Skrabls’ 4th album “The Emperors New Garms’ (TENG) is an expansive and thought evoking piece of work. Brimming with hyperbolic self-exaltation on tracks like ‘Ignoramous’ then sinking to monged out self reflective depths on songs like ‘Head Down’ and ‘Jaded’.
Skrabl’s masterful control of words on beats ensures every line on every track; is subject to the artist’s measured and composed delivery’ which is both a blessing and a curse. By staying rigidly on these multi syllabic onslaughts, as a veteran underground hip-hop head I myself am thoroughly entertained and initially I am the type of person whom this art form is aimed at as I examine every intricate use of prose and twist of phrase. However I cant help but think that to a fresher audience this could be lost in the ‘skim through and move on’ listening habits of consumers today. , I really do hope listeners try to “absorb the enormity’ to quote Skrabl on his track “All at Sea –“ (Ft Flo) and take time to see the beauty of how good pure lyrics and beats can be. After all these songs are delivered with only “26 Letters’’ which is a great concept track on TENG stating how all thoughts and feelings are conveyed from this simple collection of characters we call the alphabet.
Performance wise Skrabl could possibly benefit from trying to connect more on a personal level by infusing more tone and cadence to bring an emotional quality to his lyrical takes. Instead of tethering his creativity to the syllable-rhyming rulebook that UK Hip-hop artists sometimes write for themselves. It is my personal feeling that he could further engage listeners by breaking up long streams of word patterns with some more conversational and personally revealing passages in his verses, sometimes rules are meant to be bent if not broken.
Production wise Skrabl’s long time collaborator and crew affiliate Oozhe does the heavy lifting on 13 of this 14 track project, (The track “Head Down” is produced by Myst and its haunting and powerfully moody. – W.A). Oozhe is capable of delivering the full spectrum of emotion over hard and dusty boom bap drums, providing music that offers juxtaposing energies to carry word heavy verses into storming choruses and back. My only fear is that this long partnership between producer and rapper doesn’t start to plateau and that both Skrabl and Oozhe continue to push each other to expand boundaries and see where it can take them.
Personally standout tracks are the Dotz featured “Barbarous Acts”, the audibly different and engaging “Venom” and “Guano” featuring Wordsmiff FLIP, Si Philli and gracious cuts from turntablist JabbaThaKutt.
In closing TENG is a thoughtfully crafted and sometimes beautifully executed piece of work that stays true to the tenets of UK Hip Hop and I am hoping to catch Skrabl bringing these new songs to life at a venue soon. If this is your first taste of Skrabl I hope it pushes you to check out his earlier material and that of his co-creators also. It is a solid addition to Skrabls catalogue and I strongly advise living with this project in your rotation for at least a week or so, its well worth checking out for the high quality production and lyrical replay value alone.
Much respect to Skrabl, Oozhe and True Unity Records on this strong release.
The Emperor’s New Garms is out now and available here
Review by Wes Allen