Saturday 18 July 2009

DJ Rogue
'Self Harmony Volume One'
(Self-Released 2009)

Hip Hop has had a welcome resurgence in Bristol over the last two years, thanks in part to the rise in popularity of Dubstep in the city which has brought the sound back out of the doldrums and into the clubs again. A key factor in this reversal of fortune is the propensity of the city's artists to approximate the best elements of both genres and mould it into something new and distinctly adhered to Bristol. It's this willingness to extrapolate the elements in each sound that is forging new ground here away from the vagaries of fashion or trends in other cities - and will undoubtedly provide longevity for the community as a whole.

A case in point is the latest mixtape from Veterbrae's DJ Rogue. A key player in the local scene for some time now, Rogue is as comfortable perfecting hip hop beats as he is crafting heavy bassweight and dubstep low-end. All beats and cuts here are his own, and it seems fitting that a versatile producer and DJ like Rogue has selected a raft of MC talent that mirrors his own sonic dexterity to guest on the mix. A good chunk of the MCs involved in the project regularly spit over a variety of styles - the Central Spillz full crew who represent here are at the forefront of merging styles into something unique to the Bristol environment - and the confidence of this flexibility shines through on what is an intriguing document of this current state of musical evolution.

Se Fire's Mistafire opens proceedings as host with some cursory bars across the string-led intro and showcase scratching, and it quickly becomes apparent that the invention in the beats and samples threatens to overshadow the MCs. Stand-out bars come from Awkward who connects with the beat and flow perfectly, and Koast who's abilities seem to grow and grow with every recorded performance. Rogue's awareness of utilising samples to flip a beat on it's head is invigorating; suddenly what was a rumbling dubbed-out monster becomes a melancholy refrain thanks to the lilt of strings here or the smattering of keys there.

Thirteen MCs on a thirty minute mixtape might seem unlucky for some, but the overall creativity in the beats and bars will keep you coming back for repeated listens to digest the density of ideas present here; there's a real sense of a scene collectively reaching a new level of skill here - and whilst that level is not quite there yet, the seeds of that future sound are being sown here and now. "Big on the road like bus drivers" indeed.

DJ Rogue - Self Harmony Volume 1

Download: DJ Rogue - Self Harmony Volume 1