Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Rodney P - The Future 2002 vinyl LP and related 12s (Low Life Records / Riddim Killa 2002)

The Future 2002 edition (limited to 100 white label vinyl test presses with full cover art) 

Around 15 years ago when I first started collecting records I remember hearing about the concept of a white label for the first time. They sounded exciting! As a collector what more could you want than some obscure promo release, pressed onto wax in low-numbers, often containing different tracks unavailable on the official release, coming direct from the label? A year or two later after picking up a few rarities in plain white sleeves and personally writing the name of the tunes on the label in my best, but inevitably inadequate graf-style writing I came up with the answer to this question... cover art! The problem was that a major part of my love for records was contained in the fantastic variation of artwork displayed on the 12" covers - for the most part white labels, by their very definition, didn't have this and my own badly executed marker pen scrawl just wasn't doing it for me! 

So that's why the Future 2002 edition does "do it for me" - it's the perfect package that checks all the boxes a record nerd could hope for and as such has all the ingredients to become a truly sort-after little number in the UK hip hop vinyl collecting world. The story goes that back in 2002 ex-London Posse member and general all round UK Hip Hop legend Rodney P was due to drop a new LP on his own Lowlife Records subsidiary-label Riddim Killa. Everything was in place, three quality singles had been dropped, the press releases were out, the album artwork finalised and 1000 finished CDs and 100 vinyl test-presses were back from the plant! Then... hip hop's curse, the same old story of sample clearing issues (rumoured to be centred around his use of the Bob Marley sample on Trouble) done fucked up the plans for everyone and left Low Life Records HQ with a small stack of wax they weren't allowed to shift.

Marks of UK rap quality
Cue a two-year wait before fiending heads could get their hands on a significantly altered version of the LP with new artwork, five fewer tunes overall and some significant changes to the tracklisting that left fans to wonder what they might have missed out on. Then in 2005 whilst being interviewed by HHC for a special Low Life issue, Braintax's right-hand-man, Kam dropped an in-print hint that no doubt made a few of Rodder's fans perk up. Whilst running through a list of ten Low Life rarities he mentioned the 2002 edition with the direction to - "check the Low Life website soon if you're interested".

The P stands for pissed!
I was interested, so I did check the Low Life website... obsessively... for about year... and had begun to lose faith when one metaphorically sunny day 100 copies went up for sale for the seriously bargain-basement price of ten quid each with the caveat that once they were gone they were gone and would never be repressed! Jackpot, but why didn't I buy two??? Collecting vinyl is so often full of regrets!!!

RKP 001 - the first release on Riddim Killa
But I am getting ahead of myself. For a full understanding of the crazy distribution of the tracks made by Rodney at this time I should start with a quick run through of the 12" singles released in the build up to the (non)release of his 2002 solo magnum opus. First up is Murderer Style - the first effort by the Riddim Killa/Low Life business partnership. The fact that this track was one of the casualties that was left off the 2004 edition of the Future LP is reason enough to own it but the addition of a flip-side - "Friction" featuring MCD - which is exclusive to the 12" makes it pretty much essential for Rodney P enthusiasts. Both tracks are pretty nice but for me it is the Joe Buhdah produced A-side that takes the bright red "1st place" rosette. (Murderer Style 12" - Track List and Credits)
Rodney P - Murderer Style

Rodney P feat. MCD - Friction

RKP002 - Big Tings We Inna 12"
Next came "Big Ting's We Inna" and once again the exclusive 12" tracks are present and in full effect. The title track itself never made it onto the 2002 edition of the LP but turned up in significantly altered form as Big Tings Again (featuring Rodney's favourite go-to guy MCD) on the 2004 edition of the LP with the same beat from The Sea. The second track on side A of the 12" is yet another track that didn't make the cut for the 2004 version. "Worldwide," produced by Joe Buhdah and featuring Skinnyman and Mr 45 did however make the original 2002 version of the LP and, as you would expect from such a line up, is straight up fire - especially Skinny's contribution on the second verse. And as if that wasn't enough, staying true to the Low Life remit of providing value for money on all their releases, things are rounded off nicely on the B-side with a lovely little Joe Buddah remix of "Murderer Style". (Big Tings We Inna 12" Track List and Credits)

