Tag Archives: TPS Fam

Album Review – Jack Diggs

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Jack Diggs

“Blue Rain”

(Revorg Records)

When A Tribe Called Quest coined the phrase “Beats, Rhymes & Life” for the title of their fourth album, the crew from Queens, NY succinctly summed-up the essential ingredients needed to create timeless, memorable Hip-Hop that goes beyond just being music to nod your head to.

Of course, dope beats and witty rhymes can always be enough for an artist to make their mark, but in order to truly connect with a listener in a way that feels personal and genuine, an artist also has to let us into their world by sharing thoughts, hopes and disappointments in their verses. Something which talented UK producer-on-the-mic Jack Diggs seems to understand completely.

Having already become something of a cult figure within UK Hip-Hop circles thanks to both his solo work (2013’s impressive “Dirty Finger Nails” album) and contributions to the output of South London’s TPS Fam, Diggs’ latest long-player is a sublime slice of homegrown excellence which sounds effortless in its execution, but was no doubt painstakingly put together with attention paid to every sonic detail, both lyrically and in terms of the project’s production (which was handled entirely by Diggs himself).

Displaying a writing style that is brutally honest yet intelligent and insightful, Jack brilliantly captures the British working-class experience throughout “Blue Rain”, delving into both politics and social commentary whilst also offering a view into his own experiences.

Frustrated and struggling to find his place in today’s capitalist society, yet hopeful that time may bring a change for the better, Diggs represents many UK residents also looking to make sense of what they see happening around them, with the forthright lyricist making his position very clear on the opening “Dopamine”.

Over punchy drums and sweeping, melancholy strings, Diggs describes being “outside Number 10 kicking down the front door” before highlighting the ongoing class war in England and his own battle with the concept of national pride (“British and proud? I’m British and ashamed, A land filled with wealth generated by the slave trade…”).

The mournful guitar sample and echoing drums of “City Drive” conjure up images of cold, winter nights, whilst the thick, jazzy bass of “I Know” provides a solid platform for Diggs and fellow Revorg representative Big Toast to offer some uncompromising-yet-motivational words of wisdom to anyone chasing a goal (“Life ain’t magic and dreams don’t just happen…).”

Highlighting Jack’s passion for the spray-can, the “Style Wars”-sampling “This Is It” is a piano-laced instrumental dedication to graff-heads everywhere, which is followed by the soothing vibes of the album’s hypnotic title track, with Diggs being joined by Mnsr Frites, Archetype and Luca Brazi, who each make their own poignant lyrical contributions.

The sombre “Glass Home” is another immediate standout, with the emcee commenting on our collective pursuit of happiness, and how the pressures of the daily grind can often take us down a different path, leading to a thirst for instant gratification, heavy reliance on validation via social media and the constant need to impress those around us.

Although steeped in an obvious appreciation of dusty-fingered 90s boom-bap, Diggs’ own production finds the UK crate-digger doing much more than just simply trying to emulate his favourite Premier or Pete Rock track.

The beats heard on “Blue Rain”, as with the TPS member’s previous work, have a real organic depth to them, with Diggs once again displaying a finely-tuned ear for an atmospheric sample, allowing him to consistently match his rhymes to the most suitable beat in terms of mood and tone.

More than just a collection of quality tracks, “Blue Rain” is a cohesive, well-crafted body of work that offers listeners a striking, down-to-earth musical snapshot of life for many in today’s modern Britain.

Jack Diggs for Prime Minister?!

Ryan Proctor

New Joint – Jack Diggs

Jack Diggs – “Never Let Me” (@RevorgRecords / 2015)

Atmospheric, moody beats and rhymes from the talented producer-on-the-mic’s forthcoming album “Blue Rain”.

New Joint – Big Toast

Big Toast – “Sell Units” (@BigToastTPS / 2015)

The TPS Fam member aims shots at all things wack over heavy-duty 2Late beats off his recent project “The Wedding Fund LP”.

New Joint – Big Toast

Big Toast – “Departing” (@RevorgRecords / 2015)

Jack Diggs delivers moody production on this track from Toast’s quality new album, “The Wedding Fund LP”.

New Joint – Big Toast / Jack Diggs / Datkid / Strange Neighbour

Big Toast ft. Jack Diggs, Datkid & Strange Neighbour – “F#@$ Off Tarquin” (@BigToastTPS / 2015)

The TPS Fam member blends humour with social commentary on this BadHabitz-produced track off his forthcoming Revorg Records project “The Wedding Funds LP”.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2014 (Part One) – TPS Fam / Starvin B / Ghostface Killah etc.

