Various : Scratch Vol. 1

Compilation celebrating London club the Scala's legendary Scratch night...

Not many clubnights have a wider agenda beyond fun and the generation of revenue. However, the monthly Scratch night in London’s King’s Cross has been an enterprise devoted to the preservation of hip-hop’s basic elements; and somehow exposed the artform to a wider audience.

For five years, Matt Scratch and Rob Smooth have booked rappers and DJs, encouraged graffiti artists and breakdancers, and generally provided a congenial atmosphere. And here’s a selection of audience favourites to stir the memory and map out a space for an alternative hip-hop worldview – one that rejects the gangsta way for a more cerebral approach.

Not that the best gangsta rap isn’t intellectual, or that some artists here are restricted to a liberal, live-and-let-live, ethos. Let’s just say ‘Scratch Vol. 1’ sticks to the original old school tenets of the genre, and showcases artists who would be otherwise obscured by the more prominent videostars of today. By and large, obscurity is the motto, for tracks aimed at hip-hop heads who spend hours trawling through record racks in specialist shops.

As well as gems like Main Source’s moralistic ‘Snake Eyes’ and A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Lyrics To Go (Tumbling Dice Remix)’, there are more playful forays into rhyme, of the order of Freestyle Fellowship’s humorous ‘Hot Potato’ and Souls Of Mischief’s ’93 Till Infinity’. And you can hardly ignore the reality-challenged Humpty Hump on Digital Underground’s ‘Return Of The Crazy One’.

It’s all about verbal displays, gladiatorial word combats aligned with fresh, often jazzy and resolutely old-school beats. The participants seem to have enjoyed themselves – ain’t no reason you shouldn’t either.

Dele Fadele