The Portable Galaxie 500

Hip-Hop, apparently, is in crisis....

HIP-HOP, APPARENTLY, IS IN CRISIS. We know this not because of the continuing fallout from 2-Pac’s and Biggie’s murders, or from listening to the latest Puffy-styled newcomers. No, we are aware of this state of emergency within rap’s new world order because the oppositional underground’s vanguard insist on reminding us.

‘Phax ‘N’ Fiction’ compiles some recent high-quality stirrings in the American hip-hop undergrowth, but the lack of a collective will to say anything beyond complaining about how commercial rap isn’t ‘real’ is deeply wearing. Jigmasters’ opener, ‘Hip Hop’ (hey! Imaginative title, guys!), is stunning: massed choirs tumble into the spartan mix like they were cascading down from a badly-tuned radio at a fifth-floor window. Big Twan’s ‘One Time 4 The Lyricist’ relies on some familiar-sounding, scrappy drums and benefits from the rapper staying somewhere near the beat.

‘Work The Angles’ by Dilated Peoples is similarly adept. But it’s the inclusion of Organised Konfusion’s magnificent ‘Releasing Hypnotical Gases’, almost ten years old, which underlines the present dilemma: hip-hop’s been here before, and it badly needs to drink down some new creative juices.