Tag Archives: Cons

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part Five) – Verb T & Illinformed / Little Simz / Nas etc.

Final part of my 2021 wrap-up – check Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

UFO Fev & Vanderslice – “Enigma Of Dali” (UFOFev.BandCamp.Com) – One thing that’s become abundantly clear over the last couple of years is that Harlem’s UFO Fev has a great ear for choosing producers to work with that really compliment his style. With Statik Selektah, Termanology and Big Ghost Ltd all having laced the NY emcee with superb beats on full-length efforts during 2020, 2021 found Fev teaming-up with the consistently dope Vanderslice for “Enigma Of Dali”, painting colourful lyrical portraits which captured the essence of life in the Rotten Apple.

Damu The Fudgemunk – “Conversation Peace” (DamuTheFudgemunk.BandCamp.Com) – Having been given full access to the musical vaults of London’s KPM Library for this release, you could almost feel Damu’s glee and excitement bursting out of the grooves here from beats crafted after being blessed with the opportunity to dig through thousands of records. Joined by Raw Poetic, Insight, Blu and Nitty Scott, the Washington DC producer soared above the clouds, nodding to the 90s on the way up without getting stuck in the past or overdosing on nostalgia. “Conversation Peace” was a genuinely invigorating listening experience.

Cesar Comanche & Poe Mack – “A Promise Not To Sting” (CesarComanche.BandCamp.Com) – This collaborative album from North Carolina’s Cesar Comanche (of Justus League fame) and Virginia’s Poe Mack really struck a chord with me. It was the sound of two individuals who’ve lived life and learnt lessons ruminating on the past, present and future in a world undergoing huge change. Production from the likes of 9th Wonder, Khrysis and DJ Flash gave the album a vintage (and at times fittingly melancholy) feel, with Comanche and Mack bouncing purposeful verses back and forth with ease.

Verb T & Illinformed – “Stranded In Foggy Times” (VerbT.BandCamp.Com) – The third and final part of Verb T and Illinformed’s “Foggy” trilogy, this album once again showcased the brilliant writing ability of the UK emcee with the verses here consisting of well-crafted meaningful lyrics, some of which were straight-to-the-point whilst others were open to interpretation. Backed by the quality production of Illinformed, which perfectly complimented Verb’s conversational, laidback rhyme style, T approached this release with all the skill, poise and confidence you’d expect from an artist who has shown nothing but constant elevation throughout his twenty year career.

Kamanchi Sly – “Electrosis 2” (HipHop73.Com) – Pulling on his shelltoes and Nike windbreaker once again, UK legend K-Sly dropped three “Electrosis” albums during 2021, with each one celebrating the sounds and excitement of Hip-Hop in the early-to-mid 1980s with genuine love and authenticity. The Hijack legend sounded as sharp and enthusiastic as ever, clearly reveling in the opportunity to revisit old-school memories of being a young London b-boy four decades ago, whilst still proudly displaying the same competition-crushing attitude that fuelled UK classics such as “Style Wars” and “Hold No Hostage”.

Swank & King Draft – “Long Story Short” (JamlaRecords.Com) – North Carolina’s Swank and King Draft once again proved themselves to be a potent combination on this sophomore album. Slick, witty wordplay glided effortlessly over the smooth, R&B-influenced production from 9th Wonder and Jamla’s Soul Council. At a time when playlists and random shuffle options have contributed to some artists thinking less about an album as a cohesive body of work sequenced to take listeners on a journey, Swank and Draft succeeded in capturing and maintaining a mood throughout “Long Story Short” which gave the album a strong sense of momentum. For that, they get props over here.

Little Simz – “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert” (LittleSimz.Com) – The latest long-player from London’s Little Simz was an album of epic proportions. The subject matter. The delivery. The production. The interludes. The cover. The execution. The openness. The honesty. Every element of this album contributed to it being something truly special. Simz confronted a number of issues with a mix of both strength and vulnerability, accompanied by the masterfully diverse musicality of producer Inflo, as listeners were swept along on a wave of emotion that by the end of the album made it feel as if we to had been on our own voyage of self-discovery.

