Regular readers of Fresh On The Net will know that, as well as being part of our team of moderators and reviews authors, JFlames is an accomplished artist; a rapper, singer, musician and producer whose album I reviewed previously on here. Well now he has teamed up with 8TRED DA GREAT on a 5-track EP released this week. And if I tell you that the title is KEEP ACTIVE STAY ALIVE, given that these are South London artists responding to recent and ongoing events in the Capital, I think you will get the drift. These dudes are serious in their concern about the craziness happening on our streets here every week. Yeah, well me too.
Opening track Solo Dolo mixes up a funky, slightly trappy beat with string synth stabs and an almost flamenco guitar. Above this striking backdrop, the vocals are tuneful, somewhere between Hip Hop and [Reggae] Dancehall. It’s a pure party anthem, revealing their poppier side and getting the EP off to an upbeat start.
Desperado follows, the mood darkening immediately although the crisp beat and strings continue. Likewise the use of vocal melodies to break up the rap/spoken word. Lyrically it is darker too. Man ain’t no desperado / … heart is black like charcoal the repeated hook declares before the softer sung vocals reveal On the outside / I feel alive / I can’t go to sleep in the night time/coz there’s money on my mind. The track ends with this same melancholy refrain, tailing off and emphasising the sense of desperation.
Next up is Shrimp. We get an intense rap, more Trap-influenced features and background shouts. There’s a clear message against the ongoing violence. Everyday we rise / everyday we elevate the track repeats. Stop the violence / Don’t promote that s*** / I had to sit down / Coz I can’t stand that s*** they add. The fundamental message is about being healthy and enterprising and not conforming to stereotypical behaviour although they manage to put that over in a way cooler fashion than my words might suggest!
Rivers is dark and reflective. It even mentions sleep apnoea (a subject I know only too much about) while talking of smoking too many spliffs and having disturbing visions. Money isn’t everything / It’s just a belief system they point out before the track ends on an unaccompanied reverberant cry of It’s now or never fam / It’s do or die. Nothing fake about the sentiment here whatsoever.
Final track Father kicks off with some electronic sound before the lyric takes us into something of an intense prayer to God and Jesus to rescue the track’s subject from his own desperation. This takes place against trap beat and bendy single-tone synth riff. The result is a pleading anthem for narcissistic neediness verging on being out of control hence turning to Dear God, Lord Jesus before reeling off a list of things he needs. It’s a clever and observational ending to an inventive, imaginative set of tracks.
These two artists have put together a smartly interlocking chronology of tracks that demonstrate both their no-bones observations of real life situations and their belief that things can and must change. This is delivered against a fairly minimal, at times bleak background of programmed beatz, simple synth figures, other sounds coming in and out as required leaving plenty of space for the vocals to occupy centre stage. It is intense at times, soothing in moments and bristling with energy. A big thumbs up from me.