Saturday, 23 August 2008

CD Review: Truth Be Known - The Birds and the Booze EP

Review by Stephen Harvey (a.k.a. DJ Fresh)

The first release on Big Music is the much anticipated debut by Crewe based rapper Michael Esgate, or Truth Be Known as he is known in the underground hip hop scene in Staffordshire.

The EP begins with the bouncy 'Boozie Britain' track, which is a great attempt to catch the teen market with it's very catchy chorus and laddish lyrics. This said, it does still remain true to the more cultured of listeners with the adult content and theme; for those of us who are a little more harder to please than the media hungry generation of today's youth culture. The old skool riffs combined within it are constantly popping in and out of the rhythm and playing tricks with your knowledge of the genre, urging you to discover the track it reminds you of, even if you don't quite always get there. Cypress Hill springs to mind for me, but with a typically British approach to both the story telling and beat helping to it set it apart from all the other rappers of his age who sadly fall into line with the Tim Westwood and MTV strategy of selling out for the quick fix. I am glad to inform you that Truth Be known is far too intelliigent for this approach, and after speaking to him a couple of nights ago I can happily say he has his head well and truly screwed on in all aspectas of the business.
The EP then continues much in the same vein as the previous track with 'Rough Riding' continuing the theme.

I have seen him perform this track live at Fatcats CafĂ© Bar in the past, and it did go down quite well on that occasion, although it isn't one of my favourites to be honest. Personally I believe that his talent is in the more gentle approach to hip hop, which is evident in the last two tracks of the EP if you don’t count the two additional club mixes thrown in at the at the end for good measures.

The third track 'Aimee' is a melodic crossover track that is much in the same vein of early Eminem albums and tracks like 'Stan' and 'Kim' spring to mind. In my mind however, that would be a far too simplistic comparison to make, although many I am sure will see the similarities as well. The story telling and use of language is closer to Mike Skinner or The Mitchell Brothers, but it is in no way a clone of either of these artists. This is someone from Crewe telling the stories of his life in the only way he knows how, and making a really good job of it.

The last track 'Absent Voices' is in my mind the highlight of the EP and it has been on constant play on my mini disc player since receiving it, after visiting him at Radio Stoke Subculture to see him perform it live (and get a free CD).

This track has the potential to move him up to the next level and onto the mass market, with its catchy chorus and story telling that draws you in and listening just to hear the conclusion. Much like a good novelist would do, he introduces the characters and then takes you through the turmoils of their relationships all the way to the last word of the last line of the last chapter.

The EP is a brilliant first shot at highlighting the skills of this performer and the management at Big music should be applauded for taking a risk with such an unusual project.

The talents of the producer Jason 'Jay Jay ' Estridge, and the vocalists Stacie Estridge, Hayley Esgate and Kelly Wilkinson should also be applauded for adding that final touches to a very professional final product.

The EP can be ordered from:

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