[2 November 2005]
The Scratch Perverts are something of an institution in the UK, having managed to survive and, to a limited extent, prosper in the murky waters of the somewhat underpowered and lackadaisical British hip-hop industry, a sphere rife with talent but woefully short on (international) impact. They may not do that well at the DMCs these days, their Product album may not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, and there remains a bitter aftertaste to the “deserting hip-hop for drum & bass” controversy—not, as it turns, out a faddish thing, just the way their production and turntable techniques were taking them at the time, which had the additional benefit of broadening their appeal slightly in these “dea(r)th of dance music” times. Oh, and a while ago they did actually break up, only to reform without Mr. Thing, a national treasure who’s been know to take time off from decimating rival vinyl ninjas to help his mum repaint the house. Still, they endure, their needles unblunted, their skills undoubted, their armoury and enthusiasm potent.
This latest mix in Fabric’s “Wish you were here and had your head kicked into a bassbins” Live series could not have been together by anyone else, that’s for certain. I mean, everyone knows that hip-hop’s a bit of a schizophrenic genre, with every new direction trying to stay true to some nebulous essence whilst setting itself up as the supreme definition. Diplo and Z-Trip are messing with the heads’ heads already, but… Radiohead? The Stone Roses’ Ian Brown, too—although I suppose the way things are going these days, King Monkey would probably work as a crunk MC name. And they’ve slotted in this year’s Europe-biquitous “Rocker” by Alter Ego, too. Actually these all come grouped together about two thirds of the way through the mix, and after that it’s straight into dark and brutal drum & bass, with a tune from Aussie metallers Pendulum, their rabid remix of Nightbreed’s “Pack of Wolves”, Ed Rush & Optical’s “Get Ill” and, to finish, Baron’s “A Modern Way VIP” keeping the pressure so high that it basically vaporises itself, leaving only darkness. Not one for the faint of heart, this mix.
Getting to Armageddon is a lot easier going, though as well as a lot of fun. And they do it in in authentically British-sounding style too, rolling up and over the inevitable appearances of “Witness” (which flows into The Roots in a punny kind of way), Skinnyman and the ever-welcome Mr Scruff. Wiley also turns up, as do redoubtable underground crew and Skinnyman friends Foreign Beggars, whilst charismatic underachiever Ty crows on an exclusive, soulful track, and Roni Size cohort Dynamite MC takes on both hip-hop and drum & bass beats with typical brashness. If this is all sounding too small-town-Albion for you… well, have The Perceptionists with Guru, Dilated Peoples with Kanye West, and, a pleasant surprise, the beyond classic “Born to Roll” by Masta Ace Inc. (everybody with me: “Rolling down the windows/yeah I have an air conditioner/but I got tha sound/ I want the whole world to listen ta…”). Whilst all of these swap instrumentals and accapellas as they bounce past, the mix’s outstanding centrepiece remains a devastating chain of Dead Prez’s ” Hip Hop”, whose bassline the Perverts rip completely from its moorings and push right into your face, into their own electro-rockin’ “Stand By”, and from thence into UNKLE’s all-destroying remix of DJ Shadow’s “GDMFSOB”; with Roots Manuva chanting imperiously over the top, the US/UK fusion boils over, and the decks’n'fx trickery that gets thrown at you during these 12 minutes is, as an earlier Perverts interlude would have it, a “Face Smasher.” And then it heads into the Alter Ego track…
Is this an all round brilliant mix? No. The track selection is very uneven, with the transitions being handled with tremendous skill but rather questionable taste, and quite frankly the Radiohead track stands out as pure bloodymindedness, because even they can’t do anything with it, so it just lies there like Thom’s sore, severed thumb. None of the drum & bass ruckus can obscure the colossal footsteps of Diplo’s Fabric Live mix drawing near, either—he’s got Aphex Twin, the Cure, Cybotron and Cat Power in there, and you can bet your bottom dollar he still keeps things more amusingly lady-friendly, too. Nonetheless, the Scratch Perverts will remain defiant, and rightly so: they came, they saw, they ‘ad it.