In the first of a new series, we pick out some of the most captivating sounds emerging from the chaotic expanse of the online underground.
Sometimes the best things in life are free, and in an age when major label axioms and commercial radio playlists are coming under increasing pressure from the disruptive, democratic influence of online platforms, when it comes to music, this is one platitude that holds ever more weight. So it is that, despite having no label, manager or brand sponsor backing him, west Londoner Ill Sykes, along with a handful of producer collaborators, has put out an album that throws the lazy, formulaic rap covering billboards from Brixton to Birmingham into sharp relief.
Empty Bottle Aristotle, recently released via Soundcloud, showcases the artist’s considerable versatility and demonstrates a willingness to experiment that is all too often absent from the hip hop coming out of the capital in recent years. The self aware humour and gratuitously ribald skits in evidence here are simultaneously refreshing and nostalgic – given their history as arguably one of the most appealing aspects of the albums of ‘Golden Era’ trailblazers like the Wu Tang Clan, adopted by some of grime’s first generation, but subsequently shelved in the UK rap mainstream in favour of straightfaced posturing.
This, then, is an album with its roots firmly in the best of this country’s hip hop heritage. Tracks such as ‘Summary’ have echoes of Children of the Damned’s 2009 effort Brick Pelican in their cadence and production, and while the tripped out, inter-galactic storytelling on ‘Long Long Ago’ is somewhat reminiscent of New York sci-fi conspiracists Non Phixion, it could just as easily be compared to Jehst’s more acid drenched moments, refracted through the reptilian fantasies of Leicester’s David Icke and interspersed with a heavy dose of the Sykes’ own weed laced imaginings.
Check out the video for title track above and listen to his full album below. Keep a close eye on his Soundcloud for new material dropping soon.