Saturday, September 01, 2007

Durrty Goodz: Vanguard of the Youngaz

Journalists will use data to suit their preference of showing it’s either ‘just as bad as it ever was’ or we’re in the midst of an uncontrollable crimewave. No doubt it has been a bad summer on the streets: in the last couple of weeks the Stockwell shooting of the Tulse Hill lad who went to visit his cousin and the Wood Green spraying of a party spring to mind; the 11-year-old caught in the Croxteth crossfire left me feeling sick (as did the mawkish poem from his dad later); last night a lad in Newham was repeatedly stabbed and left for dead. The teenagers have taken over, and they haven’t got a clue what they’re doing, but have firearm or knive will use; people are willing themselves to be bad like never before.

Unlike the experts in the mainstream media I wouldn’t dare suggest solutions to tackle the wave of violence, but one thing I do know that the young other movement of which we fear is probably the first one in modern popular history to lack a major musical component. That’s partly due to the police shutting down the growth of the indigenous grime scene (how much trouble there ever was now pales into comparison with the vibe on those streets), but also because this movement’s ‘threat’ is the most real. No-one is being beaten up for their choice of music or their clothes, or indeed race (it’s curiously unracist in this regard). Some of the youngers have pretensions to being mcs and producers – they’ll get something up on YouTube or the other sites, and might even make Channel-U. But it just seems like lifestyle accessory, not something to die for. If you’re a screwface like me there’s gonna be trouble. These are vaingloriously nihilist times on the fringes of the centre of London town.

Into this void dropped Durrty Goodz’s amazing nine-track ep, Axiom, which has taken grime to higher places and could inspire beyond it. Ever since So Solid I have dipped in to grime at most, surfing the surface when things have hinted at breaking out, or has been there sufficient noise round it to prick up my ears. In truth I perhaps have always had the suspicion that outside the main East London players too many of the beats were whack, too many spits too lame and been too turned off by the ‘just repping’ glorification that has been allowed to creep in, dissolving with it the sonic possibilities of the DIY phase so that people can ride over an r&g beat and get on Channel U, to join the spectacle.

Goodz, who made his mark back in the early days but got derailed by his own problem with ‘hataz’, seeing his half-brother put away for that revenge, is flying on this showcase CD, and he has own reason to go way, way beyond the sordid material. Blackdown's dead right to come with the hip-hop correlation. This is not hip hop per se but it should be enjoyed as a classic hip-hop lp, where there are so many ideas on every track that you just have to listen to the end and try to take as much in as possible – this is the anti disposable download. And besides, how many of your favourite hip-hop lps conform to hip-hop stereotype? None of them. The ep does rely on the slow, stripped bass and rhythm (pre-recycled funk loops) of mid-to-late 80s brutalist hip-hop, though of course the former is much thicker, there to make you feel sick as well as funky.

Goodz is an amazing rapper (not mc), hardly ever repeating themes across the nine tracks, only ever resorting to g-talk when expressing other voices, and rapping in line with the beat. He doesn’t use the beats as templates just to ride over, on every track he interacts and engages with the music – in fact it’s probably a lot more syncretic between him and the producers. Durrty’s agility gives the music places to go. He can also do Streets-style comedy. Favourites-wise I am divided between the anthemic Take Back the Scene, riding Coki’s Tortured to fine effect, at one stage he speeds up to the point of missing a beat only to bring the flow back down perfectly for the chorus. And Boi Dem, another dead slow riddim which has as its riff some kind of twisted harmonica noise which is all blocks of sound, no music, which I can just picture people vibing off at raves. It’s a smokers anthem, but although weed like other drugs are discussed from many different angles, Goodz never comes out as an explicit endorser – let’s not let the drukqs rule our lives. Give Me The Music starts out in synthetic rave heaven, with faux-overwrought rap confessional, then a beat drops that the Neptunes have tried to deliver all their careers.

Boi Dem speeds up to some sort of elusive, sidewinding breakbeat shuffle later on, paying homage and subtlely twisting the breakbeat continuum that has suffered recently from a lack of innovation, lately. In fact Axiom largely prospers on just computer-driven beats and bass – he is eschewing the default resort to musicality of some of the other grimers that have emerged. In that sense, it doesn’t compromise his audience, and in the spirit of Boi Dem and the colossal bass of Take Back/Tortured there is ravey mentality; Durrty, though, is taking you out of your mind rather than out of your head.

Could it be that the harsh derangement of the younger generation has fed on the narcotic and social abandon of the generation before it? You can’t have it this indulgent, this overstimulated, and be this apathetic to political mores, without having it rub off. The world has changed so there is no point expecting people to behave by old paradigms of respect, decency, standards, when clearly they have little relevance in a world where you can’t get away from massive privilege although it looks away from you and never talks, where stars are indulged right up and into their addiction (by the same people who don’t meet your gaze). Goodz’s Axiom EP, and the forthcoming album, shows how an intense approach to your art takes you out of worldly hustle, and this is so strong that others might follow his lead. He is challenging the black and white niggaz not to have attitude. This needs to be at raves, in cars, in people’s consciousness. Shell out the £6 and shock out to this and the guns, shotting and fatuous respect will just pale. It makes me feel 18 again, and it might make the 18s and co feel like their age too, rather than the little big men of their films and computer games and music channels.
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