“Oh hi, is that hip hop? Yeah, hi mate, it’s been a while, but I thought I’d give you a call. It’s just that people are saying things haven’t been going so well for you lately. Yeah, I know, I thought that Kanye at Glastonbury was pretty good too, but it got a lot of people upset. I dunno why either – a lone black man rocking a festival? A hip-hop artist stepping out of the box and doing something different? Or was it just a lot of vocodered shite? And the whole Afrika Bambaata thing – I know, I know, they’re just allegations, for now. And KRS-1, the Blastmaster, saying that it didn’t matter if it was true or not, he was still an originator of hip hop. Yeah, he’s sort of right, of course, and I know that nobody suggested burning down Stoke Mandeville hospital when the Jimmy Savile stuff came to light, but still….”
That sort of sums up my relationship with hip hop over the last few of decades (I’m 46 now). For every 3 Feet High and Rising, every Jurassic 5, every The Low End Theory, there’s been some objectionable load of gangsta nonsense that’s ruined my love affair. And no, I don’t just listen to 30 year old records – I tried to love Run The Jewels, but it did nothing for me. But El-P’s “Cancer 4 Cure” – that’s a 21st century hip hop classic right there.
I like to check in every now and again and see where hip hop is at, and on the basis of this offering, it’s pretty much in rude health. This track first appeared on 2015’s “This Is Heavy”, which passed me by, much to my annoyance, as listening to it now, it’s basically the sound of my 20-something self finally managing to articulate what it was to be young, be obsessed with writing rhymes and beats, partying and telling a story. For rap to make a connection with me, it has to pass KRS-1’s definition of REAL – where Rhymes Equals Actual Life.
And “What Can You Bring Me” has this quality by the truckload. The delivery is earnest and unaffected, reminding me of Leeds’ late, great Braintax. This is the story of being a young, disaffected Brit, falling out of love, being trapped in a shitty McJob that you’ve paid £30k in university fees for. If that isn’t real, if that doesn’t articulate what it is to be a young person in the UK in 2016, then I don’t know what does. Of course, it’s not just about the rhymes. The track is fat, with a big ass-shaking bass leading the way for some crisp drums, wakka-wah guitars and uplifting brass. Then the chorus kicks in, the beats shift to a square four boom-boom-boom-boom, and it gets all soulful disco. Frankly, I love it. Love it to bits.
There are couple of remixes, notably from Ollie Teeba, who does that thing that he does to music – basically, adds some dynamics into the track, tightening the production up, giving more space on the verse, making the chorus a bit more stompy, making the whole thing a more dancefloor and DJ friendly. There’s also a guitar-driven remix by Credit To The Nation which does away with the funk, soul and hip hop aspects of the track and turns it into a slightly linear guitar chug-a-thon, broken up only with a ragga-tinted rap from Credit to the Nation’s MC Fusion towards the end. Not for me, I’m afraid, although I suspect I’m not the target market. There is a bit of irony in this remix, I guess, as on the Great Scott “This Is Heavy” album, one of the tracks has a line in a chorus that goes “I wanna dance but the DJ won’t play my song, so my night is filled with indie rock and Jagerbombs”.
I love this track.
WORDS BY ZAK AVERY Follow @zakavery
This year festival goers can see Great Scott at No Mans Land Festival (27-29 May), Glastonbury (27-29 June) and Shambala (25-28 August)