Friday, 21 January 2011

Jehst, Cappo, Ricochet and Mystro Demos and More: Disorda Presents Mind the Gap Volume 1&2 (Suspect Packages 1998 & 1999)

Tapes are home to early demos from Jehst, Cappo, Mystro and Ricochet 

Okay so I am going to start this post with a statement of fact. Sometimes such statements can be controversial sometimes they can provoke intense debate and counter opinion - especially with regards to the UK Hip Hop scene and people's place within it. This statement is not like that. This statement is a statement that is simply an indisputable FACT. Here goes: Over the last 15 years no one man has contributed more to the UK hip hop scene than Disorda.

I will stop there - it's not yet time to go into details on this man, that story is for another time. Right now its time for a little focus on just one of his countless contributions to the scene - a contribution that many fans of some prominent UK names may not be aware of but should be grateful for nonetheless. This particular contribution goes by the name of Mind the Gap Volumes 1 and 2 - both of which are a compilation of demos that were given to Disorda by unsigned UK artists in the late 90s.

As you would expect from a cassette tape full of demos the sound quality ain't great, but fortunately this doesn't detract from the listening experience - in fact, in some ways it enhances it. Hearing the poorly mastered vocals, muffled base and hiss of the cassette is all part and parcel of what the project was... bedroom demos from hopeful amateur hip hoppers. For some of the artists a song on the tape was just the start of a career that would see the release of many more records, for others getting their track on Mind the Gap was the high point of their love affair with the music.

The magic of the tapes is in the tracklisting. Inconspicuously tucked away on side two of the first volume is a track by one of those artists who was destined to go on to bigger things. The dude's name was Jehst and the track "Focal Point Memoirs" might just be the earliest example of his music to become available to the buying public. Fans of Jehst nowadays will instantly recognise the voice but will be less familiar with the rapid delivery of his lyrics - this time being kicked with the thirst of an emcee with something to prove. Like all Jehst's early tracks it takes several plays and some close listening to hear and figure out the meaning in the lyrics, but whilst the production is definitely low budget, the poetry of Premonitions is certainly already in full effect even at this early stage in his recording career.

Universal Soldiers
Elsewhere on side one of the first Volume sits another cracking effort from one of the early 00s most underrated emcee's. Later to become one half of Universal Soldiers, Ricochet went on to use Mind the Gap as a springboard to hook up with Braintax. His artist page on Discogs puts it this way:.. "Screwface Assassin' (featured on Disorda's 'Mind the Gap' mix tape in 1998), gained recognition within the UK's rap fraternity and it was soon after this that his long-time friend Supa T introduced him to members of the Low Life Records crew. By early '99, Ricochet had made his first appearance for the label, dropping guest vocals on the title track of the Easter Island EP". The rest, they say, is history! 

As testament to the fact that Disorda had his finger firmly on the pulse there are countless other notable inclusions too. Contributions from the likes of Hoods Underground, Uncanny, Parlour Talk and K-Delight keep volume one banging from start to finish. And it don't stop there! Volume Two brings with it a very early appearance from Mystro - then one half of a duo going by the name of Genuine Article - and a Demo track from Notts finest emcee Cappo released before he had dropped any vinyl. Evil Ed pops up with a production effort on 'We Rule the World', Manage introduces himself with 'Self Titled' and Bristol stalwarts Sir Beanz OBE and Awkward drop 'Focus'.    

Guess who?
I caught up with Disorda over the wonders of electronic mail and asked him a few questions to put the tapes in context.

What made you do the Mind the Gap tapes?
Basically the same reason I'm still running Suspect Packages today, no-one was pushing the UK's Hip Hop scene and the artists who struggle to get heard. I had loads of demo tapes from artists and most of them we're worthy of being heard by the outside world, so I decided to do a compilation of all the best ones.

How were they different to the UK Hustlerz tapes?
They were all relatively unheard artists, people no-one really knew. And most of them had never had anthing out, it was all off tapes and dats, so no-one was hearing them. This was waaaaay before shit like myspace and youtube. So it was my way of getting these artists heard. I had the product and an outlet, so I used it. I got a good response to the UK Hustlerz tapes so thought i'd try it out, it was all material i'd been sent, and basically i used my own knowledge of what sounded good and what didn't, that was it really.

There are a number of artists featured that went on to become more prominent in the UK scene – Jehst, Ricochet, Hoodz Underground, Cappo and Mystro all stand out – had these guys had much out before this or was this tape literally their first experience of gaining national exposure?
I had demos from them all so yeah, I guess on a national and international level it was the first time some of them had been heard. A few had already, or were just about to release some vinyl though from what I remember, Chris Smoov & Prestige, Uncanny, Hearts Of Darkness, 3PM...

What are your favourite memories of compiling these tapes?
Collecting the finished copies, it took a lot of hard work and time to get it all together, it was a totally self funded grass roots d.i.y. business, and in some ways it still is! But getting the finished tapes and opening up the boxes seeing hundreds of them all together was a good sight, especially after all the graft that had gone into compiling it all and sorting all the artwork, liasing with the artists etc.

