album-cover-a-band-on-hopeAll ye who enter here…this is a new and genre-crossing project from producer Kristian Sharpe and the Scribes’ Ill Literate who combine here to generate an ambitious and original 13 track collection. It’s hard to define musically: Kristian Sharpe draws from hip hop, rock, funk, soul, blues, electro and jazz, while Ill Literate contributes thoughtful and creative lyrics.

Che Lives is vital and upbeat rap-rock, with some surprisingly retro guitar interludes, and possibly the only lyrical references to New Labour and proletarians that we are likely to hear this year. Dead Angels is musically more firmly within hip-hop but with a gentle musical edge, quite far removed from aggressive rap. God Knows is another rock-rap outing, drenched in a sad feel and, like the album as a whole, exuding regret rather than anger. Mindfields is melodic, and curiously reminiscent of something a late 60s rock band might have contemplated. So Far trots along happily with a rhythm that’s hard to pin down, while Trapped Inside Escape is full-on hip-hop. As if that were not enough, Spaced Out Break Out introduces a jazz feel to proceedings.

This is quite a unique release: the quality of musical settings is rich and diverse; the words are political but overall quite low key and melancholy.

Earlier reviews of the Scribes can be found on reggaemusic.org.uk 3rd February and 14th December 2015, and 22nd October 2012

A Band On Hope: 13 track LP, released 15th September 2016 from iTunes, Amazon and other online retailers

The hip-hop style of the Scribes is now firmly established as an alternative to the predictability of much mainstream output (in hip-hop and beyond) and here they are with their second album ‘A Story All About How’. Their 2012 debut album ‘Ill Literature’ (see reggaemusic.org.uk 22nd October 2012) set the pattern of thoughtful and aware hip-hop offered here. ‘A Story All About How’ is a 16 track album recorded over the last few years in between touring commitments – appearances which have included an impressive and diverse range of acts including GZA from Wu Tang Clan, De La Soul, Macklemore, MF Doom, Example and Coolio, and performances at festivals and venues including Glastonbury, Boomtown Fair and Urban Ibiza.

The new album demonstrates a wide range of influences and features powerful tracks including ‘Crowd of Thorns’, with its rock band styling and strings, and ‘Industrial Growth’, introducing a slower feel with its opening electronic score. ‘CONvictions’ opens with a purely vocal intro, and the album closes strongly with ‘Hazy’, some nice guitar chords taking us into another rap. The pattern is essentially that of ‘live’ instrumentation, a rock band framework for a highly distinctive take on hip-hop. It’s hip-hop for people who never thought they liked hip-hop.

Lead single ‘Blood In Your Eyes’ combines synths, guitar and strings atop rapid beats and a brisk rap style, illustrating the band’s feel for real instrumentation as well as purely vocal exertion. The video here for the single to some extent continues the weird theme of the single ‘Monsters’ from their previous album and manages to display a nice sense of humour within an intriguing take on contemporary UK hip-hop.

The Scribes: ‘A Story All About How’, released 29th January 2015, on CD/digital download.

This release from alternative hip-hop outfit The Scribes together with a host of collaborators and guests offers a bass-driven but subtle sound together with a collection of surprisingly melodic takes on urban themes and, well, whatever was on their mind at the time. Comprising Shaun Amos (The Scribes/Exposure Music Award’s Best UK Urban Act), multi instrumentalist and bass specialist Jake Galvin (Cosmo Jarvis/Bass Guitar Magazine) and singer/guitarist Jack Joyce (Spoken In Sonar), with contributions from a large team of others, this is hip-hop with feeling, not the empty material obsessions of the predictable kind of hip-hoppery that descends into self-parody. So we have a strong collection of songs to begin with: Buried (and for that matter Burning Bridges) leading with a guitar that’s somewhere between rock and funk; Heavy Wait similarly leading with guitar up-front (and also with a powerful remix of the same track concluding the album) while Pipe Dreams could most accurately be described as lyrical, not typically an adjective associated with hip-hop. Not a Dancer is a sparse and surprisingly effective mix of beats and piano. The somewhat unusual single Monsters appears to have Super Mario guesting on keyboard- but that’s OK, and you can see the weird video for yourself below. A really strong album that’s difficult to categorise, but that’s no bad thing. Melodic thoughtful hip-hop with soul: now, some PR company could definitely run free with that combination.

The Scribes Present Ill Literature: released October 7th on CD/Digital download, see http://www.scribesmusic.bandcamp.com