The seeds for “The Avengers LP” were planted some time ago with “French Montana Riddim”. The instrumental – produced by Jammz and Jack Dat – circulated across grime sets as a coveted instrumental for four years before it was eventually released and vocalled by Jammz, Mayhem NODB, Blay Vision and Buggsy. A sample of a sample, “French Montana” flips the hypnotic brass loop from French Montana’s track ‘Shot Caller’ into an impactful grime tune. ‘Shot Caller’ – released in 2009 and featuring Charlie Rock – samples the orchestral loop from the closing moments of ‘A Theme For L.A.’s Team’ by The Thom Bell Orchestra, released some thirty years earlier in 1979. In late 2019, “French Montana Riddim” was finally released. Vinyl-only, four emcees, one instrumental: a modern grime classic was born.
The record sold out on vinyl and generated excitement within the grime scene. “French Montana Riddim”, then, was a success. And as that success led into 2020’s “FM Allstar Riddim” – another version of the release with all four artists on one track and a music video – the seeds for “The Avengers LP” were planted.
“The Avengers LP” features twelve tracks. Life-wisdom from Buggsy spoken over hazy beats provides the album opener and closer, while an interlude from Mayhem NODB comes halfway through it. The rest is left for bars. On tracks like ‘Avengers Link Up’, ‘Megazord’, the prior mentioned ‘FM All-Star Riddim’, ‘Can’t Complain’ and ‘Pride’; all four emcees go hell for leather, riding cavernous instrumentals with electric fury. These are grime tunes concocted for jam-packed clubs, each emcee a mad grime scientist searching for the perfect formula to make ravers lose their heads, their synapses zapped by powerful bass lines and heavy-duty kick patterns. The latter mentioned track, ‘Can’t Complain’, is the best of the four-artist offerings on “The Avengers LP”. Based around a pan-pipe riff that crawls its way over throbbing bass riffs like a rapid spider; it captures the uncanny feeling of minimalist grime production while still sounding ready to detonate over the speakers.
And then there’s ‘Rah’. Here, Jammz, Mayhem and Blay spit about the weight of the world and the grind that goes with it. The instrumental – full of hollow bass lines and rolling drum patterns – is an exchange between grime and U.K drill production. While the internet would have you believe drill supersedes grime, that DJs should put down the decks and send all their instrumentals to the recycling bin; grime artists can absorb and incorporate the sound into their own work. ‘Rah’ does exactly this.
The uninitiated to grime may mistake ‘Sparring’ — featuring Jammz and Mayhem NODB — to be all about pugilism and the pageantry that goes with it. While you could compare two emcees going back-to-back over a judgement day grime instrumental to boxing, I’d prefer to compare it to two jazz musicians finding the pockets of their rhythm section, and in the process, filling in the spaces with virtuosic improvisation. In this case, the rhythm section consists of metallic one-shots and pumped-up bass lines. The musicians being Jammz and Mayhem NODB, trading breathless verses and covering every square meter of the sonic map laid down for them by producer Gesher. Some of grime’s best moments, and for some people, the only grime moments are the late-night, feedback crackled intensity of a pirate or internet radio set, an hour-long display of improvisational lyricism. With ‘Sparring’, the two emcees get as close as you can to transmitting that energy into a recorded song format.
The one solo track on the album — titled ‘Paranoia’ — comes courtesy of Buggsy. Here, we are planted firmly into his perspective as he discusses block life, the pride he has in his background, and the racism he’s faced from the white people. It’s a motion-blur of lyrics, blink and you’ll miss it spitting over a stiff set of melodies and cranking drums.
“The Avengers LP” sits alongside other recent multi-artist grime projects like 2020’s “Royal Rumble” and 2021’s “Norf Face”. Jammz, Mayhem, Blay and Buggsy’s record is longer than the two that came previously, providing another snapshot of the quality that can follow when artists expand creative relationships further than the standard featured verse format. While the record, for the most part, stays within grime’s genre trappings, it’s by no means nostalgic or looking back at a time long passed. The four tell stories, give their viewpoints, and show their talent. “The Avengers LP”, then, showcases the contemporary sound of grime by four of the genre’s most engaging spitters.
Stream “The Avengers LP”