So Solid Crew : F**k It: The Official So Solid Crew Mix Compilation

They think everybody hates them. And we don't!...

It’s like people are always watching them. Listening to what they say. Calling

their names, recognising their faces, wondering what they know about their crew.

Oh, the burden of fame, and how heavily it weighs on the multiple shoulders of

the So Solid Crew. Here they are again, moving suspiciously through a world of haters, determined to be omnipresent but staggeringly incompetent at dealing with the results.

With So Solid Crew‘s ranks now numbering about half the population of south London, you’d hope at least one of them might vaguely grasp the consequences of their acts. To whit: the determined venture capitalism that compels them to pump out product like these two mix CDs doesn’t just make them money, it – hard to believe, I know – keeps them in the public eye. And stardom brings hassle, which won’t go away even if they choose to lash out or moan about it on every record.

Rarely has extreme paranoia been so desperately marketed. ‘F**k It’ begins with a remix of ‘They Don’t Know’ called ‘Envy’ and the lyric, [I]”Why are they watching me? Is it pure jealousy?”[/I] The sleeve, meanwhile, features a collection of press

clippings about their cancelled tour, with “F**K IT”, amusingly censored, stencilled beneath each one. As ever, So Solid trade on their notoriety but remain outraged when others draw attention to it.

Occasionally, there’s an attempt at reconciliation. ‘F**k It’ operates pretty successfully as a survey of the rougher end of UK garage, with contributions from the excellent Pay As You Go Kartel, Purple Haze Cru, K2 Family, Corrupted Cru and big hard Daniel Bedingfield amongst others. [I]”This compilation has united crews. . . It’s an example to the rest of the garage industry, to stand together equally,”[/I] proclaims the sleevenotes, before griping about [I]”certain crews and individuals”[/I] who chose not to collaborate and who [I]”should stop trying to divide and separate our scene.”[/I]

In other words, you’re either with So Solid Crew or against them. If only a critical response to their music could be so straightforward. Here, in these 34 tracks, is crude mixing, terrible rapping, and some of the most original sounds currently being made in Britain. Like the jump-up school of drum’n’bass a few years ago, garage is at its best in short, brutal bursts.

During Pay As You Go Kartel’s freakily violin-driven ‘Know We’ or a hectic reupholstering of Mis-Teeq’s ‘One Night Stand’, it’s hard to imagine a more exciting kind of contemporary music. But after 90 minutes of zinging rhythms and sub-bass hum, the raw simplicity that was so attractive seems, well, a wee bit limited.

Not that we’re craving the kind of bloated jazz odysseys that did for

drum’n’bass, mind. What UK garage really needs – and surely So Solid can find one or two behind the sofa – are MCs with the wisdom and skilful flow that Chuck D and Rakim brought to hip-hop. That, and something more interesting to complain about: ultimately, it’s hard to be jealous of two dozen uptight paranoid wrecks, no matter how much Gucci they own.

John Mulvey