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It can’t be denied that 2014 was a great year for quality Hip-Hop. When I initially sat down to start putting together Old To The New’s annual 52 Best Albums & EPs list, it soon became clear that staying with that format would mean having to leave out a large amount of releases that I’ve had in heavy rotation over the last twelve months.

Another reason for wanting to highlight just how many worthwhile albums and EPs dropped in 2014 was to prove a point to those who still insist there just isn’t a notable amount of good music being released today. There are still plenty of talented emcees, deejays and producers across the globe who’re busy in their respective labs, meticulously crafting beats and rhymes in the hope that those of us who say we’re looking for high-standard Hip-Hop will take the time to listen.

As always, by no means am I presenting this as the definitive list of 2014 releases. In today’s internet-era, it’s impossible for anyone to say they’ve heard everything that’s worth listening to. No matter how much time you spend online listening to music, there will always be a dope project out there from someone, somewhere on Planet Rock that you won’t yet have heard of. The search is never-ending.

So, with all that being said, here are the albums and EPs that kept my head nodding throughout 2014…

TPS Fam – “Hot Water Music” (Revorg Records) – Finding creative inspiration in the mundane aspects of the daily grind, Jack Diggs, Big Toast and Strange Neighbour crafted a brilliant, sample-driven soundtrack for the working-class Hip-Hop fan. Balancing dreams and aspirations with day-jobs and overdue bills, the UK trio delivered down-to-earth rhymes with passion and sincerity, encouraging us all to make every day count whilst promoting their motto of “living like kings on a tight budget.”

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Starvin B – “Blood From A Stone” (Goblin Music) – The first of two projects released by the talented Queens, NY resident in 2014, the One-Take-produced “Blood From A Stone” showcased the Rotten Apple rhymer as being a true student of the lyrical arts. Packing his vivid verses with gritty imagery, raw humour and witty wordplay, Starvin B let his personality shine throughout this project, with the likes of Spit Gemz, Tragedy Khadafi and Foul Monday on-hand to fill some well-placed guest spots.

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Ray West & OC – “Ray’s Cafe” (RedApples45) – Proving that true talent really is timeless, two decades after the release of his classic debut album “Word…Life”, Diggin’ In The Crates legend OC teamed-up with Bronx producer Ray West to serve hungry Hip-Hop customers with this appetising platter of flawless lyricism and warm, soulful production. What’s next on the menu?

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Stu Bangas & Blacastan – “Watson & Holmes” (Brutal Music) – Joining forces with producer Stu Bangas, Connecticut emcee Blacastan retained his reputation as one of the rap game’s most consistent artists with the release of this abrasive, hard-hitting album. Backed by Stu’s cinematic, drama-laced beats, the AOTP member delivered his usual high standard of raw rhyming, with brothers-in-arms Esoteric, Vinnie Paz and Apathy each taking a turn to help crush the competition.

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String Theory – “String Theory” (Mic Theory Records) – Breaking the periodic table of poetry down to its very last compound, Florida’s Hex One (of the duo Epidemic) and Swiss producer B.B.Z. Darney came together to “swallow planets and freeze suns”, combining inter-dimensional mic techniques with rocket-fuelled boom-bap beats as they pondered both the laws of the universe and the art of rap.

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DJ JS-1 – “It Is What It Isn’t” (Ground Original) – Veteran NY turntablist and long-standing Rock Steady Crew member JS-1 enlisted the help of a lengthy list of talented lyricists for his fourth collection of underground science. From golden-era icons such as Sadat X, KRS-One and X-Clan’s Brother J, to more recently established wordsmiths like Spit Gemz, Fashawn and Rasheed Chappell, “It Is What It Isn’t” effectively bridged the gap between the old and the new with impressive results.

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Union Blak – “Union Blak Friday” (Effiscienz) – US-born emcee Kimba and UK beatsmith Sir Williams joined forces with France’s Effiscienz label to deliver a solid, succinct debut album. Demonstrating their shared passion for Hip-Hop with positive, upbeat rhymes and melodic production, the duo made it clear throughout “Union Blak Friday” that their aim is to add on to the culture rather than simply take from it.

