Young Fathers - Dead
A debut LP that redefines the boundaries of UK hip hop and Scotland’s artistic landscape in one fell swoop
Welcome back to Young Fathers, surely one of the most creative forces in UK hip hop and certainly the most productive. Since signing to Anticon two years ago – the highly esteemed Los Angeles powerhouse of more esoteric and inventively under-the-radar rap music – they’ve released the ‘Tape One’ and ‘Tape Two’ EPs, and now their debut album Dead. Of course, to refer to it as a debut kind of belies the sizeable amount of work they’ve produced in the past, but the transition from short-form to long-form production suits them well.
Much might be made of the fact that Young Fathers are a resonantly multi-cultural group, with the trio of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham ‘G’ Hastings combining Liberian, Nigerian and Scottish origins. But the real success story here is that they sound truly global in a 21st-century context, combining influences to the degree that they remind of very little else. From the opening ‘No Way’ they build a truly unique atmosphere, a murky fog of party-ready beats subsumed by a certain darkness through churning repetition, with lyrics pointing towards the problems which engulf modern Africa and the schemes of the UK.
‘AK-47, take my brethren straight to heaven,’ goes the chorus line of that title track, while the following ‘Low’ dares to find some cautious positivity. There are clever experiments in genre throughout, from ‘Just Another Bullet’s references to North African pop and ‘War’s dream-like Caledonian gospel. ‘Taking off my clothes at the lido, all I got is my decadent credo,’ runs one of the record’s better couplets in the clubby ‘Get Up’, while there’s a particularly ferocious take on neo-soul in ‘Paying’ and a particularly stark and yearning parental hymn in ‘Am I Not Your Boy’. It’s a record which redefines the boundaries of UK hip hop and Scotland’s artistic landscape in one fell swoop.