Preston & Hip Hop. Wait, what?! Exactly. Pairing them together is still not a straight-forward concept. Which is perfectly fine, because Razorrawks debut full length ‘Rip Eat Prescription’ is not a straight-forward Hip Hop album.
Both musically and lyrically, there is a definite progression since 2012’s ‘Preston City Blues EP’. I find the production to be tighter, with more depth and a bigger sound. Razorrawks has worked extremely hard on upping the ante on his production skills, and it pays dividends. Early comparisons were made with Jamie T, although this new material surpasses those comparisons, moving him more definitively into the realm of Hip Hop. However, this is not traditional Hip Hop. Musically there are no recognisable Boom Bap, Golden Era or Trap influences. This is not an album of Wu-Tang or Nas worship, it makes a definite stand in the left-of-centre of modern Hip Hop.
Sonically, you can spot influences and make comparisons with such forward thinking acts as Scroobius Pip, B. Dolan, The Prodigy, Aesop Rock and several of the Definitive Jux crew. At several points in the record I find my self comparing it to El-P and his 2012 album ‘Cancer For Cure’, both in production elements and vocal flow. If El-P was raised in Lancashire on football, pies, Oasis, rave music and cider, Razorrawks would possibly be the result. Like the work of the New Yorkian, ‘Rip Eat Prescription’ is an album that uses sample packs digitised to the point of sounding futuristic. Elements that sound like they were picked up from an android testing facility, challenging the idea of what you consider to be Hip Hop, but succeeding consistently. Abrasive drums, pulsing pads, buzzing electric guitar samples, looping and dreamy acoustic strings and at times extremely heavy hitting synths.
One of these futuristic Hip Hop moments is ‘Catalogue of Errors’ which uses lunging synths that pan backwards and forwards through the speakers, supported with clapped drums to create a futuristic dirge. Like that push and pull you feel from being thrown around on an intergalactic waltzer. Layering scratches and jittery spoken samples to fill in the gaps, Razorrawks consistently marches over the beat, with an almost jarring legato flow. It is not one of the most stand out tracks in terms of bombast or aggression, but it is an inspired piece of forward thinking Hip Hop that acts as a turning point in the album. It’s like he was just warming up until this point, but from here on in every subsequent move that Razorrawks makes is a blinder.
‘Sinister Mr Minister’ uses a warped bassline, padded kick drums, snapping snares and drilling synths and then layers over the top some almost orchestral sounding samples to create a very sci-fi sounding backdrop for a very relevant, present day call to arms; urging us to revolt against the austerity of the Tory government. It is merely one example of lyrical content that doesn’t pull any punches. The album casts it’s gruff northern dialect over such issues as depression, mental health, addiction, suicide, economics, social class and government spending. It lightens things up with critiques on the modern music industry, the desire to make neck snapping tracks, and the joys of first discovering music.
Both in content and delivery, it is an album that is cathartic, and one that is easily recognisable for anyone who was born in the 80’s, raised in the 90’s, depressed in the 00’s and is now tired of being fucked over by the government in the 10’s. It is partly that gloriously unmistakable northern accent, but there is always an element of aggressiveness to the vocal delivery. Again drawing comparisons to El-P, Razorrawks vocal style is one that takes pride in where it is from, and is one where spoken word, poetry, traditional Hip Hop flow, and a sneering belligerence all collide. It makes for a unique style, often stumbling continuously over the track, but not in a lazy way, in the way of a barraging internal monologue that rarely stops to take a breath because there is much to discuss. It is fighting talk, but Razorrawks is using the track to battle with himself and his demons as much as his audience, Simon Cowell or the Tories. Although it may not seem welcoming at first listen, as a vocal style it is extremely open and honest. Something that is almost the polar opposite of what modern Hip Hop vocals have become.
Tracks like ‘We Lack Shellac’, conjure up images of old material from The Prodigy on steroids. A fantastic coming of age track with gruffly spat out verses about growing up in England during the 90’s; discovering music, collecting vinyl, dubbing cassettes, and learning to DJ. Using recognisable rave and happy hardcore elements to create a beat that is pure nostalgia, comprising warped synths, clapped drums, horns and high pitched vocal stabs. It even escalates this further with a musical bridge that samples a reversed, layered, stammering Happy Hardcore break. It pushes the limits, threatening to become almost unlistenable, but it is another musical experiment that works extremely well.
It’s not all thumping and heavy hitting though, and the softer elements of ‘Rip Eat Prescription’ really compliment the work as a whole. The couple of interlude moments are actually well crafted pieces of musicianship and something that Razorrawks could easily expand upon for further projects. The story rap of ‘Molly’s Song’ takes a softer vocal approach, backed by a dreamy, echoing instrumental. When the subtle acoustics kick in towards the end of the piece it is truly hypnotic.
‘Discontinuation Syndrome’ has an ethereal instrumental, with almost organic sounding synths providing a subtle backdrop to layered and rippling acoustic strings. This track is also hypnotic, playing out in a dream-like state, and would be perfectly at home as part of a film soundtrack. However, the jewel of the piece is the piercing and haunting vocals from Bianca Kinane. It is a beautifully crafted track that sticks with you long after you listen to it. It is an extremely brave move for Hip Hop album, and is another piece which once again highlights the efforts that Razorrawks is going to in producing an album that cannot easily be pigeon-holed. My personal favourite of these more downbeat, trippy tracks is ‘The Bitter End’. Starting with echoed, drawn out strings plying the backdrop for a spoken sample of The Wilcoxon Speech from the film ‘Mrs Miniver’, it begins with the lulling traits of an interlude. However the strings escalate, and are backed by some of the most realistic sounding drum breaks on the album while Razorrawks delivers some great staggering staccato monologues.
Ambitious, abrasive, experimental, aggressive, ethereal, ambient, and thought-provoking. This album is a ‘grower’, it takes more than one listen to fully appreciate. It also requires work. You can’t be lazy, just sit back & let it float around in the background. It begs for your attention. It’s engaging music. And for those that take the time to get involved with this album, the rewards stack up with each play through.
‘Rip Eat Prescription’ will be available digitally and on CD Friday 8th January
There is a record release show at The Ferret, Preston on Sunday 10th January. Info HERE