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J-Live – “Around The Sun” (Mortier Music) – There may not be anything new under the sun, but there’s still plenty of quality music to be found. Case in point, veteran NY-raised, ATL-based emcee J-Live’s seventh album release, which found the accomplished wordsmith delivering the clever, intelligent lyricism fans have come to rely on him for over production from Oddisee, Audible Doctor and DJ Spinna.

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Souls Of Mischief / Adrian Younge – “There Is Only Now” (Linear Labs) – A concept album set in 1994 involving jealous emcees, kidnapping and revenge, “There Is Only Now” found the Souls Of Mischief members weaving intricate, story-telling rhymes around the live, drum-heavy musicianship of the talented Adrian Younge, resulting in an epic Hip-Hop tale  which contained more drama than an episode of “The Wire”.

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Es – “Aspire To Inspire” (Essenchill Records) – Inviting everyone along on his quest for self-improvement, Canadian emcee Es’s second full-length project lived up to its lofty title in no uncertain terms. Packed with full-bodied production and uplifting rhymes about everything from fatherhood and relationships to self-worth and striving to maintain a positive mental attitude, it was near impossible to play this album and not feel better about life whilst listening.

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Skyzoo & Torae – “Barrel Brothers” (First Generation Rich / Internal Affairs) – Self-confessed “products of Albee Square Mall” and Brooklyn-based brothers-from-other-mothers, Skyzoo and Torae came together to create one of the best examples of pure emceeing you were likely to hear in 2014. With bold deliveries and painstakingly well-crafted verses, the two BK lyricists sparred with each other over heavyweight production from the likes of Illmind and DJ Premier, each proving why their place among NY’s long line of noteworthy mic controllers is well-deserved. No frills, just skills.

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Figub Brazlevic – “Train Yards” (FigubBrazlevic.BandCamp.Com) – Having already demonstrated his undeniable production skills via his work with the Man Of Booom crew, this instrumental EP release from Berlin’s Brazlevic blended head-nodding beats with jazzy samples and well-placed vocal snippets, creating a spell-binding project with plenty of musical depth and soul.

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Confidence Presents… – “Confidence Presents GDot & Born Featuring Edo.G” (Audible Con Records) – Building on his already strong reputation as one of today’s most consistent producers, the talented Confidence orchestrated this true-school gem of an album which bridged the gap between the Boston Hip-Hop scene’s past and present. Relative newcomers GDot & Born shared mic time with Beantown vet Edo.G throughout this project, with all three emcees delivering positive messages mixed with b-boy bravado over Confidence’s quality brand of crisp, boom-bap beats.

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Parallax – “Depth Perception” (ParallaxOfficialStore.BandCamp.Com) – The upcoming UK artist proved he’s as nice behind the boards as he is behind the microphone with the release of this succinct, largely self-produced EP. Utilising solid drums and dusty samples, Parallax waxed lyrical about a number of topics, dropping punchline-heavy food-for-thought on the state of Hip-Hop, media manipulation and the British justice system. Mental stamina, indeed.

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Prince Po & Oh No – “Animal Serum” (Wandering Worx / Green Streets Entertainment) – Staying true to his claim of “having a lotta jewels, but don’t gotta wear a chain”, Organized Konfusion’s Prince Po administered a new brand of musical medicine to the Hip-Hop faithful with the welcome assistance of West Coast producer Oh No. Tackling a number of modern-day issues with typically dense, multi-layered lyricism, Po succeeded in soothing the suffering of all free-thinkers who find themselves trapped inside the Matrix.

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Early Reed & J Scienide – “The Dose (The MFN Files)” (J-Scienide.BandCamp.Com) – Whilst putting the finishing touches to his own impressive 2014 releases, Low Budget’s Kev Brown found time to get behind this EP from his two fellow Washington D.C.-based crew members. With Reed demonstrating his mastery of the SP and Scienide proving himself to be a formidable talent on the mic, “The Dose (The MFN Files)” gave listeners a potent shot of pure Hip-Hop.

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Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – “Pinata” (Madlib Invazion) – Arguably the greatest mix of raw gangsta rhymes and dope breaks since Brad Jordan joined forces with the Rap-A-Lot production squad for his 1991 debut solo album, Gary, Indiana native Gibbs’ drawling delivery sounded right at home over Madlib’s range of random sample material, resulting in an album that covered a variety of moods, from the soothing and laidback to the dramatic and urgent. Witness the strength of street knowledge.

