There’s something inspiring about a former titan stepping back into the fray sounding as fresh as they did in their heyday. While Klashnekoff never really went away, to a lot of hip-hop fans his early works, namely Sagas, Focus Mode and his role in Terra Firma’s first and only album, The Foundation, represent a peak that he’s never quite hit since.
K-Lash aka Darren Kandler never fell off, sold out or put out any complete shit. Nonetheless there has been a void between the weight that his early work carried and his releases since. The material Klashnekoff put down during his first few years of prominence on a good number of tracks completely epitomised the sound of a time when UK hip hop had arguably its biggest surge forward ever.
On the off-chance any younger hip hop fans are reading this who might not know the back catalogue… Here’s a short list of tunes that if you don’t already know you need in your life; Murda, both Black Rose versions, Jankrowville, Son of Niya, Daggo Mentality, Parrowdice, Nightbreed (technically a Jehst tune) or his complete destructions of Damien Marley’s and Nas’ Jamrock and Get Down instrumentals. Each one of these at the time they surfaced were anthemic entries into the UK hip-hop scene as it stood then. A bunch of them to this day evoke hydro laced summer jamming deja vu whenever I relisten to them. Seems like a lifetime ago but great music that defined its time can take you back there for a moment.
2017. It’s probably too early to call but there are rumblings that the fire K-Lash had in his belly way back when he started is stirring again something fierce. As of yet there are no details of a new Klashnekoff album but if his most recent offerings are anything to go by its likely that a new project would be worth getting hyped for. Prior to his latest single which I’ll get onto in a moment, Kandler has been seriously on point on the verses he’s dropped on collabs in the last few years, with a style more reminiscent of his early bars. Early signs of a K-Lash renaissance can be found on the high points of his last release Fuck The Long Talk or his verse on Point of No Return off Phoenix Da Icefire‘s Quantum Leap album, both released in 2012. Track forward a couple years and he kills it on Illest Rocks on Phil ‘n’ the Dotz, or more recently Devilish on Ocean Wisdom‘s debut LP is a an example of him sounding as fresh as he did when he first appeared.
Which brings us up to date. Hand on heart is undisputedly fire. As a solo single it bears more of a striking resemblance to what was great about K-Lash when he first made waves than anything he’s released in the last decade. The instrumental has a large hand to play in this. There’s something that sounds distinctively golden era about it while still sounding fresh and current. By Klashnekoff’s standard this tune is definitely towards the chilled end of the spectrum, with no double time stylings to be found. The beat and sample combo sounds more like a sunrise over some tower blocks than a rowdy night on street level. This vibe works effortlessly in parallel with the tone of the lyric. Dedicated to his deceased mother, Klashnekoff spits with a calm defiance on the track and seems to speak with a new found intent. As he drops in the final bars “The end of the saga, a start of a new beginning” this sums up neatly where it sounds like the veteran, now in his early 40s, is at now. Paradoxically, by putting to rest the route that’s resulted from his first album and his attempts over the last decade to return to that benchmark, he seems to finally sound as fresh as he did where he started.
One of the things that was most striking about Klashnekoff’s early work is how much hope and self belief was eloquently phrased amidst the darkness and aggression. The aspiration that something huge was on the cusp of happening resonated powerfully throughout his early work with a conviction that was genuinely inspiring. The balance of bearing his scars while vocalising an assured hope for tomorrow is alive and well on Hand on Heart. If this is symptomatic of what the next Klashnekoff album would hold, hopefully coupled with a slight reduction in the outright aggression replaced with the wisdom and experience earned by elder status in the scene, then that’d be a release that could possibly reinstate K-Lash as one of the leading voices in the game.
Quality control could be the main thing to get in the way of this becoming reality if his mistakes on his last couple albums are anything to go by. While writing this I relistened to FTLT with a mate and a few tracks into it neither of us could remember why we didn’t rate it massively at the time. Half way through though it sank in. FTLT would have been fucking sick if it had just been an EP and finished at track 8. The second half isn’t terrible, it just loses pace and energy and takes a big step down from the heat that’s relentless leading up to it. The effect as a listener is to get mad excited for the first 20 minutes of the LP and then somehow still feel disappointed by the end of it. Lets hope whats next is either a less is more approach which only puts the best foot forward even if that means shaving a few tracks off and putting out something shorter or an epic beast of an LP that sustains the power of Klashnekoff at his best throughout.
Signs as of now are positive. I’ve got a good feeling about whats next. Watch this space.
Klashnekoff ‘Hand on Heart’ Video by Sektion Red