, less is definitely more.
The album concludes with two highly energetic songs, ‘Lyrical Kill’ features some serious cuts from DJ Rumple (Blak Twang) and Renegades of Ruffness features MCM (Caveman), real vigour on these final works, strong finish with some inventive lyricism.
Karen Inch High (Wax Nerds) caught up with KAOS Krew on a video call (recorded during covid-19) to delve a little deeper into the album, there is some great vintage footage compiled into these so make sure you check them out.
“.. all the happiest people are snappy because no ones got reason to smile and be happy, and that’s the way, life goes on so you live life day to day, and don’t check for the difference in me and you, because we all line up in the same damn dole queue, so check the mentality, that’s turned TJ Chill into the inner inner city celebrity..”
“.. have you been told, the streets of London are paved with gold..”
“..well I will give you a reason to change in thought, war has become a spectators sport, we listen to the match ear to floor, and we celebrate every time we score, now the winners they come home to a great reception while the losers go home to great rejection..”
“..National emotions they never stay, and life soon returns to it’s normal way, the dead are forgotten on the battlefloor, except to those close to the victims of war, but I’m sure it wasn’t this that those died for, national violence legal by law..”
The rest of the videos from the interview will be available on the Original Rockers channel.
This album is for anyone after a nostalgic dose of UK Hip Hop, a gentle reminder of where the genre has come from, infused with funk, groove, breaks, punchy drums and fresh hooks. This time capsule has taken 30 years to be dug up but it’s well worth a listen, the perfect precursor to the new album, what came before and what they have in store, we wait in anticipation…
‘Mind Revolution’ is out now on Black Pyramid Records across all digital channels and sounds as fresh as the day it was made, grab a copy!
Stories like this make you wonder what other albums were lost to the sands of time, if you know of any, then get in touch. Also what are some of your other favourite UK Hip Hop albums of the 90’s? Tweet me your thoughts.
Words by Theo Specone
Additional photography credit for the black and white banner image by Annetta Gill