There surely can’t be a better duo than Strange U in the history of UK Hip Hop. To illustrate the point, King Kashmere and Dr Zygote have crafted a new album #LP4080 that is so utterly praiseworthy it’s had us rejoicing like a coked up gospel choir.
These days, you don’t expect great albums to come along too often. Great Hip Hop albums are as rare as trustworthy politicians, but this is one.
With an album title quoting Q-Tip’s concise condemnation of the music business, it’s surprising perhaps, that Strange U found a time and a place for this album at all. Thankfully the brilliant High Focus label and its D.I.Y attitude came knocking and this incredible work found a home.
#LP4080 is a pageant of blistering satire, endless fan-boy cryptograms and excoriating comedic bursts, set to a dystopian soundtrack of cervical spine ruining beats. It poignantly and acutely evokes the ugly unraveling of the U.K and the strange universe beyond its shores.
The lyrical brilliance and range on the album is remorseless, the imagination seemingly limitless. Kashmere switches effortlessly back and forth from the evocative horror of “severed head free-throws” to a mournful honesty that laments, “The faint light giving me hope is out of order.”
Although he sometimes approaches his writing with surrealist or absurdist flourishes, it’s shocking how normal his language and imagery feel when describing our times. Using the hyper-exaggerated nomenclature of B-movie horror, sci-fi and comic books just seems like a perfectly rational way to describe the atrocities unfolding around our megalomaniac leaders.
The guest MC’s on the album are brave and able. Cappo in particular contributes some excellent verses including a star turn on ‘Eden’s Husk.’
“The destruction of the planet – a matter of economics,
Things turning rapidly catastrophic,
Nobodies gonna stop if somebody stands to profit”
“Mr Kill Prime Ministerial candidate #1
Vote for me and I will knock down schools, libraries
and best of all…… hospitals”
It’s tempting to add Kashmere to the ranks of great British comedians as well as rappers, but this album is also kind-of-NOT funny. Much of the subject matter here is ‘if you don’t laugh you’ll cry’ material: looming environmental Armageddon, the machinations of despicable politicians, social disenfranchisement, addiction, mental health to name a few. It’s testament to the duo that the album doesn’t come off morose or hopeless, but much more full of energy and intent.
Zygote never puts a finger wrong. The beats here are diverse, intricate and when necessary, trance out and become unobtrusive. At all times they are in perfect synthesis with the mood of Kashmere’s poetics. In many places there is an ill Co-Flo’ feel to the crunch and textures. Album opener ‘Terminator Funk’ bubbles over like a mad scientist’s beaker. His emcee opens up in remorseless fashion, ridin a beat assembled out of destroyed cymbals, testicular-trembling kick drums and synth acidics. On ‘Bullet Proof Mustache’ the drums shuffle restlessly over an Oberheimian warble that sounds like The Tall Man’s theme tune re-imagined. As the outro switches the song on its head, it’s evident that the producer has beats to burn. You can hear time literally running out on the sensational loping-funk asteroid of ‘Hank Henshaw’:
“Multi-coloured skin wars
Fighting for a grim cause
Partying with the Grizwolds”
Like all the best albums, it’s impossible to really capture the wondrous essence of #LP4080. Safe to say it’s a grand idea to disengage from Spotify and order this for your physical realm. It needs many listens to fully appreciate the many levels of vocal and instrumental eloquence on show here.
1. Terminator Funk
2. Bullet Proof Mustache Feat. Lee Scott
4. Hanging Chads
5. Cimmerian Shade
7. Eden’s Husk Feat. Jehst
9. Hank Henshaw
10. Mr. Kill
12. Mumm Ra
13. The Technodrome
14. Illuminations Feat. Fliptrix
15. Waste Of Space
16. Zuul Feat. Cappo