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Run the Road (Vice Records)

With Roots Manuva, Rodney P. and a handful of others comprising the notable exceptions, British hip-hop is largely forgettable. Hip-hop culture flourishes in England and across Europe (especially in Scandinavia), but the music seems to lack an important element of Americana. Though technically passable, British rap is largely derivative and not very innovative beyond the new punch-line possibilities of rhyming "arse" instead of "ass." Finally, 25 years after Kool Herc, England stands up and creates its own flavor. Grime is London's answer to gangsta rap, and Run the Road is a decent primer.

Stylistically, grime barely resembles any type of American hip-hop. The garage-inspired beats utilize weird, cheap synths and bizarre sound effects. These are percussive, unmelodic dance rhythms, sometimes hard on the ears. The songs frequently plod along at sub-Dirty South tempos, but the lyrics come fast and furious in double-time barrages. Thick accents and slang make even the best grime enunciators difficult to decipher. But with patience and an open mind, grime begins to make sense on its own strange, British terms.

Kano's "P's and Q's" is among the easiest tracks to digest. Kano is a quickly rising star in the U.K., and he talks shit over a slow horn-banger with a choppy, staccato flow. Jammer's "Destruction VIP" starts with a James Bond-theme-esque sample but quickly morphs into synth strings and horns. Guest MC Wiley steals the show lyrically. Dizzee Rascal (the face of grime in America saw before Americans knew what grime was) shows up for "Give U More" with D Double E. The women of grime may rep the hardest; No Lay's intense "Unorthodox Daughter" and Lady Sovereign's "Cha Ching (Cheque 1, 2 Remix)" are standout tracks.

Grime takes some getting used to, but the British phenomenon is dance-floor friendly and, ultimately, seriously enjoyable. With the help of Run the Road, it may not be long before Americans are making bad grime records and British critics are complaining accordingly.

 
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