London based rapper, author and radio personality SKANDOUZ releases his debut solo album ‘Nettie’ on Club FRSHRZ, an independent alt. Hip Hop and Soul record label based in the capital. The 15 track release is filled with refreshingly positive, uplifting goodness, although saying that, the album’s namesake is taken from his Auntie Nettie, who sadly passed away in 2009, but who indirectly inspired what has been described as a ‘multi-layered Hip Hop musical experience’. So something that was born of grief can actually turn out to be a rather positive look on life, as well as becoming yet another album released during the chaotic end of a covid-rife 2020, demonstrating capacity to prevail over adversity. This piece of work was 10 years in the making, covering a range of topics like black empowerment, race, marriage as well as other challenging subject matters, it also features a full ensemble cast of producers and guest artists, so it’s a regular cavalcade of talent on this one. Although this is SKANDOUZ’ first solo venture, he is no stranger to releasing music, having already featured on various works as one third of FRSHRZ, an energetic rap collective alongside stable-mates Artcha and Dray Styles. He has also collaborated with UK legends such as Rodney P, Blak Twang and TY, TY unfortunately having passed away in 2020, prompting SKANDOUZ to write a touching tribute piece called “Letter to my big bro” that you can listen to here. Over the years he also partnered with Tom Foolery Beats as host on the “Connoisseurs of Hip Hop” (COHH) radio show, impressively delivering over 250 live radio sets which featured on Itch FM and Reels Rebel Radio. COHH are known for their special guests and exclusive interviews with some of Hip Hop’s biggest legends which include Chuck D, Pete Rock, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Talib Kweli and many more. This radio partnership culminated in a self published book ‘The Interviews‘, which committed to paper all of the wise words of their many guests, definitley worth a look.
SKANDOUZ clearly possesses a wealth of experience and knowledge, but what was this primary outing as a solo artist actually like, we took a visit to Kentish Town to take in the sights and sounds..
The album opens to a jump up Juke 84 beat on ‘SKANtro’, which includes a series of shout outs from some of the biggest artists who have ever graced the stage, from both sides of the water. The track ends with the lyrics “..can’t fathom how you keep giving the N word power..”, which transitions into one of the COHH interviews with Public Enemy’s Chuck D, who speaks around this sentiment, then intros SKANDOUZ, an epic way to start any album.
“Words do hurt and when you let people get away with calling you that, expect them to treat you any old way too”Chuck D, Public Enemy
‘Clap Ur Hands’ is produced by SKANDOUZ, this is one of three tracks he constructs himself on the album, droney bass compliments a sharp hammond organ, with some accented snares and punchy wordplay. The titular ‘Nettie’ features on the first half of the album, Law OS produces some warm soulful samples that blend with a hard bass drum and ends with the echos of Nettie talking about queuing outside London’s Koko to see Coldplay, a lovely eulogy for a dear friend, RIP Nettie. ‘Kentish Town’ produced by Swift Ra has a haunting vocal sample and some gorgeous piano coursing through it, with slower pacing allowing for faster double time bars jointly delivered alongside fellow Kentish Towners Dozer Carter and Trigz. The middle of the album hosts a couple of hype tracks, ‘Groove N Sway’ and ‘Work+Play’ courtesy of !LLMIND and Chrom3, the latter of which sounds like a club remix, these are a long way from the usual innercity doldrums of many London artists, all exciting stuff.
“They don’t understand about the struggle and strife, better leave this town if you want my advice, I’mma stay here this is what I call life, nw5, nw5..”
Songs like ‘Nuffin on my Mrs bro!’ produced by Deejay LoK and ‘Anniversary’ produced by Nino Sipiano make for a refreshing change as to context and portrayal of women within Hip Hop, they encourage the listener to cherish their partner and celebrate them, in comparison to the womanising exploits of many of our beloved artists (naming no names!). Also ‘Anniversary’ has to be the first of a kind in terms of it’s content within rap music (Tweet me if I am wrong), it’s a serenade that features Tony Rotton and Gee Bag, conjuring up some 90’s flavours and allowing the ukhh veterans to decalre love for their respective partners, the track shows a certain vulnerability that has to be respected, “salute long lasting marriages, we need to celebrate that more in this hip hop ting”, really nice work. This is followed up with similar sentiments on ‘Lady’, the second song produced by Nino Sipiano on the album, SKANDOUZ is joined by Mas Law and some powerful vocals on the hook by Lara Lee. FRSHRZ reunite on ‘Nu Nation Rising’, a high energy number produced by Mezkla, featuring expansive hook vocals by Jah Mirikle. Another stand out on the album is ‘Headnodder’ produced by Joffsta and [email protected], a track that nicely builds beats that bounce, fresh bars and easy hooks on a dreamlike sound selection. There are too many songs to mention but the noteworthy sign off is ‘Hip Hop World’, produced by Jonathan Vears featuring Elsa Chapman, a theatrical number that rises to a crescendo of strings, where SKANDOUZ and Elsa’s vocals coalesce into a sugary blend, finalising a worthy solo effort.
The album is for anyone wanting to hear a wide range of producers building rich soundscapes around SKANDOUZ’ smoothly crafted word play. There are a number of fantastic vocalists and noteworthy rappers who make an appearance here and clearly he is not scared about trying out some different things, most of which land, it is a creative, versatile piece of work, full of different sounds and styles.
Did you like the album, which songs were your favourite? Tweet me your thoughts.
Words by Theo Specone
UKHH Extra: Here is an interview with IAMHIPHOP magazine, where SKANDOUZ discusses at length the new ‘Nettie’ album, give it a watch here.
Additional photography credit for top banner image: Oliver Whitehouse (Sektion Red)