While a founding member of Roll Deep – the east London grime crew that’s seen everyone from Wiley to Dizzee, Tinchy Stryder to Skepta pass through its ranks – Flowdan has to date lurked around grime’s second tier, viewed more as a team player than a solo artist.
Deployed right, he’s a stick of dynamite: that’s him on The Bug’s ‘Skeng’, a volatile concoction of dubstep murk and brutal Caribbean slang that’s surely one of the best singles of the ’00s. But his debut, 2009’s ‘Original Dan’, flagged hard over its 17 tracks, suggesting the former drum’n’bass MC didn’t quite have the bars to carry a full album.
Still, ‘Disaster Piece’ arrives at an opportune time. With Skepta and Stormzy dragging hard and unflinching lyricism right into the mainstream, Flowdan’s blunt Yardie rap suddenly feels distinctly on trend. Helpfully, too, he doesn’t have any pop crossover skeletons in his closet and can confidently stake his claim as one of grime’s true believers.
On the track ‘Grime’, Flowdan poses exactly that argument. “Only got time for the certified dons / From back in the day when Rinse was illegal,” he barks, taking shots at part-timers and bandwagon-jumpers over a Dexplicit production of jabbing strings and beats.
If it was all such axe-grinding, ‘Disaster Piece’ might flag – but it has vision too. Viewed one way, it’s a sort of concept piece to surviving hard times, from the brooding ‘Judgement’ – a veteran’s march to war, set to booming drums and gnarly guitars recalling Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’ – to ‘Groundhog’, a narrative fable of struggle in a cold world, its chilly dubstep throb coloured by the mournful tones of guest vocalist Animai.
It’s hardly guest-packed, although Tinchy Stryder pops up on ‘Gunfingers’, spitting like he never appeared on Top Of The Pops, while ‘Dons And Divas’ features relatively underemployed Roll Deep MC Manga, whose high-pitched, nasal flow is the polar opposite of Flowdan’s. Instead, there’s the sense this is a one man show – and luckily, the star is on form. The words indeed flow out of him, whether he’s issuing terrifying threats (“Now your wife is a widow / Another man’s gonna be sleeping on your pillow” goes ‘Flatline’) or extolling the virtues of high-grade marijuana: “Bob Marley would be proud of me,” goes the purred hook of ‘Bob Marley’. Second tier MC? Maybe Flowdan was just biding his time.