Every so often in the creative world, a piece of work emerges that sets a new standard within its respective industry, completely changing approach, ideas and attitude - Art has its Mona Lisa, the 90’s had Gang Starr and the Sports film has Space Jam. This week, UK Hip Hop is fortunate enough to welcome such a piece of work to its library of already developing sounds, bringing a heightened sense of self-production with it that pushes the bar of the UK scene to new musical vistas. East London Emcee/Producer, Parallax, has dropped his much anticipated debut EP ‘Depth Perception’ across both digital and physical platforms, and if there was ever an example for the argument that hard work pays off, Depth Perception is it.
Within the industry an anticipation has been building following a series of kinetically zealous live performances, self-promoted PR campaigns and an expertly crafted music video for the EP’s main single ‘Hip Hop Philosophy’ all leading to the release of this EP. Parallax has effortlessly involved himself with every aspect of the release, taking the literal meaning of “one man band” to new levels. Proving he is an urban work horse in a snapback, Parallax vocally strives for his passion, wanting to push a genre of music he feels needs a truer representation. It all works so well, even more so because of the small production team used. Parallax only enlists the help of two industry heavy hitters, Sam Zircon & Fredo to guest produce a track each (Zircon – Hip Hop Philosophy & Fredo – Strength) with Zircon also co-producing the EP’s intro ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ as well as the outro, a beautifully sampled mixing of One Love, which admittedly is far too short to fully appreciate at the end of such a strong EP - this is no gripe however - it only leaves you wanting more and with such an array of intelligent, meaningful insights into society and the concrete grey, urban sprawling of London that dominates such a number of young, inner-city lives, you can’t help but feel Parallax has a brain for this kind of thing – the whole project seems safe in his mic-holding hands and containing total creative control is a feat in itself that positively shines a light over Parallax as an artist with the correct Hip Hop mentality. Everything is capped with taste, culminating with the mastering by Chemo at his Kilamanjaro lab in the heart of South London. With involvement from honed professionals and industry vets, Depth Perception never feels rushed or churned out for the sake of getting a release. It is clear time has been taken covering every dusty drum kick and mastering the smallest sound bite to create a cohesion so rarely seen on a debut EP.
Quality not quantity is key. Heeding back 20 years to the golden era, Parallax pushes a mentality that is fortunately becoming more and more present with the current generation of UK Hip Hop artists. The omnipresent vibe of the 90’s allows Parallax to reach dizzy heights with his creativity, creating fresh sounds that still hold the important values of the genres roots - tracks like ‘Walking on’ melt Hip Hop conventions with soulful sensations, constantly looping 70’s Soul samples against a backdrop of the Hip Hop drum kick. It’s a technique that was key to the emergence of Hip Hop music and Parallax knows this, showing it where he can. The entire EP is draped with influence of musical decades, and not just with the lyrical content but within the way it has been produced. It is all done in such a dignified, respectful manner and never feels over-produced, a sometimes all too common hindrance on independent work. There are no out of place contrasting samples, no littered interludes dragging you away from the experience and every beat methodically rejects the rushed, over-produced, self-hype styles so easily found in works from other, less musically cultured artists.
With lyricism in mind, Parallax ensues a style that commends the prowess and quality of the beats. Showcasing a range techniques throughout, the content stays fresh. There are switches a plenty, sometimes flowing from a 16-bar into a short, snapping crossfade over a police siren or a cracking sound bite and back again. It all acts to pull you from the beat momentarily and thrusts focus upon his technique, all before marvellously falling back into the head kicking rhythm of a dusty, Hip Hop soaked beat. It is a technique that is so useful within Hip Hop yet is often overlooked by many, more one dimensional artists. It adds a playful element by providing the listener with a small, one off mid-bar hook, allowing for greater emphasis on the returning beat. It’s an excellent tool that seems to have already been mastered by Parallax, and when applied to his live shows (which are next level, with Parallax becoming a one man Mash Out Posse) add an extra layer to the man’s hype and allow him to dictate the flow of the crowd. It’s all very masterful.
As a rapper, Parallax constantly hugs the beat, slowing and quickening his tempo to unify everything into a swirling amalgamation of some of the realest Hip Hop you’ll hear this side of the Atlantic. Parallax proves his intelligence throughout Depth Perception with displays of conscientious raps on social affairs, question marks within the music industry and even self-reflective standpoints throughout - “Killing rhythms/and spitting my inner-wisdom/addicted to linking lyrics to fix up my inhibitions/when I’m sinking” - with conscious spitting, a lot of rappers run the risk of falling into the trap of preaching subjects that have become clichéd and therefore miss the point entirely. Whilst many a good rapper can project a conscious message, they’re all too easily lost amongst a sea of others, until they blend into one large faux-conscious blotch. This, ironically, has become a cliché in itself; the conscious rapper, telling us what we already know. Parallax has applied a lot of skill in avoiding this trap fall.
Parallax sidesteps this cliché expertly and instead highlights the mind state behind many problems in modern society. With a little thought process, any rapper can highlight that knife crime exists or tell about the turbulent relationship of Britain’s under-class with authoritative figures. It takes intelligence to look past the black & white and highlight the reasons why these problems exist from a number of thoughtful, intellectual angles – Parallax does this finely throughout Depth Perception, with the EP’s fifth track ‘Rat Race’ doing the best job of showcasing his talent – “Mass media is feeding no substance/and each day the law seems to reason no justice/you can slate on this ‘cause I’ve got a hate for pigs/but it’s just the way intimidation’s gonna make you think”…. “I think we’re lacking guides/slacking with a fractured mind/seeing sight, like we’re colour-blind reading traffic lights/but I’m seeking signs/reading in between the lines/to redefine what your state of mind will believe is right” – It is Parallax’ ability to handle these subjects from a number of mindful angles that makes his lyrics stand out, leaving ideas lingering long after he has finished plying his craft to our ears. It leaves room for debate and the expression of opinions that are built on stronger foundations than just “fuck the police” and that is the true meaning of conscious rap.
Parallax has achieved a truly remarkable feat with his debut EP. Maintaining all creative control has given him ample opportunity to really lambast our ears with a sound that stays true to the roots of golden era Hip Hop. Depth Perception embodies everything that is right about true Hip Hop, it flurries through its 6 tracks showcasing an understanding of pace, content and most importantly of all, the placement and foundations of sampling. Parallax as an artist has created such a strong debut EP that it’s almost unrecognisable as an EP, and instead creeps into the studio album territory, keeping its form for the entire 16-minute duration. When looking at the persona of Parallax as a whole, including his energetically thumping live performances, his expertly crafted music videos and his savvy approach to Hip Hop PR, it’s easy to get lost in the charm of a natural who has his Hip Hop head in the right place. I’d like to conclude this review by saying I hope he is given the opportunity to showcase his skills on a grander scale, but I can’t, as I believe he doesn’t need to be given anything, he will simply take it.
Cop Depth Perception over at Parallax’ official Bandcamp HERE