1st May 2014 By BOBBY SIMCOX
NATURAL SELECTION - RAWGANIC
On the 28th April, the collaborative Hip Hop team Natural Selection released the child of their loins, ‘Rawganic’ into the wild. The third EP from Producer Brother Beatbox and Emcee Deeflux throws an assortment of interesting ideas into the UK Hip Hop realm, whilst solidifying a pleasantly vibed foundation at the same time, all through Basingstoke based independent label - De Facto Entertainment.
Rawganic is split across 5 tracks, all produced by Brother Beatbox on his trusted Akai MPC and overlaid with the philosophically urban musings of Deeflux. Like previous Natural Selection works, the EP is entirely void of all musical samples, with the duo instead favouring the D.I.Y. approach by creating the samples from scratch, complementing the EP’s title. A few familiar sounds pop up every now and again during a track’s closing mix, maybe in the form of a short O’Jays cut, or a well-placed Biggie sample, but these only serve to pull the music back to a more Hip Hop grounded reality.
This is a strength for Rawganic, by blending a seemingly playful makeshift style with other serious, more traditionally structured sounds; When a song slips into a short beat-tape like mix, coming off an irregular drum-kick, or a zoned out synth it all gels and shows a talent within the head and fingers of Brother Beatbox. Before you know it you’re slipping into that head nod. Much to the point that a sample beat 3 minutes 10 seconds into the song ‘Overdone’, genuinely sounds like it could have been lifted straight from a Madlib B-side. Whilst production like this lends itself favourably to the project, in some aspects it does lead to a criticism as the more traditional samplings can over-shadow moments on the principal beats. At times I found myself falling into a 30 second head nod as a track switched into a rolling beat, only to be left with having to re-adjust my rhythm as a new, contrasting song started. So, at times the flow of the record can be a little distorted and uneven, but this is only a minor grumble as that kind of thing is quite common when entering the world of the Hip Hop EP.
My other grumble, comes with the EP’s opening song ‘Got that’ - Whilst it ends on a strong note with an excellent sample mix and, like the rest of the EP, is scattered with Deeflux’s idiosyncratic lyrics & flow, it just doesn’t hold up to the other four songs on the EP. This shouldn’t be a problem, but ‘Got That’ is being touted as the EP’s main single and has its own (amusingly clever) music video, so you expect a song that promotes the talents of the artists completely. This is done a lot better on songs such as the excellent ‘Box Cutters’ or perhaps the EP’s closing track, ‘All Good’, a soulfully hazed affair featuring a more heartened Deeflux, counting his blessings as he reflects on the reasons for his involvement in the industry.
Accompanying the beats are the bars of Deeflux; ranging from industry baiting jives to playful anecdotes on everyday life, the lyrics applied never feel out of touch with the world he is trying to represent. Whimsical references to the tools and lifestyles of the Hip Hop everyman add a realism to an otherwise creatively diverse EP and they complement it well. This is a strength throughout Rawganic as the sudden appearance of an unconventional loop, like a Pokémon out of the long grass, allows Deeflux to creatively free up his style as he switches his flow over a 32 bar, yet he always manages to hold onto the core ideas that listeners relate to. The opening bars to the EP’s closing track ‘All Good’ show fine example of this as Deeflux humbly tells us; “I aint got no dancing shoes, just my Nike Air Force 1’s I’m a dude/I don’t move to the plimsoll population/And no snakeskin boots just B-ball and skatin/And I don’t do either neither”. It’s an inventive combination, and when mixed with a technically sporadic beat from Brother Beatbox, adds an extra layer to the musical onion.
When Deeflux introduces a more thoughtful side to his spitting and ventures into philosophical ground, he does so in endearing fashion, often allowing an ambiguity to hang over the head, leaving the listener with plenty of thinking space for reflection. One short but fascinatingly poignant rap on the EP’s second track ‘Memory Lapse’ shows example of this better than any; “Could have had a sniff of the mainstream/But I fucked it up so I guess that it aint me”. The vague information given is enough to spark interest in Deeflux’s character as it portrays a more personal edge, hinting at past experiences that have helped mould the Farnborough rapper into what he is today. It also helps us get a feel for the duo’s opinions and ideas of the other, more convoluted side of the industry, albeit in a charmingly cynical manner. Again, it works. It works because the lack of information given acts as some kind of dignified silence from the rapper, so we begin to understand these guys know how certain things work and won’t let them fuck up their passion. A real “we’re in love with the genre” vibe begins to show. Added to the baiting of the UK scene and the exacerbated front put on by the rappers in it, it becomes an attractive concoction; “Rappers with gob’s bigger than wallets/all cartoonish like Wallace and Gromit/Plasticine gangsters get back in your boxes”. What Deeflux spits never feels threatening or dressed up for show, there are no perceived ideas of trying to look like a badman, no hypocrisy or fronting on a level above his own, just modest rhymes, subtly exposing the Wallace and Gromits of the scene.
Because the direction of Rawganic is steered joyfully away from the norm, at times it can be a little un-compromising, potentially leaving fans of the mainstream a little alienated. This is no bad thing, however, as the intent of this EP is never to please the masses. If it did this I feel it would lose a lot of its musical merit and be swallowed up by a world of mediocrity. But it doesn’t, it’s an EP that stays true to itself, retaining a depth throughout its 18 minute runtime. It acts as a compliment to be able to roll through a musical plethora of eccentrically scratchy beats and lyrics and to still be left relating to provocative ideas on subjects apparent in today’s society.
As a whole, the concept and execution of Rawganic is an impressive one, it attains the majority of its ear catching philosophies well and shows potential whilst doing so. At the same time there’s room for improvement, I undoubtedly hope these areas are honed and once mixed with the key ingredients Natural Selection already possess, lead to a much more serious LP sounding piece of work. It’s an interesting one because at its bare bones it represents an individuality, brought on by the modest ideals of the two artists involved. It happily sidesteps the norms of the UK Hip Hop sound into a more leftfield territory, whilst holding onto known traditions and sounds of the genre at the same time, creating an EP that impresses and leaves you wanting more.
You can check out more on Natural Selection and Rawganic here:
De Facto -