Here's a patchy retrospective of the last twelve months in the ickle world we call UK hiphop culture and rap music. Before you begin, please expect lots of things ignored, forgotten and cussed.
Everyone else is doing it so why shouldn't we? Okay, so this 2006 roundup isn't as great and extensive as Hiphop Connections, but then we didn't publish a really shit Ghostface Killah feature we need to make up for. Here it is.
Albums of the year
Sadly, there were no surprises on the LP front this year and the best albums that made the shelves are all by very well known artists. Braintax dropped his best work to date with great food for thought and sick production from start to finish, whilst label mate Jehst showed he's as serious a beatmaker as he is an MC. Terra Firma finally got their act together and showed how powerful they can be, whilst their now ex member Kyza dropped something that looks hard for K-Llash to top. Jammer's Neckle Camp crew put together one of the finest Grime CDs of all time whilst Skream waved the flag for Dubstep and livened things up, with Fruity Loops of all things!
Terra Firma 'The Foundation'
Neckle Camp 'Straight Necklin'
Kyza 'The Experience'
Jehst 'Underground Epics'
JME 'Boy Better Know' Vol.3/4
Kashmere 'In The Hour Of Caos'
Foreign Beggars 'Stray Point Agenda'
Nine High 'Take 2'
Whilst there's about a million new rappers every other day, few can seriously be considered as worthy of a mention on a fine website such as this, although we should shout out the likes of Manage, Sir Smurf Lil, Example and Professor Green. Whilst these are all familiar names to those in the know, they've only just put out their first records and they're all of a sick quality. Manage provided us with a heavy political vibe, Sir Smurf Lil gave us a break from the typical London accent we're so bored of hearing, Example showed us how to grow big hair styles and write tracks that aren't just about weed sacks and giro's, and Pro Green repped the UK in numerous international battle arena's and put out a very entertaining mix CD of high class personality.
Live Event Of The Year
There was once a time when Camden's Underworld stood as the unofficial home of UK hiphop, providing a stage for Kung Fu's monthly jam of impressive headliners, and great DJs like Harry and Sarah Love. Then there was a venue change and their calendar got a lot busier and less simple to follow and simply show up at the same spot once every 30 days. Enter Speaker's Corner, a regular and FREE jam consistently with the best names in UK hiphop.
Regardless of what year it is, Jammer's 'Murkle Man' video deserves a mention in all video categories until the end of time. That aside, Terra Firma managed to all get in the same room together for the enjoyable 'War', Sway put his various financial backers to good use with 'Products' and 'This Is My Demo', Ghost got all artistic with 'Seldom Seen Often Heard', and Fireworkz utilized the blue screen in great fashion with 'Hold It Down'.
Whilst there was nothing specifically wrong with Yungun and Mr Thing's 'Grown Man Business' product, many big YG fans (on the basis of his arguably classic 'The Essance') found something to be lacking on this not quite EP, not quite LP outing. Here's hoping that 'The Middleman' will put Essa back in his fan's good books and see him return to a more 'in your face' common man's touch he's so good at.
An album with tons of already previously released material and way too much hype was never going to create miracles, but for all the press attention and whoo har that initially surrounded Sway's 'This Is My Demo' debut album, it would have been great to see it do some serious damage in terms of sales and chart positions. But then it did generate the UK's greatest ever hiphop video, 'Products', so we can't be too fussy.
The biggest downer of the year had to be the human race's inability to see Plan B for the marketing department driven creation that he is. The album wasn't actually that bad, if the predictable teen angst of a part Rage Against The Machine, part Radiohead fan is you're kinda thing. You just gotta feel sorry for Ben's lungs, for all those cigarettes the PR agent made him puff at throughout countless photo shoots. Still, I guess it did look naughty and taboo at the time.
Lewis Parker provided a beat on two different Ghostface Killah albums this year and they sounded great, and very much in their depth alongside beats by US heavyweight producers. Fingers crossed he keeps the momentum up and follows up one of the few noticeable UK hiphop moves of the past…decade?
Three quarters of his 'Tunnel Vision' mix CD series might be utter shit, but Wiley's done very well for himself this year for someone who's got a reputation for being unreliable and very sporadic with his workload. Volume One was sick, and so is news that he's signed to a label with a great track record, Big Dada Recordings.
C-Mone's about the only UK female artist of any notable credibility and finally put out a debut album, 'Butterfly Effect' via Son Records. The beats were heavy, her flow and delivery always on point, and the production tight. It's just a shame few people heard it and the common perception is that Lady Sovereign and Shystie are all the UK have to offer on a fem tip.
The great Chester P provided one of the only exciting moments of the past year by making Wordsmith look like a silly girl on Kiss 100 by delivering a great response to Wordsmith's stupid diss record and also tapping the crackhead's phone. Frankly, the sooner Chester and Farma return, hopefully with something along the same lines as their 'You're Not Us' project with Rawdog, the better.
Baby J managed to get himself into every single magazine that was ever printed in the past twelve months which deserves some credit I guess. Lets hope he can put this same energy into tracking down Skinnyman and threatening to bite him with his iced out grills unless he collaborates on a follow up to 'Council Estate Of Mind'.
Memories Of The Future
The returns of Kano and Dizzee Rascal look set to remind us why Grime's so great, and ignite countless 'UK Hiphop is Dead' and 'Grime Is For Idiots' comments on internet forums, the last one probably by Evil Ed again. Tut tut. Should a record label have some sense, JME will get signed and seal off his incredible work ethic with a full blown album to conclude his Boy Better Know series. Likewise, if 'Japan' is anything to go by, producer Plastician will firmly establish himself as the UK's most important beat maker with his debut effort. And hell, perhaps Mark B will persuade Blade to stop hanging around with 17 year old Scots on the net and follow up 'The Unknown' (once he comes outta retirement again).
Whilst there's been some great records here and there, it's been a pretty standard year as far as traditional UK hiphop goes, whilst Grime has provided a few moments of energy and excitement to similarly sporadic degrees. It will be interesting to see how 2007 pans out. Will Klashnekoff finally deliver the album he's been talking up so strongly for the past four years, will Wordsmith get clean, will Tommy Evans make a bigger comeback than Take That and will Underground Alliance give us that long awaited sequel to 'Slags'? There's only one way to find out, so stay tuned.
Rapnews has given you over 107 interviews, and 200 reviews this past year, and has remained the definitive source for UK hiphop culture and music, covering the most established and unknown talents of the UK shores, free of pigeon hole prejudice. We hope you've enjoyed it, and will continue to… Lowlife and Zebra Traffic Records Podcast specials are on the way, as well as some big UK and US interviews, one with a guy who's been tipped to be the next big thing for the last four years. Here's a clue; His mate just blazes and he's got an Entourage…