What 3 tracks are your favourites from these compilations and why?
Ricochet 'Screwface Assassin', still got his original demo tape, it's dope! Uncanny's 2 tracks, and also Jehst & Cappo's I remember as being pretty solid. That's four, sorry.... I'm also pretty fond of my track '2.20' on Vol.2 as it's got some good memories, the subject matter, recording it, etc...

How many did you sell?
You know what I can't remember how many I pressed at all, possibly 1000? Still got a few left, not many though.

The following tracks aren't downloadable but seeing as you can still get your hands on an original of both these tapes from the man Disorda himself for a measley four quid you shouldn't be too pissed. Hit him up on the contacts below to get one of the last of his copies. In the mean time - whilst your searching for a tape player to play them on - here's a few of those tunes. 
Enjoy, Postie

Mind the Gap Volume One cover - (click to enlarge)
Jehst: Focal Point Memoirs (1998 Pre-Premonitions Demo)
Ricochet (Universal Soldiers): Screwface Assassin (1998 Demo)

Mind the Gap Volume Two cover - (click to enlarge)
Disorda and Patterson - 2.20
Cappo: Emcee's Emcee (1999 Demo)
Genuine Article (Mystro) - Straight Spittin'

Suspect Packages Ltd.
'Backing British Beats since 1996'

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Blak Twang 1992 Debut on wax - Split Decision: "Jenifah" b/w "Come Gimme Ya Love"

Three years prior to Dettwork South East,
Blak Twang was in a group called Split Decision
This little number blew my mind when I found it in a random little Brighton record shop for two quid a year or two ago. Not because it's any good (it isn't, its dreadful), but because of what it was and what it taught me. At the time all my previous knowledge of Blak Twang was centred around the infamous album that wasn't and his time spent on the short-lived but fantastic Sound of Money imprint. In my ignorance I had thought that Tony Rotten had hibernated until he was 23 and then emerged as a fully formed rapping genius when he was ready to drop "What's Goin' On" in 1995. Not so it seems! 

Split Decision in effect!
In fact, as it turns out Twang, then going by his parentally given name Tony Olabode already had some useful experience of the mic booth thanks to his involvement in a dodgy UK incarnation of Bell Biv Devoe known as Split Decision a full three years prior to his 1995 S.O.M. efforts. The group consisted of long-time Twang collaborator Victor Redwood Sawyer (aka VRS who later went on to become the 2nd member of Blak Twang back when the name didn't just refer to Tony Rotton), Tony and a third member with the surname Hamilton who I can't find any further information on (any help appreciated). The trio found an avenue for their creativity on the Go For the Juggler label, also home to Demon Boyz and En4cers legend DJ Pogo and his group of the time - Party A La Mazon.

Side A (Main Street) - Jenifah
In their short time at the label they managed to put together one 12" release which consisted of two New Jack Swing-style tracks with VRS providing the "soul" and Twang and his unknown partner handling the rhymes. Whilst the end result ain't that pretty for someone who likes his beats hard and his rhymes tough, in fairness to Blak Twang - when it's his turn to rock the mic, there are some real glimpses of the talent that is a few years away from surfacing - albeit with an early 90s Naughty by Nature flow and just the slightest hint of an American accent that would probably make the UK rap legend cringe on a play back these days.

Side B (Back Street) - Come Gimme Ya Love
 Side A of this little piece of Hip Hop history, tellingly labeled as Main Street is undoubtedly an unashamed attempt at getting the group some radio play with a pretty sickly ode to "Jenifah", whom Twang and co apparently "can't get enough of"! It is mostly horrible but the beat change for Twang's rap is a welcome bonus when it finally kicks in.

The flip, labeled Back Street is a pretty unsuccessful attempt at something a little harder, prefering to open with the Twang and unknown partner's rhymes and mercifully give less of the mic to VRS. At times it sounds like it is about to get a bit darker and harder especially when the ragga-style "gimme ya love" chant kick in but unfortunately it never really does!

Tha Rottonous One!
But all said and done, whilst it is far from a classic, it definitely provides an insight into the formative years of a UK rap legend approaching 20 years in the game and still releasing good music. As any UK rap fan in their 30s knows only too well, longevity in UK hip hop is a very rare thing and it is testament to Twang that whilst many have come and gone, he has ridden out endless label issues, dropped a couple of stonewall classics and is still repping hard in 2011.

As far as collectability goes - this is really only one for the completists so don't go breaking the bank for it - five quid will do the trick if you want to buy one of the copies currently on discogs, less if you want to be patient and support your local hip hop friendly record shop!

Enjoy, Postie   

Split Decision (Blak Twang and VRS) - Side A: "Jenifah"

Split Decision (Blak Twang and VRS) - Side B: "Gimme Ya Love"