Mach-Hommy – “Pray For Haiti” (Mach-Hommy.Com) – Reunited with Griselda Records’ Westside Gunn and backed by ambitious production from the likes of Camoflauge Monk, Conductor Williams and Nicholas Craven, with “Pray For Haiti” New Jersey’s enigmatic Mach-Hommy delivered a rich tapestry of sound that was packed with elegant arrogance, unabashed individuality and joyful spontaneity. This album felt like the musical equivalent of looking through a kaleidoscope and sounded all the better for it.

Cons – “B.A.D.A.” (Ottoman Elf) – A veteran of the UK Hip-Hop scene, London’s Cons (aka Conspicuous) returned after an eight year hiatus with the hunger and vigour of a new artist, balanced with the benefit of hindsight and a wisdom that can only come from life experience. Reuniting with longstanding collaborators such as Apollo, LG and Evil Ed, Cons dropped street knowledge and elder statesman advice throughout “B.A.D.A.”, proving that if you’re nice on the mic device it really doesn’t matter how much time passes between projects.

Tanya Morgan – “Don and Von” (TanyaMorgan.BandCamp.Com) – Fifteen years since Tanya Morgan’s cult classic debut “Moonlighting” dropped, Von Pea and Donwill added a new release to their already impressive catalogue. Combining everyday life events and social commentary with wit and humour, the duo endeared themselves to listeners as always, coming across as two down-to-earth individuals who it might be cool to spend time kicking it with about music, politics and current events. Production from the likes of Brick Beats, Clint Taylor and Aeon also helped this album standout from the pack.

Fashawn & Sir Veterano – “All Hail The King” (FreshYardRecords.Com) – Fresno’s Fashawn returned to claim his crown with this album skillfully produced by fellow Cali Hip-Hop head Sir Veterano, with features from Elzhi, Aloe Blacc and Planet Asia. Coming in at a concise nine tracks, the West Coast wordsmith didn’t waste a single moment here, tightly packing his verses with fast-paced lyricism which covered hometown pride, building a life with his queen, raising the next generation and, of course, reigning supreme over his kingdom as rap royalty.

Benny Diction – “Facepalm / Brainwave?” (BoomBapPro.Com) – One of the UK’s most consistent artists, any new release from Benny Diction is always a welcome, enjoyable listening experience and this album was no different. Musing on the mundane to the magnificent and everything in-between, the BBP-affiliated emcee’s ability to inject insight and thoughtful observation into his rhymes shone brightly here, with Benny reflecting on the world around him accompanied by top-notch production from the likes of jas0nbeats, Krang and Deltatone.

Joell Ortiz – “Autograph” (JoellOrtiz.BandCamp.Com) – Honesty has been a theme that’s always run throughout the music of Brooklyn’s Joell Ortiz. Good times. Bad times. Successes. Failures. The NY emcee has consistently spoken on both sides of the game, whether discussing street life, personal life or industry life. “Autograph” was another does of up-close-and-uncut reality, with Ortiz recalling his struggle to get put on in the rap game, his life before that time and his life now as he embraces OG status. The detailed, sincere rhymes heard here were complimented by the production of Apollo Brown, The Heatmakerz, Salaam Remi and more.

Ransom & Big Ghost Ltd – “Heavy Is The Head” (Ransom.Com) – Jersey City’s Ransom clearly had one thing on his mind when recording this album and one thing only – lyrical domination. Joined by the likes of Mickey Factz, RJ Payne and Rome Streetz, Ransom fired off barrages of relentlessly aggressive rhymes over Big Ghost’s fittingly raw production. No holds barred. No prisoners taken. This was the sound of an emcee getting medieval on the competition.

Minnesota – “Once Upon A Handshake” (JBS Management) – Producer-slash-emcee Minnesota of the Bronx’s legendary Money Boss crew served up a raw slice of Rotten Apple rap with this solo album. A collection of hardcore beats and rhymes straight from the birthplace of Hip-Hop, this project was full of vivid inner-city imagery, BX swagger and vintage beat science. As KRS-One once said, the Bronx keeps creating it.

