Southampton based Uncle Mic Nitro (UMN) releases his bizarrely named fourth (and ‘last’) album ‘Vincent on Horseback’, on a record label joint-venture between B-Line Recordings and Hip Hop Be Bop. This is an 11 track high-octane voyage of rapidly delivered boom bap goodness, steeped in nostalgia and featuring a multifaceted upshot that will entertain as well as give you tonal whiplash. When questioned about the name of the album, Uncle Mic replied that after watching Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather Part III’ (for the umpteenth time) he noticed a scene in which Vincent Mancini Corleone is dressed as a policeman galloping along on a horse whilst assasinating Joey Zasa at a street festival in Little Italy, this lead to subsequent repeated googling of the term ‘vincent on horseback’ to find related imagery of this scene and thus the album name was born. Also Vincent called Michael Corleone ‘Uncle Mike’ in the film, so this gives us a somewhat loose connection to our protagonist (lol). He confirmed that being a ‘movie buff’ has certainly inspired a lot of the content, amassing a tonne of references over the 3 years it took to create, so expect a hellish fusillade of film culture memorabilia like Gremlins, Family Guy, Chuck Norris, Cobra Kai, Star Wars, Sylvester Stallone impersonations, Andre The Giant and more, all of which will surely satisfy the fandom.
Prior to the Uncle Mic persona he was part of the Dark Craftsmen and also The Pickpockets, this was an interesting chapter for the artist as not only did The Pickpockets make it onto the BBC Radio 1 playlist but they were also managed by industry favourite Alan McGee (the same person who managed Sugarbabes and Prodigy). As Dark Craftsmen, they notably released the ‘No Shadows On Your Sundial‘ EP on Britcore legend Eastborn‘s imprint Dropzone Records. One of the most remarkable performances by The Pickpockets was when the group featured at Edinburgh’s SMG Tour (Sex, Money, Guns) supporting Ice T and were ultimately offered a deal by Mercury Records (Universal Music) in 1999 but by this time “the arse end of the music industry had just fallen out”, soon the Napster generation would take over, swapping vinyl and CD for MP3 and free file sharing, everything had changed so sadly the record deal fell through. Although UMN has many different musical influences, a major contributor to them is Britcore (a sub genre of Hip Hop which stands for British Hardcore Hip Hop) which includes specific artists like Gunshot, Son of Noise, Blade, Hijack etc, however whilst discussing ‘Britcore’ he expressed a dislike for the term, “I don’t understand why people have such an affinity with it [the term ‘Britcore’], I don’t like these subsidiary names, hip hop is just hip hop”, some people connect this term to the foundations of Hip Hop music in this country and it has also been said that the ‘genre helped to shape the future of British dance music’ but he raises an interesting point, what are your thoughts on Britcore? Tweet me.
“I feel that this will be my last rap album as it were, never say never but right now I’m out …some rappers just want to keep chucking stuff out but for me I’d rather go out on a high then hang around like a bad smell”
Clearly Uncle Mic has a rich musical history but did this tree bare fruit?.. they say ‘when life gives you lemons..’, so we had a listen to make sure this was the freshly squeezed variety.
Before listening to the release make sure you watch ‘A Pony Tale’ (below) the hilarious precursor to the album which shows Uncle Mic discussing his ideas for the album artwork with his graphic designer John Dyer, it shows how an artist’s vision doesn’t always match up to a designer’s creation, funny stuff.
The album opens with ‘Play Dead’, produced by long-time collaborator Ryan Mac, some hard stacked drums cascade across electronic samples and warm building bass, kicking off the first verse with polarising lyric “I don’t smoke crack…. that much”, setting the tone for a fairly comical offering. This song contains some nice hidden touches like a Stallone impersonation hiding behind the Cliffhanger lyric, then turning meta and discussing whether “having a water fight with ten Gremlins” should technically be “ten Mogwai” in the middle of the track to the sound of the hummed ‘Gizmo’s Song’ from the movie, don’t sleep on this track because you’ll miss a lot of pop culture easter eggs, the track also ends with a Big L sample cut up nicely by DJ Tones.
