Hard to beat a cheeky Al Green sample. Afire‘s subtle flip of a few stray notes from the acapella of ‘Love and Happiness’ is everything that’s great about hip hop’s culture of repurposing music into something new while giving respectful nods to history’s creators.
In this case its a nod within a nod. A very similar flip of almost the same note selection can be found on the excellent ‘Skank Bop’ from another Bristol great, Buggsy, (prod 184) back in 2013. No doubt with reverence to both predecessors, ‘Lions’ is a completely different animal again. In contrast to both the baby-boom generation’s bedroom music of Al Green’s classic and Buggsy and 184s’ bust-a-skank twist on the original in question, Roughcut Collective‘s addition to this evolution is something unique in its own right.
With Afire completely remooding (yes I just made that word up) the melody to something both ethereally haunting and hard, both fresh for 2018 and boom bap… MCs Twizzy and Ambush Tactics are the vocal evidencing of the same point about hip hop. Both lyricists have rhyme schemes that hark back to UK hip hop’s original surge in creativity at the same time as pushing onwards. With both MCs dropping assured back ups for the other through the verses and a hook that manages to be proud and catchy-as-fuck without a hint of cheese, they simultaneously sound classic and more than capable of holding their own against the scene leaders of today. In terms of content: Positivity can be a dirty word in the current landscape of hip hop, but the balance of hope and fuck-you-if-you-don’t-like-it defiance was what made the genre powerful in the first place. As Twiz and Ambush put it “We bring the battle to the empires, you can say I’m Wrong but this energy can start fires.”
For a further case in point, of the two rappers’ conscious, inspiring dexterity with words that’s both old school and fit for today (and also because I wrote a piece about them and then put videos by two other artists in it) check out the ill ‘Individual’ below.
Released yesterday, You can buy Roughcut Collective’s Lions EP now on bandcamp.