“So I won’t chain for the mainstream/plan to change what is mainstream/can’t say that’s my main dream/you can keep the fame/I’ll go unseen” spills Edinburgh MC Werd on the opening track ‘Find My-Sell’.
What he is saying is true enough; this album isn’t going to change music in the wider world of hip-hop or anything else.
Many will tell you that rap doesn’t work in a Scottish accent; that the tones are too harsh or the stories aren’t relatable to a wider audience, but you get the feeling Werd doesn’t care.
He is one of the most well respected and prolific hip hop artists within Scotland, and this his debut solo full length album is a welcome addition to the hordes of mixtapes he already has to his name.
Werd’s distinctive Scottish accent may be the first thing you notice but it’s his strikingly cunning lyrics and the clever production that you’ll be left with you after a few listens.
Werd spits confidently over subtle yet entrancing backdrops and high-energy beats alike, and even though this isn’t going to hit the charts there’s a little something for anyone to relate to.
Whether it’s the deeply personal ‘Heart Inside’ or ‘MY State Of Mind’ or the comical, Narnia referencing ‘Vagabond pt2’, in which one of many collaborators Wardie Burns drops the giggle worthy line: “gave me money for some condoms/now that’s real Johnny Cash”.
Or maybe it could be Werd’s self professed “happy song”, and the closest thing you’ll get to twee hip-hop ‘The Whistle Song’ or the equally glorious and hilarious tale of just being a wreck, ‘DruNk StoRy’.
Still, at just short of an hour it’s understandable there are times when the things become a bit monotonous, ‘Lost Focus’ relys at bit much on Deeko’s verse to lift the dreariness and while Werd’s lyrics are typically creative it’s difficult to maintain focus as rhythms at times become repetitive.
Still, clever use of samples including José González‘ chillout single ‘Down The Line’ (‘MY State Of Mind’) and the charming northern soul of Petula Clark’s ‘The Other Man’s Grass Is Always Greener’, which is refreshingly cut up with sharp angry rhymes about living in Edinburgh on ‘Rhymes With Purple’.
And ‘Irreplaceable’, which takes a swing towards dub, something that has been overused recently but feels like a justified nod here.
Scottish hip-hop may not be something that will create a still in the charts or other corners of the world, but as long as sharp lyricists like Werd are kicking about there’ll always be a place for it.