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Akrobatik – “Built To Last” (Playaktion Recordings) – Returning to the rap game after surviving emergency heart surgery in 2011, the title of Boston veteran Akrobatik’s third full-length solo album was as much a statement about enduring personal struggle as it was a comment on his forthright approach to his craft. Balancing content which covered his near-death experience, social commentary and Hip-Hop politics, Ak firmly stood up for his personal principles at a time when so many other artists are busy chasing trends and trying desperately to please the masses.

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Divine – “Ghetto Rhymin'” (Supreme Records) – Mixing Five Percent terminology with the influence of Rakim and a proud New York state of mind, Brooklyn’s Divine proved himself to be a true product of his environment on his latest project, taking it back to a time when Rotten Apple wordsmiths were more concerned with capturing the essence of the five boroughs in their music rather than allowing their sound to be shaped by outside forces.

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Ghostface Killah – “36 Seasons” (Tommy Boy Entertainment) – Fresh from 2013’s “Twelve Reasons To Die” collabo with Adrian Younge, the Wally Champ dove straight into another concept-based project with “36 Seasons”. Based around a story-line that was part 70s blaxploitation flick, part Marvel comic book territory, Ghost was joined by Brooklyn’s AZ and the legendary K00l G. Rap, weaving action-packed tales of love, drama and betrayal over the classic vintage soul thump of NY band The Revelations.

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Part Two coming soon.

New Joint – TPS Fam

TPS Fam – “Chainbreakers” (@RevorgRecords / 2014)

Gritty visuals from The Strange Neighbour, Jack Diggs and Big Toast off the UK crew’s brilliant album “Hot Water Music”.

The Music Of Revorg Records Mix Stream – DJ Getz

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Dope mix from Dephect Clothing’s DJ Getz pulling together a number of sure-shot bangers from the catalogue of South London’s Revorg imprint including cuts from Efeks, Jack Diggs, Mystro and many more.

New Joint – Ill Move Sporadic & Big Toast

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Ill Move Sporadic & Big Toast – “Wedding Fund” (@BigToastTPS / 2014)

Title track from the TPS Fam member’s forthcoming solo project.

New Joint – TPS Fam / Res / Phoenix Da Icefire / Gee Bag

TPS Fam ft. Res, Phoenix Da Icefire & Gee Bag – “Ruff Draft” (@RevorgRecords / 2014)

Ill lyrical tag-team business over rugged Strange Neighbour production from the UK crew’s recent album “Hot Water Music”.

New Joint – TPS Fam / Efeks

TPS Fam ft. Efeks – “Out Of This World” (@RevorgRecords / 2014)

Strange Neighbour-produced dopeness from the UK crew’s new album “Hot Water Music”.

New Joint – TPS Fam

TPS Fam – “Monday Blues” (Revorg Records / 2014)

Jack Diggs-produced track from the UK crew’s forthcoming album “Hot Water Music”.

New Joint – Big Toast

Big Toast – “Graveyard Shift” (Revorg Records / 2014)

The TPS Fam member balances day-job pressures with his creative tendencies on this dope Strange Neighbour-produced track.

Studio Session – Efeks / Jack Diggs / Oliver Sudden etc.

Studio freestyle session from the UK’s Revorg Records camp featuring Efeks, Jack Diggs, Oliver Sudden, Dowta and more.

Old To The New Q&A – Efeks

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If you’re a fan of quality UK Hip-Hop, then you’ll probably already be familiar with the name Efeks thanks to his work alongside production partner Steady Rock as the duo known as Prose.

Combining Steady’s true-school beats with Efeks’ punchy rhymes, the pair’s debut album “Force Of Habit” was released in 2010 on their own Boom Bap Professionals imprint, immediately gaining Prose a solid base of support which the twosome quickly built on with the 2011 full-length follow-up “The Dark Side Of The Boom”.

Now stepping out on his own, the South London lyricist recently completed his first solo album “Contemporary Classic”. Dropping on the Revorg Records label, the impressive project features production from the likes of Jack Diggs, Keith Lawrence and Prose’s own Steady Rock, with Efeks taking the opportunity to allow listeners a deeper look into his world, penning personal rhymes covering everything from fatherhood (“You Know That”) and relationship issues (“Can’t You See?”) to the struggles of being an underground artist (“Make It Real”).

Here, Efeks discusses his journey as an emcee, lyrical influences and the elements required for a classic album.

Over the last few years you’ve released a handful of albums and EPs alongside Steady Rock as Prose. Taking it back for a moment, when and how did you and Steady first get together and start making music?

