Album: Charlie Sloth – Hood Heat, Vol. 1
By Dinesh Mattu
Released 8th December
Naughty Boy/Virgin Records
After taking over Westwood’s pioneering Saturday night Radio 1 Rap Show, Charlie Sloth has become ‘Britain’s premier tastemaker’ of urban music. Towards the close of 2014 Sloth has compiled a mixtape of the year’s biggest hits from the UK and the US, with the intention of proving the UK’s worth alongside US Hip Hop.
The current quality of American Hip Hop/ Urban music is not quite the era that birthed Jay-Z, Nas and The Notorious B.I.G. especially when you think of the ‘biggest tracks of 2014,’ and the first songs that come to mind are ‘Loyal,’ ‘Hot N*gga,’ and ‘We Dem Boyz.’ However, what we get on Hood Heat Vol 1 is a carefully curated compilation of back to back UK and US hip hop, coherently mixed together by the Radio 1 DJ. The usual suspects including Drake, YG, Future and Rick Ross feature among others for the US, whilst Skepta, JME and Krept and Konan and co. hold it down for the UK.
Given the current questionable state of US Hip Hop, his selection of UK music includes – in parts – a somewhat slightly more substantive content. The biggest UK urban hits of the year including ‘Rari Workout,’ ‘Don’t Waste My Time’ ‘That’s Not Me’ and ‘German Whip’ are put alongside songs from exciting upcoming British talent such as CASisDEAD, Dvs and Stormzy. Whilst Sloth affirms “our levels of production, our depth of content, flow and character in our rap artists is on par [with US Hip Hop], there is no more ‘UK Hip Hop’, just Hip Hop” it is difficult to believe, because Hip Hop is so intrinsically American.
Sloth’s own single ‘Look Like’ attempts to fuse the two together on a track that features the legendary New York native Jadakiss alongside upcoming UK artists JMC and Stormzy. What results is an outdated, cheap-sounding beat, with a poor hook and less substance than anticipated. You get the feeling across some of the mixtape that the UK are kind of ‘running out of ideas, […] doing covers of American beats’ as Skepta put in his song ‘Ace Hood Flow.’
With that being said, the compilation features a good amount of original UK music. Take Dvs’ ‘Black Waterfalls’; an inherently British take on rap – acoustic guitar, accentuated flows and reflective content, it is a track that doesn’t rely on ready-made DJ Mustard beats.
The point is that there is in fact such thing as UK Hip Hop or Grime or Urban; however, it doesn’t need to be in the shadow of its American counterpart. UK music in general has found its own lane in the past few years and at the moment is more ambitious than what’s on offer from across the pond.