Thursday, November 09, 2006

 

Just Jack

The English have always had a problem with rap, since the beginning in NYC they have been keen consumers of this form of music, who can remember the late seventies early eighties when the nascent style was given enthusiastic coverage by the good old NME? The problem that the Brits have is therefore not in appreciating the music but in reproducing it. Above all when gangster rap raised it's ugly head the task became even more difficult, how can you brag about carrying an Uzi when you reside in country that does not believe in the fundamental right of every man, woman, child and beast to carry an arm! In the early days of rap maybe one of the better UK efforts was The Clash with 'Magnificent Seven', but this was closer to the shortlived Sugarhill vision that used real musicians as opposed to the scratch heavy DJ style as broken big time by Def Jam. It took until the tail end of the century for a UK artist to stamp his own identity and make something credible that amazingly enough they were able to sell back to their US cousins. I fell under the spell of Mike Skinner's reedy voice and kitchen sink dramas that he so successfully recounted on his songs. The Streets artistic zenith for the moment is still 2004's 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' the follow up was very much a case of too many grands spoil the broth! Part of the attraction of this new UK rap is the Ken Loach style down to earth lyrics, by this I mean that they are recounting every day tales much as you would to your mate down the pub. Mix this with that a strong music hall influence, arguably we can follow the line from Max Wall to Ian Dury and on to the Streets. Similar artists include the slightly more hardcore in lyrical terms Plan B and the definitely more pop orientated Lily Allen.
I recently discovered the similar Just Jack on a compilation with his jazz funk influenced 'Writers Block'. the song opens with some dreamy TV game show style muzac over which a young lady describes the beginning of her day, and then in comes Jack with some very nice word plays over some very catchy music and to top this off the song has an infectious chorus. Jack Allsopp, his real name, had fallen in love with black music as a boy in Camden Town (indisputable home to all things indie in the UK), and by the age of 14 he was serving an apprenticeship as a DJ. As with any musician worth their salt Jack experienced real life working as a Gardener and cleaner amongst other jobs to pay his rent while refining his music. Another important factor in making it in the music business is luck, after all where Lennon have been without McCartney, and this was the case with Jack who got himself a job at RGRecords. Deciding to try his luck he handed over his demo tape to label owner, Chas Smith another Camden boy and Madness vocalist, who was suitably impressed and so Jack was picked up for four albums. It would appear that the track 'Writers Block', his new single is in part autobiographical as this is his first new material since his debut album 'The Outer Marker' in 2003.

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