“It was roughly towards the end of 2003, early 2004. We met through a mutual friend of ours, DJ Philly. I was doing a music course at a local community centre and Philly was there doing another course and we got talking and he found out that I was trying to make music. I was writing rhymes but I didn’t really have any producers to work with. Philly told me that his flatmate, Steady, made beats and that he thought we should meet up. It turned out that we lived really close to each other, so we met up and Steady gave me tons of beats to listen to. So, I started getting to work with those instrumentals and a friendship and partnership formed from that really. Everything with Prose really happened quite quickly, as a few years before that I’d been working with various other people but it never really materialised into anything. I’d become a little bit disenchanted with it all to be honest as a lot of the people I was working with didn’t really follow through with what they said they were going to do. So I had the intention of doing my own thing and had just brought an MPC as well to try and start making my own beats. So Steady came in at the right time and I never touched the MPC (laughs). I mean, when me and Steady first got together he gave me about four beat CDs and he really gave me a new lease of life at the time to be honest with you. We didn’t immediately call ourselves Prose or anything like that, we were just working on music, but it all came together quite naturally over the course of that first year and then we put out our “Wasted Talent” EP which was the first thing that we did.”

I remember seeing Prose performing at London’s Jazz Cafe in 2010 supporting Jedi Mind Tricks and it really struck me at the time what a great chemistry you and Steady seemed to have onstage…

“We had a good chemistry from the beginning. Most of our early tracks were the result of what were almost like jam sessions, really. We’d get together, have a few beers and then start recording late at night after we’d spent hours talking about Hip-Hop (laughs). It was fun really and we were both kinda finding our feet with regards to actually making music and learning as we were going along.”

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Taking it even further back, when did you first start rhyming?

“It was when I was in high-school. I was actually rummaging through some of my old stuff recently after moving house and came across an old school exercise book and it had a rhyme written in the back of it (laughs). So that was about 1993 or 1994. I was about fifteen-years-old when I actually first started writing rhymes and I’m coming-up thirty-five now so it’s been awhile (laughs). But I probably didn’t really start taking my writing seriously until I’d left school when I was about eighteen-years-old. Before then I didn’t really have my own identity as an emcee and was just drawing off the inspiration from the rappers I was listening to and looking up to at the time. I was studying them and really just taking bits and pieces from everyone. It took awhile before I was really comfortable in my own skin as an emcee.”

Would you say that you feeling more confident as an emcee coincided with you starting to work with Steady Rock as Prose?

“Yeah, probably. It didn’t necessarily happen right at the beginning of me and Steady getting together, but I definitely grew into myself as an artist and a better emcee along the way.”

Who were some of your biggest influences when you did first start putting pen to paper?

“I’d have to say LL Cool J. “Mama Said Knock You Out” was probably the first album that I really studied. I played that album endlessly. I’d also have to say CL Smooth, Treach from Naughty By Nature, Nas, there’s just so many (laughs). But I’d definitely say Nas and CL Smooth were two of my favourites from the early-90s. I mean, “Illmatic” is my favourite album of all-time and “Mecca And The Soul Brother” had a massive impact on me when I first heard it. I loved CL’s style with him being introspective but being so fresh with it as well. Guru was another big influence on me as well and Gang Starr in general. When I first started writing I would always envision how my music would actually sound when I did get the opportunity and I never used to write choruses as I always used to think that there would be cuts on the hook like a Gang Starr track (laughs). I always hoped that one day I’d meet someone like DJ Premier who would be able to do all the scratched choruses. I look back at my old rhymes books and they’re just full of verses with gaps where the chorus should be waiting to be filled with scratches (laughs).”

Were you doing any open-mic events at the time and trying to get yourself out there into the scene?

“I did eventually. I mean, I never really grew-up around other emcees. I had friends who were into Hip-Hop, but they weren’t into Hip-Hop like I was. They were listening to all types of music and I was really like that typical bedroom emcee who was just writing rhymes at home. There was nobody that I could cipher with or feed off of who was also doing it at the time same time because none of my friends were rapping. It wasn’t until I was in my early-twenties really that I built up the confidence to go out there and be in that sort of circle. Before that I kept it at home and didn’t really tell anyone that I was rapping or writing lyrics. I just really kept it to myself. Then, like I said, around my early-twenties I started entering some talent competitions and then the thing that really kicked it all off for me was when I won a competition on DJ 279’s radio show on Choice FM around 2000. He used to do this thing called “60 Seconds Of Fame” and you’d basically ring up and spit over the phone for a minute. You’d go up against someone else and the listeners would call up to say who they thought was the best. Then, if you won four weeks in a row, you got to go up on the show, do something live in the studio and have a little interview. Winning that was probably the catalyst for me to really start taking things seriously as I got some good feedback and a few producers hit me up after the show and I made a few demos that started circulating. 279 actually played a few of the tracks, but then after those demos I had nothing else to follow them up with. That was around the time I mentioned earlier where certain things that people were saying were going to happen weren’t happening and shortly after that is when I met Steady. So when we started as Prose it was almost like I was starting again. It was a brand new chapter for me, really.”