Passport Rav – “Sand In My Carry On” (PassportRav.BandCamp.Com) – Brooklyn’s Passport Rav crafted a laidback, reflective masterpiece for his seventh release to have dropped over the last two years. Mixing dense lyricism with breezy hooks and mellow production from Sebb Bash and Wavy Da Ghawd, Rav’s latest opus was mood music of the highest quality that both soothed and stimulated the mind.

Your Old Droog – “Space Bar” (YourOldDroog.BandCamp.Com) – To be honest, NYC’s Droog has been on a winning streak since his debut in 2014, but with his musical output having noticeably increased since 2019 it would be hard for anyone to question both the work ethic and the talent. An artist who has always seemed simultaneously unimpressed and untouched by whatever else is happening in the Hip-Hop world, Droog continued to create in his own zone with this short-but-effective album. The unshakeable confidence and sly humour heard in YOD’s verses was matched here with production from the likes of 88 Keys, Sadhugold and Elaquent.

Uptown XO – “Culture Over Corporate Vol. III” (OneForceUnited.BandCamp.Com) – The third instalment of the Washington D.C. artist’s COC series, this album saw Uptown XO once again teaming-up with fellow Diamond District member Oddisee to deliver another stellar collection of intelligent, topical rhymes and soulful, neck-snapping beats.

Sean Boog – “It’s Midnight Somewhere: Sector 2” (SeanBoog.BandCamp.Com) – The female voice that guided us through A Tribe Called Quest’s classic third album told us that seven times out of ten, we listen to our music at night. With that in mind, this six-track EP from North Carolina’s Sean Boog appeared tailor-made for nocturnal head-nodding. Dallas-based producer Keelon Donnel’s laidback beats were the perfect match for Boog’s “smooth grown-up s**t” and life-affirming rhymes. This was the ideal soundtrack to throw on when the sun had set to help ease the stresses of the daily grind.

Nas – “Magic” (MassAppeal.Com) – A surprise release on Christmas Eve, as expected the third full-length collaboration from Nas and producer Hit-Boy caused chaos in the social media world over the festive season as heads responded to the album with a variety of opinions. Personally, I really liked it. Nothing on “Magic” sounded forced or overthought. The album had a great natural flow to it from beginning to end. Nas sounded inspired and motivated throughout, with Hit-Boy providing arguably the best production he’s supplied the Queensbridge legend with yet. A memorable way to close what was a great year for new Hip-Hop.

New Joint – Cons

Cons – “Teardrops & Melodies” (@Cons_Stadium_Studio / 2021)

Poignant, personal rhymes from London’s Cons on this mellow AH Fly-produced track off his new album “B.A.D.A.”.

New Joint – Cons

Cons – “Mantra” (@Cons_Stadium_Studio / 2021)

Produced by Apollo and lifted off the new album “B.A.D.A.” from veteran UK emcee Cons.

New Joint – Cons / Cal-I Jonel

Cons ft. Cal-I Jonel – “Lifetime” (@Cons_Stadium_Studio / 2021)

Smooth, soulful Len-produced track lifted from UK emcee Cons’ forthcoming album “B.A.D.A.”.

New Joint – Cons

Cons – “Mobb Flix” (@VisualsByZeus / 20201)

London-based emcee Cons (aka Conspicuous) pays homage to some cinematic classics on this Apollo-produced single from his forthcoming fifth album “B.A.D.A.”.

New Joint – Conspicuous

cons dilla tribute pic

Conspicuous – “J Dilla Tribute” (@ConsOEM / 2014)

UK emcee and Colony member Cons remembers the late, great Dilla on the eighth anniversary of his passing.

New Joint – The Colony

the colony cover

The Colony – “The Same” (@TheColonyOEM / 2014)

The UK collective unleash some unreleased flavour from the vaults featuring the lyrical talents of Sir Smurf Lil’, Cons and Cobane.

81 June 6 Album Download – Conspicuous

Conspicuous_81_June_6-front-large

Veteran UK emcee and Colony member Conspicuous celebrates his birthday with the free release of this self-produced fourth solo album – full of honest, reflective rhymes and soulful, head-nodding production the album also features appearances from Tony D, Seanie T, Grimlok and more – download here.

New Joint – Conspicuous

Conspicuous – “All I Care About” (@ConsJuneBug / 2013)

Self-produced track from the UK emcee’s forthcoming album “81 June 6” which will feature The Colony, Seanie T, Reveal and more.

