Dusted Reviews

V/A - Run the Road 2

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: V/A

Album: Run the Road 2

Label: Vice

Review date: Feb. 26, 2006

In becoming a worldwide phenomenon, hip hop had to grow beyond the clubs and block parties and in to the studio to be mass produced and sold beyond the five boroughs. The music changed along with the context, with emcees turning from utilitarian rock-the-party lyrics to more singular statements, transmitting “The Message” globally. Grime, the UK’s own miniature hip-hop movement, has been undergoing the same development, with its bigger players shifting focus from the Rinse FM airwaves and garage nights to recorded product. The danger – ever-present on Vice Record’s second installment in the flagship grime series, Run the Road – is that the grime’s trajectory might converge with that of American hip hop at the same summit, robbing us of something fresh and leaving us with a mere hegemonic expansion of a single style of hip hop.

The first volume of Run the Road avoided this hazard at the expense of a great American grime reckoning, maintaining the music’s chaotic Playstation production and the emcees’ torrid, often indecipherable flows. Run the Road 2, in many instances, is an attempt to spit-shine the obscuring aspects of the music – a makeover that involves some heavy borrowing. To be sure, grime is a hybrid genre, but Run the Road 2 often shows how the balance can be weighed too heavily towards American rap idioms.

When the scales tip, it isn’t all bad news. Sway’s “Up Your Speed Remix” adds Three 6 Mafia style crunk to the grime repertoire, sounding like a British DJ Paul dusting off Nintendo cartridges rather than Halloween VHS tapes for source material. Oozing in syrupy menace, the track crawls where other grime endeavors gallop, though the emcees ground the sound in the garage by remaining in double-time. But when Klashnekoff’s “Can’t You See?” splices Nas vocal samples over production lifted straight from NYC’s street-tapes, the burden of influence causes the music to collapse. Amongst the wreckage is Plan B’s emo-ejaculation “Sick 2 Def,” an angst-ridden personal narrative over embarrassingly trite acoustic guitar production that shoots for Eminem, but instead hits upon open-mic-night indulgence.

Run the Road 2’s grime makeover finds success when it doesn’t confuse polish with American hip hop. Low Deep’s “Get Set” keeps the two-step beat and adds ascending strings over baritone big-boss horns to create one of the most accessible and simultaneously representative grime productions to date. The chorus asks “Who’s going to be next with 16 lines?” and members of grime’s A-list answer the call, as Run the Road veterans Kano and Demon are joined by Ghetto, Big Seac and Doctor. In succession they push the next emcee until Demon’s frenetic jackal-jawing gives the track orgasmic release. Only Kano’s “Mic Check Remix” and Trimbal’s “They Gave an Inch” come close, forming the core of the compilation that provides a blueprint for the genre’s future.

This bemoaning of American influence is not to say that grime and the UK approach to rap is limited to hype-lyrics suited for the club scene and thus can't produce the thoughtful urban narratives on par with those hip hop has given us. London-born Slick Rick's "Children's Story" is an early apotheosis of rap storytelling, and a listen to the albums of grime heavyweights Dizzee Rascal and Kano upturns more than a few insightful chronicles. Nor should the grime that stays true to its move-the-crowd roots be castigated – the hyped-up brass assault of Dynasty Crew’s “Bare Face Dynasty” is a clear highlight of Run the Road 2. But there's a certain danger in taking the American formula verbatim to tell grime's tales, and thus amongst a handful of worthwhile tracks on Run the Road 2, there are some that, like the classic “Children’s Story,” should be taken as cautionary lessons.

By Bob Hammond

Read More

View all articles by Bob Hammond

Find out more about Vice

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.