Comparisons to the Streets are innevitable for dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip. The fledgling, yet rising, hip-hop duo of Dan Stevens (le sac) and David Meads (Scroobius) are British and have an unrefined garage sound which is reason enough for Stateside ears to file them away with Mike Skinner’s Top 40 production and introspective Caucasian flows.
But such comparisons make more effective contrasts as le sac Vs Pip are another animal entirely. For one, they present a clear dichotomy: Scroobius Pip is the lyricist and the rapper whereas dan le sac exclusively fashions the beats. Yet their collaboration sounds instinctual and fluid, as if the two, despite only meeting last year, regularly finish each other’s sentences.
Le sac Vs Pip’s most important distinction, though, is that whilst the Streets rhymes are colloquially laced stoner-isms on familiar UK themes (e.g. clubbing, pubbing), Scroobius Pip waxes art, religion, fame, and hip-hop into one prosaic flow that is at once sardonic, satirical, and reverent. Paired with dan le sac’s electronic infused production and outsider sense of melody, last year’s debut single, “Thou Shalt Always Kill”, became an immediate viral, and radio, sensation in Britain, with The Guardian declaring it “2007’s first underground anthem” and industry mag NME calling it the “Track of the Year”.
Yielding such praise invariably leads to more singles and eventually a debut album. In this case, “The Beat That My Heart Skipped” eventually became the first track on Angles, but its beat also supersedes that of “Thou Shalt Always Kill”. “Always Kill” is completely lyrically dependent on Pip’s proclamations against pop culture, with only tepid Atari bleeps and a beat punched out in syncopation:
- Thou shalt not use poetry, art or music to get into girls pants… use it to get into their heads
- Thou shalt remember that guns, bitches and bling were never part of the four elements and never will be
- Thou shalt not make some noise for Detroit
- The Beatles… were just a band
“Heart Skipped”, on the other hand, is a defining team effort. The beat is more inertial, emulating the pulse that the narrator missed, its guitar-based chords present all in an affable indie-soaked tone, and Pip’s diction perfectly parallels the intonations of le sac’s production.
It also begins with a foreboding ode—“I ain’t gonna take it no more”—foreshadowing the honest lyrical explosion on hip-hop, pop, music, and life underlying the acoustic alchemy le sac and Pip are about to embark on.
Touching on the physical world, “Development” could be an amazing AP Chemistry rap skit at one point. Instead it’s a cerebral discussion of hip-hop (“Is there anything that you wear that’s more important than what you think?”) that gets provoked into rapping about something new—education (chemistry, specifically)—and comes full circle when Pip acknowledges his rap role models and teachers (“Chuck D’s my preach’ / I’m just a preschooler”).
Physically, Pip is one part Matisyahu and two parts Waldo. Thus, it’s not shocking when on “Tommy C” he says beauty is “more than just a nice pair of tits” but “in the eye of the beholder”. He then goes on to chronicle Welsh magician/comic Tommy Cooper and his tragic death on live TV in 1984. What does his notorious death have to do with beauty? The audience “rose to their feet as they laughed and clapped / Now tell me one fucking thing that’s more beautiful than that”.
The closing track “Waiting for the Beat to Kick In”, with its piano focused production, is reminiscent of fellow indie hip-hoppers Atmosphere, as is Pip’s lasting declaration that could serve as a personal manifesto: “Silently I step up with a subversive subtext / Trying to feed the need for more than just remedial subjects / I place my faith in the belief that the general public / Will open up their minds to more than just the industry puppets”.
As an amalgamation of styles, influences, precedents, and personalities, dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip are still evolving their respective order in the musical kingdom. A poem by Edward Lear, “The Scroobious Pip” (from which Pip pulled his sobriquet) is the story of an unidentifiable animal that, like the band, cannot be defined by his fellow fish, fowl, or beast. But ultimately the animals agree that its uniqueness is obscure yet unrivaled and marvel at its presence:
And they roared and sang and whistled and cried
Till the noise was heard from side to side -
Chippetty tip! Chippetty tip!
Its only name is the Scroobious Pip.