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So bringing it up-to-date, given the following that Prose have built in recent years, why decide to step away from the group to do a solo album at this particular point?

“To be honest, I’ve always wanted to do a solo album. It’s always been one of my lifetime goals to put out my own album, something that was completely from me from the start to the finish. If anything, it was like a challenge for me to step out of my comfort zone, step away from what I’ve been doing for the past eight years or so with Steady and do something different. Obviously it’s not completely different and I’ve still kept the same musical ethic that I’ve always had, but it has given me the opportunity to branch out and try some different things. I don’t make music to make a living, so it’s got to be enjoyable for me to do it. So if it gets to a point where I’m not enjoying it as much, then there’s really no point in me doing it. Music isn’t putting food on the table for me, it’s something I do purely for my own satisfaction. But as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to have my own solo album just to give me that sense of achievement and to test myself to see if I was capable of doing it. I really just wanted to prove a point to myself that I could step out of my comfort zone and put something together myself that I could be proud of. Hopefully I’ve achieved that, although that’s down to other people’s opinions really. But as a body of work, I’m definitely happy with “Contemporary Classic”.

How much of a different experience was it for you putting together “Contemporary Classic” as a solo artist compared to putting together the previous Prose projects as part of a duo?

“I mean, some of it was definitely unchartered waters for me. Like, when I’m doing stuff with Prose, Steady will take care of the music. So from the get go, the responsibility was on me with “Contemporary Classic” to take care of everything in terms of reaching out to producers, getting the artists together to collaborate on the album, everything really was more or less organised by me. But as far as the beats, I really just kinda kept it to people that I already knew. The album was very personal to me, so I just wanted to really work within a small circle of people, people that I knew or that I’d worked with before. I really just took a family approach to the album. I mean, Steady has some production on there as well. But as far as the lyrics, I’d already been writing some of the tracks before I even got any of the music in. I just decided to put them to the side and thought that when I got the album together that those rhymes would be going on the project, it was just a case of finding the right music to go with them. It was actually Jack Diggs who gave me the first beats for the album. I’ve known the TPS Fam guys for a long time and we used to bump heads at a lot of events in the scene, particularly the nights that happened around Croydon. I had a conversation with Jack and I told him that I was looking to put an album together and he sent me about five beats straight away. That was really when the fire was sparked for me and every single one of those beats Jack sent me made it to the album. The music he sent me just hit me straight away. Jack’s production is soulful, but it’s still boom-bap, and it just really inspired me to be able to speak on different topics which is what I was looking to do with this solo album. I mean, if I was going to do everything exactly the same way as I’d done before, then I’d just really be putting out a new Prose record and there’d be no point in me branching out to do a solo album. The whole reason behind me doing a solo album was to be able to do something different and show people another side of me as an artist.”

Given the personal nature of “Contemporary Classic”, did you feel that you couldn’t express some of your more introspective thoughts through the music you were making as Prose?

“I think it was a combination of different things, really. Being sent certain beats for “Contemporary Classic” led me to explore some different subject matter and get a little more personal. I mean, I do have some introspective stuff on the Prose albums, but we’re more about just straight-up Hip-Hop, really. It was never the case that I thought I couldn’t write more personal stuff for Prose, it just never really came to me at that time. With this album, everything just seemed to coincide in terms of certain things that I’ve been going through in life. Also, with this solo album, obviously I’m just purely speaking for myself on there, so I did feel that I had a little more licence to just do what I wanted to do. There was no compromise with “Contemporary Classic” and I just followed my heart on there.”

Listening to tracks like “Identity Crisis” and “You Know That” it’s clear that you’re very comfortable writing rhymes that really dig deep into your experiences and emotions. Considering the way you first started writing rhymes, very privately and not necessarily to share with people, do you think that has influenced your ability to write those more personal rhymes today?

