Tape One – Young Fathers

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Having seen a few soft releases since about 2011, Edinburgh's premiere trio Young Fathers' Tape One finally finds an official release home through Anticon. Rolling three strong, their sound sheds the patriarchal fatherland scheme in favor of parenting a sound that is something more than the sum of the represented countries and region. Making noise together since their youth, Alloysious Massaquoi brings the homeland spirit of Liberia to the equation, Kayus Bankole heralding his Nigerian heritage with 'G' Hastings representing the trio’s formative North Edinburgh neighborhood ‘scheme’ of Drylaw.

Stepping with heavy electric top end amps, the three describe the “Deadline” ends of successes, confusions, allegations, paper trail chases and railing against discriminatory judgments based upon regional/foreign biases. “The color of money, trigger the lightning, the kids in the bedroom, waiting for harvest, strong as a cutlass, guilty of nothing, botched operation, witnessing something”. The pursuits of “waiting to be rich” in new lands are compared to farmland harvests from the old countries through the condemnation of a generation presumed complicit to irrelevant crimes on bases of manufactured prejudices. As the klaxon siren screams blare and take over the mix, Alloysious and Kayus declare homeland pride toward Liberia and Nigeria with a statement of expatriated identity retention despite their relocation to Scotland. “Don't you turn my home against me, even if my house is empty.”

The family solidarity gets even tighter with “Sister” as the Fathers chant “Don’t let your sister go” in a world of sounds “cohesive and loud, engines roaring like a lion”. The deep bass dish served up on “Rumbling” is what you waited over a decade for the grime movement to curate. Like the trio’s inclination toward visceral poetic currents like “loser, chooser, giving, testing, woman, turning, silent, hustle”, on “Sister”; “Rumbling” takes prosodic pro-active action, drawing word punctuated attentions to mind with time-displaced vintage flows that flare with word signaling like, “impatient nature, turbulence, influence the elegance, evident, relevance, original, started off in analogue, ended up in digital.”

Building upon Tape One’s initial chant of “waiting to be rich”; the slow-romance-struggle to survive is met with the pleading request to “fill the cup” on “Romance”. Looped by a woeful piano sample, the track takes on a ghostly dub production presence as the sorrowful song seeks to fulfill the empty void of, “soak a broken heart in kerosene”, pointing the finger to disaffected televangelists who preach “righteous living” before going into the tent revival-turned-global-village-rave-up vignette, “Fortunes”.

“An opening heart and imbibing soul, the voice of a man who learned the hardest way from his mistakes and survived to tell the tale with hue and humanity, an open heart and imbibing soul, a purpose not fulfilled, leave a bad taste in your mouth that you can’t wash or heal, and you might not be interested in war, but war is interested in you, and all your sexual capers, drug delirium, fortunes won, lost or won again, double crosses and dangerous liaisons, mainstream negros that look like Jesus.”

And from this loaded sermon the brief tent raiser busts into the “fortunes lost and won again” testimonial drifts into the memory retention waters of “Remains”. With collective histories that defy the trappings of convention like, “try to fit a lifetime into an hour glass”, the dance motions move forward with reflections of thoughts “on file and locked away”, describing the keep away-towers of empirical cultural ownership that extends into the metaphysical worship of, “call the Queen it’s time to pray”. “RRRamada” takes back the meaning of the term now associated with Ramada Hotels to the humble, gritty shelter etymologies with vintage rhythm ace drum machines and minor key chord synth cores that takes the action to nefarious encounters in Mexico. The tape concludes with the minimalist organ electro-run-run-rabbit analogue free-verse and future leaning, “Dar-Eh Da Da Du”. The title’s name comes from the background chorus sang throughout the track while the group raps about family tree expanding projections, “Father hands you money, to go and buy a suit, something for the service, make sure it’s good and black, uncle’s getting married, I wish I knew him better, everybody’s going to be there, my cousins and my brother” to the “plant your seed in your maiden’s bower” procreation endorsement as a closing chant. While the meanings are at times obtuse here and throughout, the grounding anchors surround feeling and thought attached to action and inner monologue reflections.

From remnants of memory and shared cultural heritages, the causes for family, identity, self-esteem, love, and parenting new musical fusions without borders serve as the Young Fathers’ conscious mission. While Tape One finally reaches a deserved larger audience, those already long acquainted with the tape are equally deserving of hearing Tape Two of Edinburgh’s continent melding rhyme and new ground melody makers. The impatient listener waiting for the next installment desires a few bonus extras in this re-issue that barely clocks in twenty minutes, with anxious ears waiting with wonder on the new directions, themes and what political undertones that may await on the second tape. In all, those familiar with the UK’s developmental evolutions of hip-hop sub genres and dance movements to now understand the debt owed to the understated influence from the vast communities of the African Diaspora. The Fathers attempt to bridge these corners as proud parents of a global Pangaea according to their own definition of verse and rhythmic design.