New Joint – Cons / Spoonface

Cons ft. Spoonface – “Clarity” (Ottomanelfmusic / 2011)

Some hypnotic synth business from the UK emcee’s recent album “June Bug”.

 

New Joint – Daff

Daff – “Only Just Begun” (Ottomanelfmusic / 2011)

Produced by Cons and taken from the UK emcee’s forthcoming mix-CD due for release in October.

Old To The New Q&A – Cons

Originally entering the UK Hip-Hop scene under the moniker Conspicuous The Coroner, this charismatic Turkish emcee quickly gained attention through his work with London-based crew The Colony (which also counted Grimlok, Willo Wispa and Sir Smurf Lil’ as members).  After establishing his name as one to watch, Cons set to work on a number of well-received back-to-back solo albums including 2005’s “Backgammon” and his collaboration with talented UK producer Evil Ed entitled “The Get Together”.

Known for dropping personal, heartfelt rhymes over soulful, sample-based beats, Cons recently returned after something of a brief musical hiatus with his latest album “June Bug” (which also includes the many remixes of 2010’s nostalgia anthem “I’m So 90s” – Onyx fans take note).

Here, Cons discusses his early days in the rap game, not seeing eye-to-eye with beatbox extraordinaire Rahzel during a visit to NYC and some of his favourite 90s memories.

For those reading this who might not already be familiar with your music just give a brief breakdown of your early days and previous projects…

“I started rhyming seriously around 1998. My next door neighbour had a studio and would be playing music at all times so to keep my dad sweet he said said that I could go over there to record. One night he was sorting out some video work for Homegrown and asked if I wanted to go along. I remember it was Christmas 1999. I went along with him and it seemed like anybody who was anybody at the time was there like Reveal, Jehst, SkinnyMan, Rodney P, Skeme, 12 Stone, Manage, a bunch of people. Apollo was hosting and I think DJ AM was on the decks. I remember Apollo was telling people getting up to rhyme that if you spat with an American accent then don’t bother taking the mic. At the time I spat with an American accent (laughs) and that was the night I changed my style up so that I rhymed with my natural accent. That night it seemed like I met everyone and that was when I really started to take it more seriously. I met Grimlock and Smurf Lil’ through Homegrown and that was when we came together to form The Colony and put out our first 12” in 2002 which got single of the month in Hip-Hop Connection magazine. From there I started releasing some solo stuff and mixing with people like Lewis Parker and Outdaville. I put out my first solo album in 2005 which was “Backgammon” and then LG from Sit Tight Records got in touch and said he wanted to work on something together. At the same time I was also working on what would be the “Get Together” album with Evil Ed. But the “Family Photo Album” came out first on Sit Tight, then the Evil Ed album and then we did a Colony mixtape. After that though I had to pack up my studio because I had a daugther so we needed the space. So for three years I didn’t have a permanent place to record, I was just working at other people’s places. But at the beginning of this year I set up my own studio again, picked what I thought were some of the best tracks I’d done previously and re-recorded them to put out “June Bug” this year.”

The Colony made something of a splash in NYC during the early-to-mid Noughties working with the Stronghold crew  – what was that like?

“We went to New York for a shopping holiday (laughs). That’s all it was originally. We went to New York on a shopping trip and obviously I’d heard about Fat Beats so I wanted to see what that was all about. I went to Fat Beats and met an emcee called L.I.F.E. Long who was part of the whole Stronghold collective with Poison Pen, Immortal Technique and all those guys and he was really cool. But there were some funny stories that happened during that first New York trip. At the time I was a massive Thirstin Howl fan and I’d got a CD with a number on the back of it. Smurf had gone out that day and taken the video camera so it was just me and Propaganda (extended Colony fam) and we decided to call the number to see what would happen. We called the number and Thirstin picked up! I told him we were from Channel 4 in England and wanted to do a quick interview with him (laughs). I thought he was just going to say no but he said ‘Okay, I’ll expect you in two hours.’ We didn’t know what we were going to do (laughs). An hour goes past and Smurf’s still not back with the camera. Literally forty-five minutes before we were due to meet Thirstin we see Smurf walking back with the camera. We literally just grabbed him and told him we were going to Brooklyn (laughs). Smurf thought we were joking the whole ride on the train and still didn’t believe us until we got there and Thirstin opened the door (laughs). I’ve still got that footage but we really did just have to wing the interview though. But he told us a whole bunch of stuff like how he battled Jay-Z back in the day.”

