By Benjamin Zephaniah
The lesson behind this CD: poetry is cool, kids. Primarily Benjamin Zephaniah is a poet, but then he writes novels, and releases albums as well. Who said only women could multi-task, eh?
As an English student I feel I should read through the 'lyrics' (should that be verse?) booklet, and start saying all kinds of intelligent and worthy things about symbolism, rhyme, rhythm and greater meaning. But then I do that enough at uni, so perhaps I should tell you about the music instead.
A couple of the tracks, especially 'Naked' and 'Uptown Downtown', sound like they could be collaborations with the Chemical Brothers (you know, the obligatory hip-hop track that they put on every album). Scarily enough, 'Touch' sounds like Barry White, and it's probably best that we ignore that one.
This isn't really poetry, well not in your GCSE Anthology sense anyway. These are lyrics, and yes, there is a difference. We get choruses, and the kind of repetition that you would not expect from more standard 'poetry', and it does shockingly work. It's all highly politically charged. It's Rage Against The Machine, but more informed, and with the nu-metal replaced by reggae and hip-hop. OK, I give in, it's time to stick a big chunk of lyrics in: "I waz beginning to believe that all black men were bad men / And white men would reign again / I waz beginning to believe that I waz a mindless drug freak / That couldn't control my sanity or my sexuality".
The whole album is the sound of someone pissed off with the government, with society, and his place as a black man within it. He rallies against Bush's anti-terrorist policies, against the idea of the 'Axis of Evil', against immigration controls. It's basically the Socialist Worker in hip-hop format (which, let's face it, is much more attractive than a man in a mac trying to sell you a magazine on Briggate).
Essentially, this is a hip-hop album, but if all you want is some hip-hop, then get the new Talib Kweli album. This album is very fucking intelligent. That doesn't mean you have to be clever to enjoy it, but the songs lose some of their inherent song-ness by being very worthy poetry at the same time. If you want to be made to think one hell of a lot. If you want to listen to an album while reading the lyrics, then you'll probably think Benjamin Zephaniah is da bomb (or something equally gangsta). If you just want to enjoy some quality hip-hop, then this is probably one to keep away from.