Planned obsolescence. Made to fail. That’s how Tzusan and Shogun described their latest LP Lead Wetsuit Schematics. “Scottish rap is doomed to fail. Scottish rap is a lead wetsuit. These are the schematics of how to do the lead wetsuit!” said Tzusan. “It’s an ode to the futility of our fucking country and also how to get out of that routine”, Shogun added. I was confused. Why did it sound so good then?
Indeed, the project has a sludgy texture, slowly drawing you deeper into its murky world of obscure samples and suspended tension. Explosive verses drop out of nowhere like the pull of the undertow while surprise features pop out from behind hazes of distortion. Still, without labelling a manatee a mermaid, there is a beautiful message buried beneath all of this, as Tzusan and Shogun grapple with the obstacles to successful rap music in Scotland.
“There’s nothing like AudioActive where we’re from… it’s a blessing to have in the community… that’s what hip hop needs more of”, Tzusan remarked. Instead, they had to teach themselves, developing the kind of creative independence that can only be forged in deep isolation. Even today, they expressed a sense that Scottish rap is fractured and competitive: “There’s no top-down knowledge being passed on… they want you to get to the point where you’re just not as good as they are”. Shogun was firing on ten the entire interview, but he also seemed to genuinely want the project to come as a good influence for others on the scene- “These are crayon written blueprints / so the kiddies can try and do this”, he raps on ‘Dhukit’. With no routes up they went down, and returned with treasure.
Tzusan is the world’s best entomological etymologist, having already established has refined taste for unusual words and obscure delicacies on previous release WSPSNSYRP. His creative imprint can be found all over the project, from the carefully unsettled production to the literal rolled up schematics of album artwork littered around his room. Hearing about his involvement, I found it hard to understand how he finds time to sleep. His bedroom was filled with a lot of things, looking back at the interview footage, but a bed was noticeably not one of them.
Shogun’s reputation probably precedes him, having made waves with his debut freestyle ‘Vulcan’ back in 2016- which was, for many around the world, the first introduction to the notion of Scottish rap, let alone on a grime beat. His unrestrained flow and no-fucks attitude made him somewhat of a fan favourite on the 2020 season of Krept and Konan’s Rap Game UK but this project aims to highlight a different side to his artistry. Moving away from his viral grime formula and reflecting on his potholed road to the present, I began to catch glimpses of a maturity that wasn’t spotlighted on either of his more publicised ventures.
The two linked up when Shogun caught sight of Tzusan’s ‘Holograms’ back in 2020, and it’s only been up (or down) since then. Lead Wetsuit Schematics is already an underground classic in more ways than one, enlisting the drug-fuelled entendres of Sonnyjim; Roll Deep alumni Manga Saint Hilare; CMPND cornerstone Vitamin G; Aussie High Focus signing Nelson Dialect; and, the enigmatic Senso Zentinel (“I don’t give a fuck buddy”). “We’re just trying to show what we can do”, Tzusan remarked humbly. Shogun took it a step further: “We’re trying to be the forerunners for our country and sell our souls to Satan… and if that doesn’t work we’ll just keep plugging away at it I guess”.
All that being said, this album made my lung collapse so I don’t fuck with it. I listened to it for the first time in the A&E waiting room and the next thing I knew there was a surgical bike pump sticking out my chest. The nurse asked me if I’d been scuba diving recently. Fuckers.