That footage would be YouTube gold now…

“Yeah, I really need to dig that out (laughs). Now, the second time we went to Fat Beats there was a cipher outside with Sunz Of Man, dead prez, Questlove, L.I.F.E. Long and Razhel. No word of a lie, Rahzel was just straight up rude to us. We had copies of our Colony 12” on us to give out to people. So I walked up to Rahzel, introduced myself and offered him a copy of the single. He said, “I don’t have any decks.” So I said that maybe he could take it and give it to a deejay he might know. He said, “I’m Rahzel. I don’t need a deejay, I’ve got my mouth!” So anyway, we’re outside rhyming in the cipher and Rahzel is making these funny noises every time one of us is rhyming. So L.I.F.E. Long had to go over to him and have a word because he was only doing it to us UK emcees (laughs). It was funny.”

There definitely seemed to be a strong Colony / Stronghold bond for a minute though…

“When we came back to the UK L.I.F.E. Long stayed in touch and then the second time we went out there we recorded some material together and he suggested we did a Colony / Stronghold mixtape. We performed at End Of The Weak while we were out there and I gave a copy of the “Backgammon” CD to DJ Metaphysics who produced a lot of Immortal Technique’s early material and also did “Hell Yeah” for dead prez. The day before I was due to leave he messaged me saying that he had studio time booked with a whole bunch of artists and that I should come through. But by the time of the session I was due to be on a plane back to England. So we stayed in touch and the next year I went back to the States and he took me to the studio and we recorded some tracks. He was saying we should go and live in New York for six months and he could it make it happen for us. But that was something I just couldn’t do at the time. For the record though, Metaphysics passed away recently in a car crash so I just want to say a big rest in peace and send a big shoutout to him as he was one of the people in New York that really looked out for us and held us down properly. In general though, the response we got in New York was good. Obviously some people over there would say that we sounded funny but that was to be expected (laughs).”

Do you think making those Stateside connections actually gave you more a buzz here in the UK at the time?

“I think it did because at the time not many people were doing those sort of Stateside collaborations. Jehst had worked with J-Zone and there was the odd thing here and there but no-one had really come together at that time as a crew. During that period, they were the US Colony and we were the UK Stronghold. When we were all together it wasn’t just straight business and about making the music, we hung-out, we joked together, we talked about life, we were friends. But I think people definitely took more notice of us over here in the UK once we made those connections.”

Your solo material has always stood out for me because you’re not afraid to dig into your personal life for your subject matter – was that something you consciously decided to do to separate your own music from the more battle-orientated rhymes The Colony were known for?

“To be honest with you, I’ve just got a big mouth (laughs). To me music is all about expression. Battle rapping was something that everyone was doing when I started rhyming, but to be honest I’ve never been that comfortable doing it, expecially not in a crew like The Colony that contained emcees like Willo and Grimlok who were so good at it. I mean I could drop battle rhymes, but I never felt like it was my strong point so I just decided I wanted to make music that really showed people who I was as a person which was really the motivation behind recording “Backgammon”. Regardless of how much it sold, I do feel like “Backgammon” was something of a turning point in our scene in terms of the old soul samples I was using and the concepts throughout the album. I could hear the influence of that album in some of the material that bigger UK artists started making afterwards. But at the time, in 2005, I don’t think anyone in the UK scene was doing what I did on “Backgammon”. I’m not saying that what I did on that album was entirely new but I don’t think it had been done in the UK as a complete package. Personally, I feel you should be honest in your music. I think the word ‘real’ has been bastardised because nowadays for people to consider you ‘real’ you have to show how supposedly gangsta you are. That’s what the word ‘real’ means to a lot of people right now. You could be an Oxford graduate with nine PhDs and all you rhyme about is physics, but if you’re tight with the way you spit those rhymes then what’s not real about it? So both listeners and artists are getting the meaning of being truthful and real mixed up. I’m just me in my music and I’m just an average joe and a lot of time hearing people talk about real experiences is more interesting than listening to someone talk about what they think they should be saying to be considered real.”

