Vinyl Dialect

Bad Magic

he idea of home is important in hip-hop. Over the past 25 odd years, we’ve come to learn that “if you popped that junk up in the Bronx you might not live”, that you need to “pack a vest for your Jimmy in the city of sex”, and, of course, that whilst you may have assumed Snow was from Jamaica, he was actually “born in-a the one Toronto”. Indeed, part of rap’s appeal for the listener has always been cultural tourism, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Nine times out of ten I don’t want to be here, and if someone can spit a few travelogue rhymes about the wonders of their hometown, I’m more than happy to lie back and think of anywhere but England.

Vinyl Dialect are proud of where they come from. And they give it shout-outs on the regular on this, their debut album. Unfortunately, they’re from Suffolk. Specifically, Ipswich. Ipswich’s most famous resident was the captain of The Mayflower—whose sole achievement in life was getting as far the fuck away from his hometown as possible. And it’s not even an Ipswich shout-out they give, they shout out their entire region of East Anglia, with repeated props given to “EA”. One love to the homepieces in Thetford and Diss. It just sounds ridiculous.

Despite this, Ezra (the lone lyricist) is pound for pound one of the ten best MCs in the UK at the moment. Additionally, Olson and Precise, the producers, are obvious Timbaland fetishists, but serviceable nonetheless. However, every time they take a step forward, they take two backwards. And it’s because they just don’t realise when they’re doing something wrong.

To pin the hometown down precisely, they come from Bentwater, an area known mainly for its US airbase. And, whatever else Vinyl D may have got from American servicemen in the area (dark chocolate, tights, their parentage), they definitely picked something of their sound up from the States. They stand apart from most UK crews, not just because of the Tim beats, but also due to Ezra’s slack-jawed approach, beloved of so many white MCs stateside. Not for nothing has their biggest tour to date been supporting Ugly Duckling.

Get past the intro, and the first course is a veritable avocado and salmon of a tune. “Ouch!”, replete with Cuban jazz samples, meringue feel and staccato rhymes. It’s easily the biggest thing to hit UK hip-hop club floors since “The Groundbreaker”. Dumb rhymes (“We playing Stonehenge croquet”), a singalong chorus, nice ventures offbeat, it’s a top 20 singles of the year candidate already. It’s why the album is anticipated. And it’s also why the album’s a letdown.

Too much of the album flies by without leaving an impact. The occasional dope line (“We be getting’ brain like MENSA”), some nice guest spots from up-and-comer Mancini, yet another beat that sounds like it’s been jacked off a Magoo album… it’s lazy. Nothing grabs you by the throat like “Ouch!”, or their mix-tape classic “Pre-Style”, nothing makes you want to turn the volume up, and VD approach these duff tracks with exactly the same enthusiasm they hit “Ouch!” with. And, of course, if it’s a British rap album that’s going to shit rapidly, there has to be an appearance by Task Force, who turn up on “Get ‘Em High” to chow down vast quantities of dick as usual.

The rumour around the campfire is that Bad Magic held this album back so it could be re-recorded and made “more commercial”. If so, this makes Vinyl Dialect the first in the UK to be trapped between backpack and vinyl. And they’ve landed in neither court. A little more quality control, a few more “Ouch!”s, a lot less Task Force… maybe the second album will fulfil their promise. Until then, Ipswich is gonna have to continue to look towards Kieron Dyer for its hometown pride. Now that is depressing…

Reviewed by: Dom Passantino

Reviewed on: 2004-04-20

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