Collaboration is a natural part of any music. In grime music, it has been responsible for some of the best moments of the genre. Who wouldn’t marvel at some of the headline-show worthy radio sets that grime produces; be enthralled by the prestige cast line-ups of tunes like ‘Class Of Deja’, ‘IC3’ and ‘Bullet A Go Fly’; or be intrigued by beat-making combos like Jack Dat and Jammz or Trends and Boylan? On the emcee side, for something that can produce great results, it’s rare to see groups of artists put their heads together and create a joint project. “Norf Face” – like “Royal Rumble” from last year, bucks this trend – bringing together Capo Lee, Frisco, JME & Shorty. It’s a project that seems to have come together naturally, and the rapport that all four artists have with each other is clear.
“Norf Face” consists of nine tracks, five of which feature all four emcees on the record going back to back on the microphone. There are varying topics. Capo Lee, JME, Frisco & Shorty reflect upon their journeys in life and music, weigh up their own lives against the statistics, survey the challenges faced by young black boys in the U.K and make time for some old-fashioned hype talk. Sometimes the subject matter aligns – like on the fifth track ‘Freezing’ – and other times, each emcee spits with a different subject matter to the other. The unifying factor? The flow. Each emcee is rapid-fire, cycling through hard-hitting lyrics to the more throwaway and braggadocious. The ability to rally through subjects, switching moods and content at pace makes grime exciting, giving one lyric the same impact as a whole verse. On ‘Norf Face’ – the four do it as though its nothing.
The four other tracks are short. Skits, if you will, that give each emcee the chance to shine individually. They remind me of radio rips compiled by the many YouTube grime historians; mostly under a minute in length, warbled samples colliding with mutant bass, sounding like a transmission from another world as emcees rain down fire on the mic. Again, the subject matter varies. The ‘Patterns’ range from straight hype, opposing stereotypes to the challenges of life.
Grime at its best juggles multiple elements: energy, exhilaration, contemplation and social commentary. Nor does it neuter passion and the personalities of its creators in favour of something more commercially viable. ‘Norf Face’ does all of this, making it a fantastic record from some of the scenes top players.
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