“To be honest, I’ve never actually thought of it that way. But now that you’ve said it, that probably has had an influence on how I go about my writing and how I’m able to convey some of that more personal subject matter. In the beginning, writing was a very personal thing for me and I was writing for myself. To be honest, I’ve always been quite apprehensive about putting out more personal material because you’re giving away a part of yourself when you share music like that. There were times when I was working on “Contemporary Classic” when I did wonder whether I should put certain stuff out there or just keep it to myself, but I do feel comfortable writing those sort of rhymes. But that said, it is difficult for me to listen to certain tracks around other people. I’d rather I wasn’t there when other people are there listening to some of the stuff I did share on the album. The personal material is very therapeutic to write, but I do still feel a little uncomfortable being around people while they’re listening to it. It’s like having someone open up your diary and reading it in front of you (laughs). I mean, I love the bragging rhymes and the battle stuff because that’s an integral part of Hip-Hop, but I wanted this album to show that I was also able to do other things as well.”

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So given the title of the album, what do you look for in the music of other artists that would lead you to describe it as being ‘classic’?

“To me, it’s about something that’s gonna stand the test of time. That’s all I’ve always tried to do with my own music. But a classic album to me is something you can still listen to it in ten, twenty years time, and it still sounds as good as when you first heard it or perhaps even better. A classic album has to stand for something and really be able to make its mark. With “Contemporary Classic” I wasn’t trying to be conceited with it and say that everyone should think the album is a classic, it’s more about me paying homage to what’s come before me, blending the old with the new, saluting the past and creating an album in the present that mixes the contemporary with the classic in terms of how it sounds and feels. I know the title might get misinterpreted and people might think that I’m trying to say the album is an instant classic, but it was more about celebrating the past and doing something in the present that can hopefully stand the test of time like the music from the people that influenced me.”

Why do you think it is today that a lot of artists out there really don’t seem to be making music with that same stand-the-test-of-time approach?

“I think a lot of people making music today aren’t really bothered whether the music they make is still going to be listened to in years to come. Everyone just seems to be obsessed with what’s happening now. Today, there seems to be this instant gratification culture that everyone’s caught up in. I mean, it’s just my opinion, but I think a lot of people today are just making music for the moment. It seems like a lot of people today aren’t even that worried about their music being considered as disposable. There’s just no real substance behind what a lot of artists are doing and I don’t mean that in terms of their music not containing political messages or anything like that, I just mean that even the artists themselves don’t seem to have any genuine belief in what they’re doing and you just can’t feel any passion in it. With certain artists, I think they’re under the impression that there’s some sort of formula and as long as they follow that formula then they’ll get the kind of success that they’re looking for. I mean, if you’re willing to compromise everything about yourself to get that, then good luck to you, but I’d much rather maintain my integrity and put out music that I’m proud of and genuinely happy with.”

One of the tracks that really stood-out for me on the album was “Technophobe”. Is that an accurate description of your views on technology and, if so, how do you balance that with using the tools at your disposable to promote your music like Facebook, Twitter etc?

“I am kind of a technophobe to be honest (laughs). I mean, I’m also poking fun at myself on that track as well, but joking aside, as an independent artist you really have no choice now when it comes to working with computers, being online and getting into the whole social media thing. You just have to get on with it and I’ve done that begrudgingly and taught myself how to do certain things. I’m not great with computers and I don’t really have that much time for them. But today, if you want to do anything with your music, you’ve got to be online and using social media etc. So I’ve sort of begrudgingly embraced it really.”

Is the social media scene something you’re not a fan of purely because of the technical aspect of it, or is there a more specific reason why you don’t necessarily enjoy it?

“It’s just an element of the process that I don’t relish and I don’t really look forward to. I’m quite a humble person and I don’t really like being out there telling people, ‘You’ve got to check this out. This album is the greatest thing on earth.’ I would much rather just let people discover the music organically and if they like it, then they like it, rather than having to force it into people’s faces. But in this current climate where everybody else is doing it, if you’re not doing it, then you don’t really stand a chance when it comes to people giving any sort of time to your music. You’ve got to be seen to be out there and active on social media, promoting your material, connecting with the so-called right people, raising your profile. There’s an element of pretense to it which I don’t really like and people get caught up in who’s considered to be the most popular, who’s got the most views, who has the most followers. It’s seems to me that people are interested in everything but the music (laughs). As far as all that is concerned, it reaches a point where the fire goes out of my belly very quickly for that side of things. I just want to get on and make some more new music (laughs).”

