Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Misty Summer Streets

You don't need much to capture the beauty of an urban mist on a wet summer's evening. Perfect example here as Amy Louise seizes the moment with just an iPhone.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Top 5 - Underground Hip-hop Albums That Will Cleanse Your Soul

At UrbanSouth, we have mad love for hip-hop culture and its diverse offshoots and crossovers. Most mainstream hip-hop today, however, is void of any artistic expression; at best presenting a highly gloumorised version of those city streets. Rappers like lil' Wayne have tarnished a genre cultivated by the lyrical guises of Grandmaster Flash and poets of their era, 2 Pac and Biggie Smalls. These artists had something poignant and philosophical to say about the madness of the world, rather than the superficialties of today's movement.

It's not all doom and gloom out there at the moment though. These lame-brained verses only seem to feature in today's mainstream; so to find a more profound sound you must delve deeper to find the artists that have most resonance with you. For me, this sometimes means stripping back the vocals so that the instrumentals have more impact.

UrbanSouth have handpicked 5 of the best underground hip hop albums including some hip-hop classics aswell as atmospheric tracks to cleanse the soul.

RJD2 - Deadringer

Krohn mixing it up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Intricate display of samples combined with soothing melodies and understated beats, RJD2 showcases productions skills that can only be matched by the likes of DJ Shadow.

Parallels between the Shadow and RJD2 are clear to see but only in the way they use cut and paste sampling techniques. John Krohn, the face of RJD2 creates his own unique sound merging elements of soul, jazz, big band to create snippets of trip/hip-hop genius.

In fact, this album is so eclectic that it can't be categorised by one genre. Samples range from vocal slices from the Twilight Zone to theme clips from Scooby Doo. Songs may glide and fluctuate from one genre to another. From the hard hitting hip hop beats of Final Frontier to the more instrumental, chilled out vibes of Ghostwriter. Definitely worth a listen!

Del tha Funky Homosapien- Deltron 3030

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Del (aka Teren Delvon Jones) is the oddball cousin of infamous gangster rapper Ice Cube. In his time a key player in the main-stream movement, Ice Cube was pre-occupied with violence and street culture.

Del, on the other hand, cultivated his own musicality favouring a more jazzy, experimental sound. 

This sound was carved and shaped by the abstract turntablism of Kid Koala and the lo-fi atmospherics of Dan the Automator who both helped on the production and both feature as characters in the abstract narrative of Deltron 3030. A narrative that personifies the surreal but defiantly intellectual guises of Del tha Funky Homosapien.

The album itself represents the more arty side of hip-hop. Elaborate puns and encyclopaedic vocabulary merge with multiform instrumentals to form one of the best and underrated albums to come out of the new underground period. If you're listening to Del for the first time you may find his voice weirdly familiar, so to put you out of your misery before it starts, he has featured in several Gorrilaz tracks including the well-known Clint Eastwood.

Jurassic 5 - Self-Titled Album 

Living legends united
Diverse talents from the hip-hop underground joined forces in 1993 from two previous groups, Rebels of Rhythm and Unity Committee to form Jurassic 5. Charles Stewart (Chali 2na), Dante Givens (Akil), Courtenay Henderson (Zaakir), Marc Stuart (Mark 7even) all feature on the critically acclaimed debut album

At the time, the short old-school tracks were refreshing but can now be considered a masterstroke, guiding and shaping today's movement.

Aided by the production genius of industry giants Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark, the multi-layered instrumentals are submerged in history. References, allusions, resources- call them what you like- the often-obscure samples give the album an added dimension that sets it aside from the heavy lyricism of mainstream acts such as Public Enemy. One sample on the album is an instructional recording listing scientific terminology, another demonstrates the absurdity of playing Led Zeppelin next to Frank Sinatra. No doubt, the irony is intended here as the conflict is re-established later on, in the track "Lesson 6: The Lecture," where Sinatra is actually played over Zeppelin. Even more impressive is their incorporation of jazz fusion act Mahavishnu Orchestra and famous jazz trombonist Don Sebesky. The album really is a masterpiece. Injecting jazz-funk sensibilities into a edgy, raw turntablism sound, the album has the perfect balance between quality and experimentation. All in a slender 20 minutes of recording.

Atmosphere - When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold

Stoner Slug claims he smokes a pound of weed a year!
For me, this album is beyond sensational. 

With the dark urban story-telling delivered by Sean Daley (AKA, Slug) and the synthesizer-based production from DJ Anthony Davis, this album embodies the prevailing philosophies of the independent hip hop scene. Candid and honest, Minneapolis hip-hop duo Atmosphere are a far cry from those hip-hop superstars and their egomaniacal lyrics. They are the real deal -Combining dark and sometimes foreboding literary-infused vocals with sparse, chilled out beats, Atmosphere create a wholesome phonic experience without a single track worth skipping. 

