Blak Twang
The Rotton Club

Bad Magic

ony Rotton is not a happy bunny. Bredda has got more beef than Dewhurst’s on delivery day at the moment, and he spends the majority of The Rotton Club taking a meat clever to his foes. And it’s not just the usual standard rap issue assortment of haters, policemen, and record company execs that are in his sights. Nope, man’s also got issues with traffic wardens, out-of-town ballin’ on a budget clothiers Matalan, and the Tony Soprano of morning television, Fern Britton. It’s probably advisable to stay the hell out of his way.

He’s got good reason to be aggrieved though. He looked like a contender at one point, there was a moment post-Run Come Save Me, post-Mark B and Blade and Feeder, when it seemed that finally British rap music could have made the transition from reserves to first team. As with his onetime accomplice Fallacy (Danny Vicious to his Tony Rotton, and, yes, it took me ages to get that as well), he found his way onto the Radio 1 C list, and repeatedly just failing to make the top 40 by a few hundred record sales. And then Radio 1 decides to play gatekeeper to British urban music, relegates anything that Guardian readers can’t get into to 1Xtra, and we’re back to square one. “GCSE,” the single from The Rotton Club, didn’t just miss the top 40 by a few hundred sales. In fact, it missed the top 75.

Taipanic’s never been one to get worried by such trifles though. He knows the story of British rap, he’s heard it from London Posse through Hijack through Blade through Skinnyman, he knows it’s been a story of missed opportunities followed by three LPs full of complaining about missed opportunities. So, on “Soldier,” he lays it down of us: “I’m not another token British bloke that’s bitter/ Don’t mix me in the same category as other quitters.” The Rotton Club is his comfort album, he knows the received wisdom that he’s the only British rapper who could mix with the Americans is true, he knows that any British rapper that’s sold more than ten records (Roots Manuva, Fallacy, Estelle) was put on by him, he knows he can call the shots now. Which goes to explain the cover art. Whereas Kik Off was all hooligan chic, Ron Atkinson sheepskins over a backdrop of casuals clashing with constabulary, The Rotton Club sees him rocking 1920s gangster chic. The capo of the crime family. Britain is his turf, and he’s running things at the moment.

So, yes, he’s the elder statesman now, he demands that we listen to him speak. One-sheeters and over-promoted fanzine writers are calling this his “political album.” It is, but not in the usual sense of the term. The words “Bush” and “Blair” aren’t even mentioned, “Bin Laden” is only used because he’s running out of rhymes, and the War On Terror is dispatched in two lines, roughly the same amount of debate Twang gives to his aforementioned problems with Matalan. Nope, this is local government, Councillor Rotton telling us what he sees when he wanders through SE8 nowadays. So “GCSE (Ghetto Children Sex Education)” marks a bizarre herald back to the days when safe sex was a perfectly normal topic for a rap song, whilst “My World” takes Kim Howell and David Blunkett to task for their witch-hunt against rap music, even going as far as sampling himself schooling Fern and Philip on a “This Morning” discussion. Well, he was never going to be invited on to perform, was he?

He’s always at his best when putting shit to bed though. “Beef Stop” is a good old fashioned piece of disrespect that you could chant “White rabbit” when it’s finished, because there’s no return, whilst “Carry On” isn’t a tribute to Jiggy Jim Dale and the Pitbull In A Blouse, Hattie Jacques, but rather the kind of squelchy noised track Harry Love produces in his sleep nowadays.

“Where Lions Roam” is a highpoint, tribal flutes and funk bass combine with the kind of verbal diarrhoea Dipset fans should take to, with “Spread my wings like The Angel of The North- why aye, man” being The Line. Really, the only negative on the album is “Lady,” which despite having meant to be a loving ballad is actually less romantic than the track on the album that deals with the racist overtones on London police’s stop and search techniques. Perhaps it could be the line “Even on days when you’re feeling pain from menstruation you’re my lady” that kind of spoils the vibe, or perhaps it could be that the chorus sounds like Alexander O’Neal with a calcium deficiency.

Overall though, like the other heavy-hitter from UK rap’s first quarter, Awfully Deep, The Rotton Club is the sound of an artist just being himself, and waiting for everyone else to catch up. It’s not just out of self-aggrandisement that this ends with a tune could “Done It Again,” you know?

Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2005-04-01
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