“This is music from the corner… that same corner” announces Chester P on the introduction to the fifth and final episode of the ‘Music From the Corner’ series. Though it might be the “same” corner that Task Force represent, figuratively speaking, the musical terrain is more adventurous than ever before. It might have come seven years since the last one, but the two Coombes brothers have again created some of the most colourful and diverse hip hop you’re ever likely to hear.
We must offer credit where credit’s due of course; Task Force have evolved. This cannot be understated when breaking down a crew that seemed to have, on the surface, written five records on the same themes of isolating and depravity. Volume One is generally considered a masterpiece of UK noir, as respected and revered as Jehst’s ‘Return of the Drifter’. Over a decade later and the landscape of hip hop has changed, and so have people’s tastes. Task Force’s recognition of this is reflected in the beats here: ‘ESP’ is reminiscent of spaced out progressive rock from the seventies, particularly Pink Floyd; ‘Soft Giants’ is aggressive and industrial; meanwhile ‘Shark Fin Soup’ bizarrely recalls a kind of demented European fairytale with its stuttered rhythm and creepy backing vocals.
Task Force certainly know how to make hip hop memorable, and this creativity suits the dramatic storytelling styles that Chester P and Farma G employ. The tales of the London estates that they inhabit are brought to life in more elaborate and peculiar ways than ever before. This can admittedly be disorientating, with lyrical concepts running off in several different directions and the schizophrenic production reflecting this. After several listens, for example, listeners may still be confused at how each skit fits into the narrative. Others, like the sampled ‘Rocky’s Speech’, are so unsubtle that they disturb the unsettled mood. In other words, they have been more evocative on previous efforts.
With that said, Volume Five works because it is fun and tongue-in-cheek. ‘Stanley Doppleganger’ is nothing short of hilarious in the way it parodies their own fanbase – when you’re spotting yourself in the dialogue you know they’ve succeeded. Both emcees are masters at making social observations in a comical way but maintaining a technical standard in their rhymes. Despite their contrasting styles, Chester and Farma both frequently switch up their flows and fit their voices to the tone of a track.
Where does it rank alongside the other volumes? Looking back, Task Force have written five unique and timeless accounts that all appeal in different ways. Though it may present its social commentaries in a more offbeat manner than previous outings, Volume Five is still packed with lyrical and well produced hip hop tracks that will make your head nod. At this point it seems superfluous to make a sweeping statement on this crew’s legacy; you all know Task Force’s pedigree. Time may well prove that every chapter has been essential.
Review by Jonathan Rimmer
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