Controversial Garage team's very long debut...
At the beginning of 2001, So Solid Crewwere the young turks of two-step: a
gang of glowering south London street kids, faces pressed against the window
of the Top 40, plotting. Eleven months and a chart-topping single on, they’re
a national phenomenon, a self-made megabrand thirty members strong.
So Solid pioneer the genuine pirate garage material, birthed from the rash of
illegal stations spawning like fungus across the airwaves, and spreading its
spores over suburban town centres nationwide carried by everything from
colossal car-boot bassbins to customised mobile ringtones. But their
long-awaited debut album ‘They Don’t Know’ lands amid a shitstorm of ethical
umming-and-ahhing. Earlier this year, a gun-wielding Neutrino took a bullet
outside a London club, and later bragged, on record, that he shot himself [I]”
‘cos I’m fuckin’ crazy like that”[/I]. Romeo’s recent 21st birthday bash became
the scene of a Yardie shoot-out. And Skat D practically punched a
fifteen-year old girl’s face off when she rejected his romantic advances, the
old charmer. The question is, are So Solid genuine ghetto visionaries, an a href=”http://www.nme.com/NME/External/Artists/Artist_Page/0,1226,64177,00.html”>NWA
for the 21st Century? Or just a bunch of misogynist thugs that got lucky?
A statement released shortly after the shootings at London Astoria stated
that So Solid Crew “have made it clear on their record that they want the
violence to stop”. A fine sentiment. And one that is patently not true.
Because ‘They Don’t Know’ is a violent record. A record filled with threats
to “haters” real and imagined. A record with “guns in abundance,” styled more
on the chest-beating gangsta braggadio than the slick pop-garage pedalled by
their peers. “I may be a pretty-faced, pretty-boy”, mutters Megaman on ‘In My
Life’, “but I’ll still open up your face”.
Thankfully, musical machismo is kept to a minimum. The sweet soul lilt of the
opening ‘Haters’ hides So Solid‘s brandished fist under a velvet glove: [I]”So
many haters are clocking up figures/ So many haters don’t like us making
papers”[/I]. Debut single ‘Oh No’ and ’21 Seconds’ provide the seductive pop
moments, while Oxide’s hardcore production on ‘If It Was Me’, and Romeo and
Lisa Mafia’s deft lyricism on ‘Deeper’ ([I]”Y’think I’m deep? I go deeper than
the graves where they bury the foot-and-mouth sheep”[/I]) justify the door alone.
Ironically, the flaw that runs through ‘They Don’t Know’ is not misogyny,
violence, or bad attitude, but inconsistency. At 20 tracks and almost
eighty minutes, it’s over-egged and far too long, suggesting that ’21
Seconds’ had the right idea when it came to time-management.
This could have – should have – been a UK Garage benchmark. As it is, it’s merely a fairly
good record. Show some love? ‘They Don’t Know’ gets a , and So Solidget a
bit of advice: remember, you only get the respect you deserve.