UK legend MC Mell’O’ is featured on “Contemporary Classic” – was there a particular reason why you wanted him on the album?

“MC Mell’O’ is actually a personal friend of mine. When we first met it was actually through us both going to the same gym and it had nothing to do with music whatsoever (laughs). It was one of those things where you see someone and their face looks familiar but you can’t quite work out why (laughs). That’s how it was with Mell’O’. The first time I saw him in the gym I was like, ‘I know that guy from somewhere.’ Then I was speaking to some of the other guys in there and they were saying that MC Mell’O’ went to that particular gym and I was like, ‘That’s who it is!’ So me and Mell’O’ just started talking, became friends and then eventually he found out that I did music and he said that at some point it would be great to jump on a track together. So when I finally started putting the solo album together, I had the idea for the “Open Mic” track and wanted to do a real old-school posse track and thought it would be perfect to get Mell’O’ on there. It was an honour for me to get him on the album and was a great experience to get him in the studio. That was one of the other things with the album, I didn’t want the guest artists just sending me their verses by email. I wanted to get everybody that I possibly could into the studio to record in person so that it really felt like a proper collaboration.”

efeks pic 5

Given how much the game has changed over the last decade or so, what do you think is the biggest struggle that UK Hip-Hop artists still face in 2013?

“Speaking from a personal perspective, I think it still comes down to the level of exposure that artists are given. People are making good music, there’s definitely a market out there for it, but there’s still not enough people out there who’re hearing about what we’re doing. It’s difficult, because I’ve never been at that sort of level where I’ve ever had anything to do with ‘the industry’, so I can’t really talk from that perspective. But I would just like it if there were more outlets that let more people hear the music that artists here in the UK are making. Even though we’ve got the internet, there still seems to be less avenues in a way for underground artists to be heard by people outside of that audience.”

So you don’t think there’s really many outlets available to underground UK artists today that gives their music a chance to be heard outside of their own circles?

“There’s no real representation for the underground now on commercial radio like there was before. Taking 279 as an example, his show on Choice FM in London was a great platform for underground UK artists to have their music spun on the radio and played alongside major artists as well. That was a great outlet. But now that 279’s off the radio, there’s nothing really. I mean, for someone like me, my music isn’t going to be played by someone like a Charlie Sloth on 1Xtra. To be honest, off the top of my head, I can’t even think of any other deejays on normal radio here in the UK who have specialist Hip-Hop shows, other than maybe DJ MK and Shortee Blitz on Kiss who play a mixture of stuff. So I would say the biggest struggle faced by a lot of UK artists is that it’s still very difficult to get your music heard by people outside of the audience of listeners who would be looking for it anyway.”

Now “Contemporary Classic” has been released, what’s next for you?

“I’m not a hundred percent sure what the next move is to be honest, but I have got a few projects in the pipeline. The next thing that I’ll more than likely be doing is an EP with Jack Diggs that will be out on Revorg Records. Then, after that, I’m not really sure (laughs). I just feel that, at the moment, I’m in a great place musically, I’m happy with the people that I’m working with and I’m really just taking it one step at a time”

Ryan Proctor

Follow Efeks on Twitter – @SpecialEfeks 

Efeks ft. Manage & eMCeeKilla – “Every Move” (Revorg Records / 2013)

The Heisenberg EP Download – The Strange Neighbour / Oliver Sudden / Phoenix Da Icefire etc.

Heisenberg.Front_

Dope free EP from talented UK producer The Strange Neighbour featuring the likes of Efeks, Oliver Sudden and Jack Diggs dropping heavyweight rhymes over moody, melodic boom-bap – download here.

New Joint – Jack Diggs

Jack Diggs – “What’s Mine” (Revorg Records / 2013)

Strange Neighbour-produced track from the UK emcee’s new album “Dirty Finger Nails”.

New Joint – Jack Diggs

Jack Diggs – “Kill The Sound” (Revorg Records / 2013)

Taken from the TPS Fam producer-on-the-mic’s forthcoming album “Dirty Finger Nails”.

Crusts 2 Mixtape Download – Big Toast

One-third of UK crew TPS Fam drops this second solo mixtape project dedicated to nine-to-five grinders everywhere featuring Just P, Gramma K and Oliver Sudden with production from Jack Diggs, The Strange Neighbour and more – phone in sick to the day-job and then download here.