The album itself is cleverly thought out, split into three acts, it explores: us, me and you. A perplexing tune named, You kicks off the second act which is followed by my personal favourite track on the album, titled 'Yesterday.' No doubt a deeply reflective and sombre song, Slug shares his distant memories of a lost relative. 

Hieroglyphics - Full Circle

Hieroglyphics, also known as Hieroglyphics Crew or Hiero, are a hip hop collective based in Oakland California. Combining the art of rapping with jazz sensibilities , Hieroglyphics have gained a hefty cult following from a world wide audience. In fact, all members have enjoyed successful solo careers- founder and long-term members, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Casual and the Souls of Mischief; artists that are worthy of a top 5 place in their own right. 

Full circle is the critically acclaimed second album from Hieroglyphics that had a lot to live up to after the freewheeling prowess of 1998 debut album, 3rd eye vision. 

Full circle surpasses all these expectations, offering a highly produced, jazzy imprint of different styles and genres. 

Whether it's the eclectic sampling in Classic, the futuristicpsychedelic rap of Heatish or the soothing R and B aesthetic of 'Make Your Move,' Hieroglyphics move beyond a free-styling group to a eight-man-strong collective with a distinctive but coherent sound and image.

UrbanSouth have ultimate respect for those hip-hop bands that treat their work like an art, meticulously producing their beats and creating multi dimensional lyrics. There were a few difficult decisions, but we hope all those included in our Top 5 Underground Hip Hop Albums cleanse your soul and, of course, buff your buddha. 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Soggy Saturday Session in Reading

Cold nights should be spent at home by a fire eating a Snickers bar with a warm cup of tea - not fumbling about with a camera and an umbrella! I, for one, support this sentiment but Amy Louise had other ideas on this dismal night.  

Luckily, we weren't getting too wet whilst taking this one. Under the IDR, the Oracle takes pride of place.
The tall, eerie-looking spire is the focal point of this photo, whilst the slick road reflects and distorts the flurry of colours emanating from town centre.  
Perfect timing. Red, amber and green all shine from the traffic lights in bizarre unity. 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Midnight Session in Caversham

Midnight beckoned as a chilly haze twisted the moon's rays. Amy Louise, armed with her camera and tripod, cruises the streets in her pursuit of that perfect picture. She's certainly come close to perfection with these two. Who would've thought Caversham could look so sexy under moonlight
The definition on this one is unbelievable considering how cloudy the night was. Mesmerizing lights, spellbinding reflections and industrial murmurs all captured as we overlooked Caversham Bridge on a bitter Thursday night.
Wispy, fast-moving clouds are set in unity with those motionless stars. A withering tree looks a solitary figure in the midst of  Winter's stern gaze. Stern and cold it may have been, but there's something intensely radiant shining from this photo.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Time for some obscure urban adventures courtesy of Devin Graham

Freedom is an ally in the weird world of unicycling. Blitzing around with one wheel, popping up ledges, mastering the rails in the city and conquering the wide-set roads in the hilly suburbs. On first glance these freestylists do not exactly look the most elegant, especially when riding on flat.  As they twist their bodies to balance and awkwardly hold the saddle between their legs to get air, they look distinctly gawky when compared to the fluid cadences cast by skateboarders. But as soon as they start bussin pirouettes and grinds, the beauty is there for all to see and oozes from every single spoke. 

Perfect vibes captured here as a peek unicyclist showcases his moves.

Unicycling reflects those eclectic urban rhythms, it matches the fractured city landscapes through its magical guises and enigmatic postures- who would've thought you could rule the streets with just half a bike!

Now, when you think of rope swings, your brain will, undoubtedly, supply some fond memories of days spent in woods, building hideouts and making fires. In those days, rope swings were modest enough- a scraggly bit of rope hung from a branch about 10 feet up with a mouldy stick as a seat. This would've been enough to cure any normal kid's lust for adrenaline.

Devin clearly wasn't a normal kid though. Taking those affectionate memories and injecting some FUCK into them. It might not be everyone’s conception of an urban sport but FUCK ME it looks like an intense experience.

Innovation and experimentation have always been at the heart of any urban sport. In a quest for adrenaline, you must take those urban structures and imprint your own imagination on them. The results will hopefully stimulate your senses. That's why Devin and his crew took it upon themselves to invent Trike Drifting. Again, he's taken something that soaked our youthful dreams and infused a dosage of FUCK into them. Fairplay to him!