Rodney P feat. Skinnyman and Mr 45 - Worldwide

RKP003 - Riddim Killa 12"
The final primer before the 2002 Issue was due to be released was the "Riddim Killa" 12". The A-side was produced by The Sea and got a dedicated video which you can check at the end of the article. The clue to the sound is in the title - Rodney P's roughneck vocals killing a ragga-hop riddim - probably my favourite track from the LP so it's no surprise it was left on both versions of The Future. The same cannot be said for "A Love Song" - which featured on the 2002 CD version of the LP but was absent from the 2002 vinyl pressing and the 2004 version of the album. Produced by Dobie it's Rodney in full-on positivity mode and is a little bit saccharine for my tastes - Ooooooh... You've got to love your life.... it's a blessing...oooooooohhh - one to put on that mixtape for your girl then? (Riddim Killa 12" Track List and Credits)

Rodney P - A Love Song

But "yeah yeah" I hear you cry - "we already have all those 12"s in our collection - you ain't telling us anything we don't know already"! Which I guess means that I should move on to the lost LP and pre-empt the question on everybody's lips... What exactly was on the 2002 version that was kept back from the world due to those pesky music industry ambulance chasers?

RKP 004 - The Future (2002 Issue)
First up and probably the best is Hip Hop Gangsta. It is the rare kind of new-school jammie that gets the old-school heads to dust off their wallets and part with mid-thirties-career-cash usually reserved for wax from the Thatcher decade. The tune is a remake of the 1986 Just Ice classic "Gangster of Hip Hop" featuring ex-London Posse member Sipho playing the part of Human DMX on the beat box. In recent times Rodney has probably embraced modern hip hop production trends too much to keep fans of his London Posse incarnation overly interested. This however, is a hark back to his roots, the reunion with Sipho only adding to that sense of 80s nostalgia.

Rodney P feat. Sipho - Hip Hop Gangsta

Cover Art by Dreadi
The second track to disappear into obscurity was "Consider". This is a different type of homage all together and see's Dobie lacing Rodders with a track that starts out sounding like it is going to be a sparce piano driven little number but quickly turns into a full on Do You Want More?!!!??! era Roots tribute complete with Jazz backing and "It's a Lazy Afternoon" hook. Somehow it works - by flipping back between what sounds like an off key harp sample, a couple of piano samples and the Lazy Afternoon hook, Dobie manages to keep the track both dark and ominous and light and fluffy whilst complimenting Rodneys vocals perfectly. The result is definitely one of the most interesting tracks on the LP in terms of production.

Rodney P - Consider

The Future 2004 edition Cover Art
The final missing track on the 2002 edition reunites Rodders with long-time collaborator Skitz who drops a beat that sounds like it came straight out of the Countryman offcuts. "Horror" features Fallacy, Big P and Skeme so there will be no surprises to find out that it is a straight up banger of a posse cut, nuff said!

Rodney P feat Big P, Skeme and Fallacy - Horror

The Future 2002 Edition tracklisting

The Future 2004 Label Art
In summary - I am not saying this LP is a classic or anything, just that it is a bona fide collectable - I tend to feel that Rodney P solo tunes are better digested one at a time rather than over the course of a full album. In my opinion the issue that he faces is that his voice is so naturally rowdy it is difficult for him achieve a variation in the tone of his tunes even if the lyrical content is varied. Every track ends up becoming a club-banger even when he is talking about deeper subject matter - which is all good but can get tiresome over the course of 20 tracks. But in many ways, that is what makes the 2002 edition so desirable - you don't need it for the tracks you already have on the 2004 edition - you need it for the three banging tracks unavailable anywhere else on wax.

The Future Videos
Rodney P - Riddim Killa (Official Video)

Rodney P - Trouble (Official Video)

Rodney P - The Nice Up (Official Video)