You came up during a period when there was still a very active Hip-Hop scene in London – do you think that scene still exists today?

“It does and it doesn’t. The Hip-Hop scene that I came up in revolved around Lewis Parker, Jehst, Blak Twang, Seanie T, Task Force, SkinnyMan, Mud Fam and that circle of artists. You’d go to a jam in Camden and all the same people are there. You’d go to a jam in Ladbroke Grove and all the same people are there. It was the same group of people that you’d see at nearly every jam and everyone knew each other. I still think that scene exists to a certain extent because when you go to some shows you’ll still see some of the people from those circles there but overall it has become fragmented. Back when I was starting out you had to pay dues and go through certain avenues like performing at a Homegrown or a Battlescars to gain your respect and for people to start mentioning your name. Now you can come straight out of your bedroom or battle people on YouTube (laughs). We didn’t have that back then. The Internet has definitely brought with it a higher level of awareness of artists because you never know who’s looking and listening to your stuff.”

Which brings us nicely to the point of Onyx recently releasing a track called “I’m So 90s” a year after your own track and series of remixes under the same title – pure coincidence?

“I’m not saying that they bit me in any way shape or form, but even if they weren’t aware of me when they made their version, when they put their track on YouTube and typed in “I’m So 90s” they would’ve seen my music come up. So whether they were aware of Cons beforehand, I now know that Sticky Fingaz and Fredro Starr, two emcees I grew-up listening to, are aware of me now. They have to be. Whether they’ve listened to my music or not is another question, but they are at least aware that there’s a UK artist out there called Cons who’d already done a track called “I’m So 90s”. Now, fifteen years ago, before everyone was on the Internet, that situation would never have happened. How could an underground artist such as myself have made themselves known to a group like Onyx? It would have been very hard. But now with the Internet you just never know who’s going to come across your music while they’re online. Also, going back to your earlier question about the UK scene, I think the Internet has united the underground scene as a whole, so now it’s not necessarily about a UK underground scene, an American underground scene and the similar scenes from other countries, the Internet has helped merge them all together because of people being able to communicate so freely, so now there’s a global underground scene which is how I think it’s supposed to be.”

So what did the 90s mean to you when you look back on them now?

“To me the 90s was just all about discovering new music and artists coming out trying different things and wanting to bring something new to the table. It was all about watching “The Box” and waiting to see those underground Hip-Hop videos that would get played on there. Talking to your friends about what had been shown on “Rap City” the day before. Listening to Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” for the first time really low so my parents wouldn’t hear the swearing. Laughing at the jokes in the “House Party” movies (laughs). Watching 2Pac in “Juice” and Ice Cube in “Boyz N The Hood” and “Friday”.  Those are good memories. In the 90s, black American culture wasn’t as widespread in the UK as it is today. Hip-Hop culture hadn’t blown up like it has now and really it was only just starting to blow-up in the States in the 90s. So for me that period was really all about discovering the music and the culture because it wasn’t everywhere to be found like it is today. You really had to look for it back then which made it seem more special.”

The “June Bug” album seems to have been received well since its release a couple of months ago so what’s next on the agenda for Cons?

“This next project that I’m looking to put out might be my final album. Since “June Bug” came out I’ve recorded another ten tracks for this next album. I’m going to keep recording until December and then take a look at what I’ve recorded and put the album together from that. With this next project I want to really push the boundaries musically and incorporate a lot of live instrumentation alongside the sample-based production that people already know I like to use. I’m really competing with myself on this new project because I want to outdo every other album I’ve put out and the only way I can feel I can do that is to try something new. As it could be my last solo album I also want to document the whole process so that people can really see what goes into my music. So watch this space.”

Ryan Proctor

The album “June Bug” is out now on CD and digital download through Ottomanelfmusic.

 

New Joint – Conspicuous The Coroner

Cons ft. Kyza, Skillit & Shameless – “I’m So 90s – Remix 1” (Ottomanelfmusic / 2010)

The first of four remixes for Cons’ 90s tribute.