Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Professor Green ft. Chynaman & Cores – Upper Clapton Dance

Welcome to Hackney…


Chuck Eddy: Does the dance involve ballet moves? And is the guy with the racially insensitive name the one who wishes he was Eminem? And did they shoot the sheriff but they did not shoot the constable?

Michaelangelo Matos: A one-time Mike Skinner protege who sounds livelier, hungrier, and more present than Skinner has in an age, accompanied by a couple guys who are (if I’m ID’ing everyone right) even rowdier. All that and a Brahms sample that makes me like them even more.

Martin Skidmore: I’m not sure that classical music, even with added garage beats, is much of a backing for British hip hop. I like his grimey style well enough, but a stately and classy backing does him no favours at all.

Martin Kavka: This liberally samples Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance #5”; it will probably make Valery Gergiev retch. But Brahms was a plagiarist too; the melody here is taken from a csárdas written by the composer Kéler Béla. What goes around comes around, as Justin Timberlake once said — or was it Liszt? The narrative of Upper Clapton Dance portrays a world that is both suffused in melancholy (befitting the G-minor key) and that sees the dance steps as the only way to make that melancholy bearable. Who’s to say that the soldiers who danced to Béla’s csárdas 170 years ago had any less complex motivations? Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as Alphonse Karr once said — or was it Justin Timberlake?

Anthony Easton: More ambitious in its musical cribbing then some, and I kind of like how laconic his voice is.

Hillary Brown: I’m kind of loving the sample (although I did just have to look up how to spell Khachaturian), but is that the overriding reason I’m digging on this English version of a hip hop dance track? Nah, it’s complex and stuff. Plus nimble and fast-paced.

Dan MacRae: If a gimmick is done right, it’s a beautiful thing, innit? Would I be as interested in this slice of menace and neighbourhood posturing if it didn’t have such a goofy sample? Surely not.

Fergal O’Reilly: It’s clearly a record born of some adversity, not least because of its subject matter, but also because it’s made by a white English rapper who’s thus far most famous for falling off a stage, getting rap-battled within an inch of his life by Jin and most recently getting stabbed in the neck. I don’t have a Youtube link for that last one. The beat is fantastically insistent; it has a relentless, machine gun cadence to it, in keeping with the constant threat detailed in the narrative, and although Green and company’s snarling verses make it a startlingly angry record, it never veers into schlockiness or self pity. One of the most surprising and exhilarating records of the year.

Tal Rosenberg: The beat is “Gimme Some More” and “Forgot About Dre.” And how can you forget about Dre, or Eminem for that matter, when Professor Green’s flow is cribbed so directly from that playbook? Except that was a huge joke, and this is about the portent and frenzy of random violence, and a pretty effective one at that.

Ian Mathers: From overseas, the important thing is the sense of drama, which is equal parts the tense fervency of the rappers and that incredibly well-used orchestral sample — when it wells up for the chorus, it’s hard not to be carried along with it. And unlike US ghetto depictions, our narrators don’t seem to be terribly taken with the glamour of the criminal/violent life — the emphasis here seems to be firmly on keeping your head down and doing your own thing, as even the verse about enacting revenge is mostly about how you’re going to wind up in prison if you do so. The ‘dance’ isn’t gun battles and machismo, it’s avoiding getting robbed and stabbed.

Cecily Nowell-Smith: So, yeah, the Brahms, that’s a gimmick, and it’s a great one. The first eight bars of “Hungarian Dance #5”, slowed down and looped, refusing to resolve until the hook rolls around. I don’t know why but it’s got me tenser than any other sample, like every time it doesn’t reveal the rest of the tune my frustration grows. Still, there’s a Skream mix out there somewhere, bare bones and spooky noises, and it’s just as thrilling. I don’t really know why I’m stuck to this song, I don’t see how they’re saying anything new: we dress down, we know violence, crime’s a fact of life, they blame us for our lifestyle but they shut down every joy we had and try to have. It’s nothing new and it hasn’t stopped being the truth, maybe that’s it. Everyone I knew, growing up, we walked with sure steps wherever we went because hesitant kids got mugged or stopped by the police, and both were equally bad. We kept our money in your shoes and our keys around our knuckles. And we were the nice kids, the good middle-class kids: we weren’t lumbered with the suspicion of growing up in Clapton. This ain’t your regular two-step routine, they say, but it’s the oldest dance there is.

7 Responses to “Professor Green ft. Chynaman & Cores – Upper Clapton Dance”

  1. Martin Kavka, that is some prime info dumping, and pretty amazing writing, thnx!

  2. Maybe if its allegedly compelling narrative eventually sinks in I’ll understand why this overloaded, derivative, hard to follow, vocally clunky classical-sampling prog-pomp complexity averages 7.27 and Muse’s overloaded, derivative, hard to follow, vocally clunky classical-sampling prog-pomp complexity average 2.94. But ’til that happens I’m gonna believe those scores deserve to be a lot closer than they are.

  3. Flawless imo^

    Chynaman is actually Vietnamese, which is maybe more confusing than racially insensitive

  4. kinda with Chuck on this, but I liked them both a lot, so what do _I_know…

  5. More recommended Professor Green listening: he has a guest spot on the incredible “What I See” by Ny, who is maybe my favourite UK singer to have emerged in the past half decade.

  6. I just wanted to say that I’ve come back several times this week to read Cecily’s blurb; it’s really wonderful.

  7. What I love most about Professor Green is his Shane MacGowan looks. It’s preemptive: before I hear one note, I’m already in favour of him.