“I have a plan of attack, my plan is attack, Galactus rhyme power rap style planets’ll crack, wide open, the Death Star scoping out Alderaan, rebels yell, idols fall like Babylon, black swan, ugly duckling, silver tongue, bouncing bomb flow blowing up your golden ponD…”Play Dead
‘Snap Ya Neck’ is a lively number featuring some high energy breakbeat production by Featurecast, Uncle Mic is joined by Joe Burn who layers some raspy double time bars over classic horn samples and punchy drums, more cuts by Tones on this one. Ced Gee and Ramson Badbonez feature on ‘Bod gets Slapped up’, specifically the Krash Slaughta remix which explains why there are some killer cuts throughout courtesy of Krash, big track. ‘Zasa’ serves a big dose of that aforementioned Britcore sound, briskly paced beatwork by Djar One, which unloads a bombardment of carefully crafted lyricism by UMN, AJ and Specifik, who don’t miss a beat, the track is aptly named after Joey Zasa our assassinee who got his house painted by Vincent. ‘Hills are Alive’ has some Chino XL-esque wordsmithery over Speaks production, a haunting harp sample and hook set the scene for a story about a young soldier going to war, Uncle Mic truly embodies the character which is based on a friend’s real life experiences after coming back from the special forces with PTSD, “a true tale of innocence lost, the mind f**k that is international war games”. ‘Keep Drinking’ is again based on real experiences but this time it’s of when Uncle Mic was the promoter of a nightclub in Southampton called Club 4 (now called Grand Cafe), the song almost feels like a reimagining of Mike Skinner’s ‘Blinded by the lights’, which has some nice beats crafted by Ollie Knight (this is co-produced by UMN, the first of three tracks he produces on the album), close friend Pete Devereux (Artful Dodger) also used to DJ at the venue and the pair have worked on various projects since. The lyrics paint a picture of running the club and of course the after parties that ensued, an interesting autobiographical number. The first single off the album ‘Lemonade’ is actually a quote taken from Eddie Murphy’s ‘Delirious‘, where he talks about how Elvis couldn’t act, so in his movies the producers would let him sing all of his dialogue, so the hook on this track is an Eddie Murphy impersonation of Elvis…. let that sink in for a minute. Beat duty is handled once again by Ollie Knight and UMN, heavy bass with some meandering bongo throughout, Juga-Naught adds a solid verse to this one, with serious cuts courtesy of Jabbathakut and a great video by John Dyer. ‘Where the monster is’ sits on some uplifting Micall Parknsun vibes, nice keys and kicks, with lyrics from two different perspectives, the masculine and feminine. Apparently there was originally going to be a female artist carrying out the other perspective but UMN decided to play both parts, opposite sides of the argument. When questioned about who he might’ve chosen to sing the other perspective, Holly Flo Lightly was mentioned, that would’ve been an interesting alternative version. Although this is quite an upbeat number with a catchy sing-song type hook, it’s actually a brooding piece of work about a relationship that is not working, “the listener can pick the bones out of it”.
There are many noteworthy tracks on the album but another standout is ‘Write’, once again Ollie Knight and Uncle Mic team up to formulate this soulful anthem “I knew this would suit the Stevie Wonder sample. I went into the studio with Olli, looped it and wrote the chorus but it could do with some singing”, this is when Greg Blackman was brought in to work the hook. “I recorded the singing bits, I had been talking to Skinnyman about a verse but never finalised it, so there was a empty verse (not only the chorus space) on the beat I sent to Greg. Greg sent the laced beat back to me but not only singing the chorus which I had asked him to do, he also decided to fill in the an empty 16 bars that had been left for Skinnyman, which was a nice surprise which I left in!”. The song is about trying to give up drink and drugs, using writing as a creative outlet to express these frustrations, “this track is a trojan horse, as it smuggles in this message”.
This is a grandiloquent fourth entry from Uncle Mic Nitro, packed with pop culture references, creative punch lines and tumultuous turntablism, it has a wide selection of well produced beatwork and guest artists to choose from, we can only hope that this is not the last we will hear from the veteran artist, as he has proven himself to be quite the creative force.
What did you think of this album, did you agree with my synopsis? Tweet me your thoughts about the album.
Words by Theo Specone